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Wildcat icers look for victories at Bowling Green

MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University hockey team has built a rivalry the past few years with fellow WCHA member Bowling Green State.

Last season, the Wildcats swept the Falcons on the road in the regular season, then lost to the Falcons in the WCHA playoffs.

After coming off a weekend that included two ties with WCHA favorite Minnesota State-Mankato, the Wildcats (4-3-5) look for their first sweep of the season.

“I liked our weekend,” Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle said about the home series against the Minnesota team. “(Mankato State’s) a good team and they’re a hard team to play against. To keep that team to three goals was good.

“We didn’t score as much as I would’ve liked, but right now, we’re keeping pace in the standings. We’re a game and a half out of first place and two of the teams ahead of us have played two more games than us. So we’re in a good spot.”

NMU freshman goaltender Atte Tolvanen continued to shine in net as he notched WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season.

He didn’t take any lip from the Mavericks last Saturday. After getting plowed into by MSU’s C.J. Franklin, Tolvanen got a chance to land a shot of his own when he put a stiff-arm to the face of a Mavericks forward late in the game.

“I thought Atte was really good again,” Kyle said. “He hasn’t skipped a beat. It seems like we always talk about him, but he’s playing really well.

“It was a rough series, especially Saturday, and it wasn’t like (the Mavericks) weren’t rough either. They ran our goalie and then the second time they got to him, he stood up to them.”

Looking at this weekend’s matchup with BGSU, on the surface the series appears to be a goaltending battle.

Tolvanen will take on BGSU’s Chris Nell, who is fifth nationally in saves percentage (.948) and sixth in goals-against average (1.46).

Both teams also are in the top 20 in team defense and fairly equal on the penalty kill, Northern 29th and BGSU 33rd.

“Our penalty killers did a great job last weekend,” Kyle said. “The fives are unfortunate, but when you play a team like that, you’re going to have to be physical. Stuff like that happens.

“The guys did a good job killing them off, though, and as a team, you have to know that when you get penalties like that, you have to be able to kill them off.”

The focus going in may be on defense, but both teams have the personnel to score effectively. The Wildcats in particular have gotten their power play going as they are 15th overall in effectiveness and have scored six goals with the man advantage in their last four games.

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

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