MARQUETTE, Mich. — The offensive firepower that seemed to be evading a young Northern Michigan hockey team finally reared its head Friday night as the Wildcats beat the US Under-18 Team, 8-3.
After going down 2-0 in the first period, NMU (3-3-0, 2-2-0 CCHA) was able to mount a comeback behind multi-point performances by senior Alex Sawruk and freshman leading scorer Darin Olver.
NMU head coach Walt Kyle was pleased with what he saw on the ice Friday night and lauded the Wildcats resurgence of offensive zone pressure.
“We saw some growth in some areas and that’s what’s important right now,” said Kyle. “It’s going to be a process and it’s going to take time.”
Junior goaltender Tuomas Tarkki got his first start of the season while the Wildcats rested their No. 1 goalie Craig Kowalski for next week’s series against Ohio State.
The Under-18 Team got on the board first with a shot by Kevin Porter on a pass from Geoff Paukovich to beat Tarkki at 3:45 of the first.
A little under six minutes later, Team USA would follow up with a tally by Brandon Scero to make the game 2-0.
NMU answered at 13:31 of the first with an unassisted goal by Olver, who walked through two defenders to beat USA goaltender Jordan Pearce point blank.
The second period belonged to the Wildcats as NMU would pick up tallies from Matt Hunter and Geoff Waugh, but it was the third period that Northern showed its offensive prowess.
Despite Team USA coming out of the gate and scoring 42 seconds into the third period, Northern Michigan exploded with five goals in the third to seal the victory, including two goals by senior Alex Sawruk at 5:22 and 19:10.
With the Wildcats holding Team USA to just 12 shots during the last two periods, NMU completely dominated the game up and down and showed itself what it is capable of.
“It was a good win, I expected to win and score some goals,” said Kyle. “They’re a team [that has] some great, great talent out there and you can see it.
“I think you [could] tell in the first period what our guys do is they’re playing a bunch of kids and there’s a real lack of respect and these guys are good enough to beat you if you take it easy like that.”