SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Northern Michigan Wildcats improved to 5-1-1 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association after shutting out Upper Peninsula rival Lake Superior State 5-0 Friday night at the Taffy Abel Arena.
Sault Ste. Marie native Alex Sawruk put the Wildcats on the board with a goal at the 12:06 mark of the first period. Sawruk’s goal, his first of the season, came from Ryan Henderson and Matt Hunter.
Mike Stutzel netted his second goal of the year at the 6:00 mark of the second period to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. Just 59 seconds later, Chris Gobert increased the lead to 3-0, with Chad Theuer and Bryce Cockburn adding assists.
The Lakers pulled goaltender Scott Murray after the third Wildcat goal. Murray, who made 15 saves before leaving the game, was replaced by freshman Matt Violin.
Theuer scored an unassisted goal with less than four minutes remaining in the second, and Gobert netted the final NMU goal at 14:18 of the third period to give the Wildcats a 5-0 shutout.
Sophomore goaltender Craig Kowalski stopped 20 Laker shots to record his fifth win of the season, while Murray recorded the loss for the Lakers, dropping to 1-4-0.
Friday’s win not only keeps NMU near the top of the CCHA, but also gives the Wildcats an advantage in the race for the Father Cappo Cup, awarded annually to the team with the best record in the regular-season meetings between the two teams.
“We are happy with our start this season, but we understand the schedule we have had and we know how much tougher it is going to get as we go on,” said Northern Michigan coach Rick Comley. “These are important wins right now — anything you give away in October and November you can’t make up in February.”
“I do not think we played nearly as bad as the mistakes we made,” said Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone. “Some of the upperclassmen made some drastic mistakes and we didn’t get the level of goaltending we needed early in the game, to be able to stay in the game late.
“Northern just kept coming at us.”
LSSU and NMU will wrap up their home-and-home series Saturday night in Marquette, Mich. The Lakers will be hungry for a win after losing three straight games, while Northern will look to maintain its success.