NMU icers stay at home all weekend

MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University hockey team will host two games for the first time this season when WCHA foe Bemidji State (1-3-1 overall, 0-2 WCHA) comes to town this weekend.

The Wildcats (2-2-2, 1-1 WCHA) look to avenge last season’s sweep at the hands of the Minnesota team.

The losses in February helped keep Northern from hosting a home playoff series.

This time, the Wildcats insist they’ll be ready for one of the best offenses in the WCHA.

“I think they’re one of the more dynamic teams in the league,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “I think up front, they really can go. They’ll put the puck in your end.

“They forecheck well. Their power play is really good. We’ll have to be better defensively against this team than we have been this year.”

NMU gets help from the hot play of freshman goalie Atte Tolvanen, named WCHA Rookie of the Week for the second time this season last weekend. He looked good against a high-powered Michigan Tech offense.

“I thought I did pretty well,” Tolvanen said. “I’ve got to give credit to my defense. They blocked a lot of shots and made things easier for me.”

Although the Beavers’ offense isn’t as famous as Tech’s, it’s still noteworthy.

Bemidji lost its leading scorer from last season, Matt Prapavessis, but second-leading scorer Brendan Harms (21 points a year ago) and Nate Arentz (20) are back.

Most of the focus will be on the Fitzgerald threesome of Leo, Gerry and Myles. Gerry and Leo both finished in double-digits with points while Myles had nine.

“They’re a very good team,” Kyle said. “They came up with a lot of youth and those kids are older now and they’re good. They have a lot of talent in Harms and the Fitzgerald brothers.

“Their goaltender (Michael Bitzer) is exceptional.”

Last week, the Wildcats took on archrival Tech and made a ranked Huskies squad look mortal.

NMU hammered the Huskies with 46 shots in the home win, then took an early lead at Tech until some penalties led to MTU’s Saturday win.

The Wildcats also killed off a five-minute penalty and picked up a goal on a five-minute power play Friday.

“That was one of the biggest momentum swings,” NMU captain Brock Maschmeyer said. “I’m sure there were a couple of others in there, but playing hard for five minutes and being able to kill that off, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that.”

Opening faceoff for Friday’s and Saturday’s games is at 7:07 p.m. at the Berry Events Center.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.