NMU hockey: Wildcats penalty kill comes through in 5-2 win over Mavericks

MARQUETTE – On the penalty kill for three straight minutes Friday in the second period against Minnesota State, the Northern Michigan University hockey team seemed destined for another disappointing night against the Mavericks.

Instead, the Wildcats used the kill, which included being down two men for 1:19, to rally for a 5-2 WCHA victory at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

“We had gone down there earlier in the year and didn’t play very well,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “They handed it to us pretty good. They are a very good team. We knew we were going to have to have a big effort and however big it was tonight, we’re going to have to have the same effort tomorrow. They are really dangerous.”

NMU (11-12-2 overall, 9-7-1 in WCHA), which was swept by the Mavericks (14-13-0, 12-7-0) in Mankato in December, began its lengthy kill at the 14:22 mark of the second period with a too many men on the ice penalty, then went down two men when senior defenseman Wade Epp was called for roughing at 15:35.

The Wildcats killed off the too many men penalty to get back to 5-on-4, only to see junior forward Ryan Daugherty tossed from the game via a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct.

Senior forward Johnny MacInnis scored 32 seconds into the Mavericks’ second 5-on-3 of the night to take a 1-0 lead, but that’s all the Mavs mustered on the man advantage.

MSU freshman forward Sean Flanagan halted the Mavs’ advantage on the major with a high sticking call at 19:12 of the second and four seconds later, MSU went down 4-on-3 because of a tripping call against sophomore forward Bryce Gervais.

That opened the door for NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier to score his 12th goal of the season and seventh on the power play with assists from junior defenseman Mitch Jones and junior forward Reed Seckel.

Instead trailing by a wide margin, NMU went into the second intermission tied with MSU 1-1 despite taking three-straight penalties, including a major.

“We go down 4-on-3 and to me, you know, we’re supposed to help our goaltender out a little bit,” MSU head coach Mike Hastings said. “We’ve got a veteran that doesn’t block a shot and it goes in the back of the net. All of sudden there’s energy in the building.”

NMU had to kill off another 34 seconds of Daugherty’s major in the third period following 1:17 of 4-on-4 play, then scored two goals less than two minutes apart to go up 3-1 on the Mavericks.

NMU junior forward Ryan Kesti tipped in the first at 4:26 of the third period with assists from Epp and freshman forward Barrett Kaib.

Wildcats freshman forward John Siemer then sprang off the bench for a one-on-one breakaway with Mavs freshman netminder Cole Huggins to score his third goal and eighth point in seven games 5:50 into the third.

“To tie it up going into the third then was a big boost for us,” Kesti said. “It got us a little confidence knowing that we didn’t have much to kill off to start the third.

“I think 5-on-5 we felt very comfortable tonight. They are a very good team and we just have to continue to work.”

Junior forward Chase Grant got a goal back for the Mavericks at 7:59 of the third period, only to see Northern freshman forward Dominik Shine nab his third goal of the year with assists from Seckel and freshman forward Shane Sooth at 14:53 of the third.

Northern went down two men, 6-on-4, with 17:50 to play via a cross check penalty by Shine and an empty net for MSU. The Mavericks went up three men when Epp went off for cross checking at 17:50.

Northern killed off the first cross check and Kesti chased Huggins back into the MSU net with his second goal of the night, third of the season and fourth of his career – a shorthanded empty netter to put NMU up by three – with 20 seconds to play in the game.

“We took some penalties and I really liked our penalty killers,” Kyle said. “They did a great job for sure. I thought the group of defensemen we had in did a great job for sure. I thought our forwards were really committed as well.

“I think that was as good of a night collectively we’ve had all season.”

NOTES: Huggins finished with 26 saves for MSU while NMU redshirt freshman goalie Mathias Dahlstrom made 24 stops. NMU outshot MSU 31-26. The Mavericks took more shots than the Wildcats on Friday, 60-55, but NMU was able to block 21 of those attempts.