HOUGHTON, Mich. — Paul Cabana and Brett Engelhardt each scored twice as Michigan Tech upset No. 11 Northern Michigan, 5-3, before a loud and rowdy crowd of 3,577 at MacInnes Arena on Friday night.
Cabana ended a 13-game scoring drought with his goals, which tied the game and then put the Huskies in the lead.
“That’s what college hockey is right there,” said Cabana, referring to the energized crowd, which was Tech’s largest since Winter Carnival two seasons ago.
Cabana, who has led or tied for the team lead in goals in each of his first three seasons, hadn’t scored since the opening game of the season against St. Lawrence.
“He’s been struggling,” said Michigan Tech head coach Mike Sertich. “He’s getting the chances but sometimes they don’t fall. He could have had two or three more.”
With NMU leading, 2-1, midway through the second period, Cabana hit the crossbar with a shot from close range. But just seconds later, Cabana, who was stationed just to the left of Wildcats’ goaltender Craig Kowalski, took Colin Murphy’s pass from behind the net and stuffed it in for a power-play goal.
“It was definitely a huge weight off my back,” said Cabana. “It’s been a real tough couple of weeks for me.”
Then, just 19 seconds into the third period, Cabana sent the home crowd into a frenzy when he scored the go-ahead goal. A patient Brad Patterson set up at the side of the net and made a perfect pass out front to Cabana, who buried the shot for his second goal of the night.
“It’s unbelievable, we got the win,” said a relieved Cabana. “We really needed it. It’s a big confidence booster for the team, myself included.”
Bryce Cockburn gave Northern Michigan a 1-0 lead a mere 36 seconds into the game when he blasted a slapshot past Tech goaltender Cam Ellsworth from the right faceoff dot.
The Huskies tied the game at 17:34 on Brett Engelhardt’s fourth goal of the season. Engelhardt fired a shot from the left circle that Kowalski deflected into the air. Although the puck already appeared to be headed into the net, Kowalski knocked it in with a desperate swing of his stick.
But the Wildcats regained the lead at the 18:40 mark when Alex Sawruk jammed a rebound from a shot by defenseman Peter Michelutti between Ellsworth’s legs from the bottom of the left circle.
After Cabana’s two goals put Tech in the lead, Engelhardt scored his second of the night on a rocket from the left circle at 10:54. The goal went in the books as an even-strength tally even though Cockburn hadn’t yet gotten back into the play after serving a roughing penalty.
The undisciplined penalty, which came after a whistle in front of the Tech net, seemed to be a turning point in the game, largely because the receiver of Cockburn’s punch, Brad Sullivan, didn’t retaliate.
“Our guys have to understand that if they choose that behavior, they’re going to sit,” said Sertich. “The message got out and it got out early. A couple guys had to sit and they don’t like it. You hurt a hockey player by fining him or taking their ice time away, and you can’t fine in college hockey. Anger management is a big part of life.”
Although Sawruk answered with his second of the night to pull the Wildcats back to within a goal, Frank Werner sealed the victory when he beat Kowalski with a slapshot from just inside the blue line with 4:56 left in the game. Much to the enjoyment of the crowd, the goal sent Kowalski to the bench for back-up Tuomas Tarkki.
Following the victory, Sertich and the team gathered at center ice to salute their cheering fans who had created an atmosphere that Sertich has talked about trying to restore ever since he took control of the team last November.
Michigan Tech is now 5-8-2 overall, while Northern Michigan is 8-6-1.
The series shifts to Marquette for a rematch at the Berry Events Center at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night.