MARQUETTE, Mich. — Michigan Tech had it out for Northern Michigan.
After a hard-fought battle that ended in a 3-3 tie in Houghton Friday night, the Huskies had nothing to lose against the rival Wildcats — nothing, that is, except for the Ramada Cup.
Northern Michigan (8-7-1, 6-6-0 CCHA) stuck it to Michigan Tech (3-9-4, 1-7-2 WCHA) and rounded out the first half of the 2003-2004 season in style, blanking the Huskies 2-0 Saturday night and taking home bragging rights over its Upper Peninsula rivals.
NMU head coach Walt Kyle was happy with his team’s ability to close out the first half on a positive note.
“I thought our guys did a great job protecting our net, I thought Craig [Kowalski] was outstanding again [and] I thought we battled hard,” said Kyle.
Northern Michigan’s upperclassmen took home all the credit in Saturday’s win, with Marquette natives Alan Swanson and Justin Kinnunen picking up the goals and netminder Kowalski recording his 11th career shutout.
“To show that leadership this weekend was outstanding,” Kyle said of his upperclassmen.
Swanson got on the board first with the eventual game-winner at 19:52 of the first, getting an assist from fellow senior Alex Sawruk. Swanson’s third goal of the year came off of a rebound off of MTU goalie Cam Ellsworth shot by Sawruk.
Two periods later, Northern netted an insurance goal as Kinnunen scored on a nice play by sophomore Jamie Milam, who took a MTU turnover and shot from the high slot. Kinnunen buried it at 6:45 of the third period, his third goal of the year.
Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play and despite Michigan Tech’s 29-20 advantage in shots on goal, Northern Michigan worked the puck low and found the net on its chances.
“I give our guys a lot of credit, I think [MTU] outshot us tonight but I’ll guarantee they didn’t outchance us,” said Kyle.
With the win, NMU claims the Ramada Cup, a trophy presented to the winner of the four-game regular-season series between the two schools. Northern Michigan now owns a 7-2 margin when battling Michigan Tech for the Ramada Cup.
Northern Michigan returns to the ice after the holidays on Friday, Jan. 2 against the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan Tech hosts the 39th annual Great Lakes Invitational holiday tournament Dec. 27-28 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.