MARQUETTE, Mich. — Justin Kinnunen’s luck changed Friday night, and the junior defenseman helped stake Northern Michigan to a lead in its CCHA first-round playoff series.
Kinnunen, who had one goal in the regular season, recorded his first career hat trick in the Wildcats’ 8-3 victory over Western Michigan.
“I usually don’t have that much luck,” Kinnunen said. “Tonight, it was just there for me.”
Kinnunen scored in the first period to give NMU (19-16-2) a 1-0 lead, then added two goals in the third period to widen the lead. Peter Michelutti assisted on all three of Kinnunen’s goals, and Craig Kowalski made 19 saves as the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Brent Rumble had a goal and an assist for the Broncos (15-20-2), who led 2-1 on Shaun Rose’s second-period goal before Northern Michigan took over.
Chris Gobert, Andrew Contois and Alan Swanson scored later in the second period to put the Wildcats ahead for good.
Kinnunen goals gave NMU 5-2 and 6-3 leads.
“He played the kind of game where you can have success,” Wildcats coach Walt Kyle said. “His whole line played playoff hockey.”
NMU padded its lead with two shorthanded goals in the last minute of the game. Terry Harrison scored with 51 seconds left, followed by a Jimmy Jackson goal with one second left.
Scott Foster made 26 saves for the Broncos.