SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Friday night at Taffy Abel Arena, Lake Superior entered the third period with a 2-0 lead over Northern Michigan, but the Wildcats scored four quick goals to claim a 4-3 win and rob the Lakers of a playoff berth.
Mike Vigilante scored a power-play goal 3:22 into the contest to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead, and Chris Thompson put the Lakers up by two when he scored his first goal of the season at the 1:05 mark of the second.
But Chad Theuer netted a power-play goal 11 seconds into the third period to pull the Wildcats within a goal of the Lakers, and disaster struck LSSU 27 seconds later when Ryan Riipi knocked one past Jayme Platt to tie the game at two.
“Riipi’s goal came so quickly and it came off of a bad play on our part. They got right back in and right back at the net-front and that gave them momentum for another four minutes. By the time we settled it down, they were two goals ahead,” said Laker coach Scott Borek.
Tim Lindberg and Peter Michelutti also added goals for Northern within the first five minutes of the period.
At the 7:23 mark Jason Nightingale scored his 14th goal of the season to make it 4-3. Seniors Ryan Vince and Ryan Knox added assists on Nightingale’s power-play goal.
The Lakers then pulled Platt in favor of the extra attacker with 1:28 remaining, but despite some good chances, were unable push the game into overtime.
The Lakers, riddled with injuries all season, fell to 8-19-0 in the CCHA and just short of a playoff berth. Heading into this weekend’s series against the Wildcats the Lakers were competing with Notre Dame and Bowling Green for the final playoff position.
The Irish had a two-point lead over the Lakers heading into the weekend, and after winning a 5-4 contest over Western Michigan on Friday knocked the Lakers out of the running.
Bowling Green is still within a point of the Irish after defeating Ferris State 1-0 in overtime on Friday. Notre Dame, Bowling Green, and Alaska-Fairbanks are now the teams contending for the final postseason berths. This will be the first time since 1983 that the Lakers have failed to make the playoffs.
Following Friday night’s game, the Lakers held their traditional senior night ceremony, in which they bid farewell to captain defenseman Ryan Knox, goaltender Jayme Platt, assistant captain Ryan Vince, forward Mike Vigilante, forward Bart Redden, and defenseman Matt Frick.
LSSU and NMU will wrap up the regular season Saturday night in Marquette, Mich.
“Being out of the playoffs and not having anything to play for Saturday night really hurts. I am extremely disappointed for our players. I don’t care what anyone says from the outside, I know what this team went through, and I’m proud of our players,” said Borek.