SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Northern Michigan Wildcats stretched their unbeaten streak to five games as they downed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-1 at the Joyce Center on Saturday night.
The Wildcats (4-1-1; 3-0-1 CCHA) got a balanced scoring attack coupled with an outstanding performance in net by Senior Tuomas Tarkki to pull out the victory. However, the key for the Wildcats was the power play; they struck for three markers in five attempts.
“I think our power play and our penalty kill did a great job,” said NMU coach Walt Kyle. “Our first power-play goal was a big goal for us.”
Northern is now 9-for-40 (22.5%) with the man advantage. However, it’s been the penalty kill that has been turning heads recently in the CCHA, with Northern ranked second nationally in the category. The Irish were able to generate just one goal with the man advantage in five tries tonight.
Tarkki stood tall for the Cats in net, stopping 29 of 30 Irish shots. His quirky style of goaltending perplexed Irish boss Dave Poulin.
“[Tarkki] has a very unusual style. That’s the first time I’ve seen him,” Poulin said. “He seemingly rebounds, he fills a lot of the net. He just has a very unique style. It was effective.”
Tarkki, the No. 2 star of the night, picked up his second win of the year while sharing netminding duties with redshirt freshman Bill Zaniboni.
Matt Siddall got Northern on the board first. After receiving a checking from behind penalty in the opening period, Siddall picked up a pass from Geoff Waugh at center ice while coming out of the penalty box. He skated in alone on Brown, wristing a shot which Brown stopped. On the ensuing rebound, Siddall wrapped the puck around the net and in for the 1-0 Wildcat lead. Siddall’s second goal of the season came at the 16:57 of the period.
The Irish (1-4-2; 0-3-1 CCHA) nearly tied the game six minutes into the middle period as Matt Adamo tried to stuff a wraparound into the Wildcat net. Tarkki came up big, sliding the leg against the far post, keeping the lead intact for the Wildcats.
“The second period; We played better than the first period. How strange is that?” said Poulin. “The second period, we played much better.”
Northern Michigan increased their lead to 2-0 at the 9:10 mark of the second period. Skating on the power play, Zach Tarkir notched his first goal of the season, a blast from the top of the right circle past Brown. Darin Olver and Andrew Sarauer assisted on the goal.
The Irish cut into the Wildcat lead with a power play tally of their own just over three minutes later. Sophomore center Jason Paige one-timed a shot from the top of the left circle past a sprawling Taarki for his first goal of the season. Michael Bartlett and Wes O’Neill assisted.
The Cats regained their two-goal advantage with 1:49 left in the second period. Mike Santorelli tallied his fourth goal of the year on a partial breakaway, beating Brown over the left shoulder. Andrew Contois and Dirk Southern assisted.
NMU made the score 4-1 halfway through the 3rd period. After Notre Dame’s Evan Rankin was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind, Mike Santorelli notched his second goal of the night off a faceoff win. The goal came at the 8:50 mark of the period and just seven seconds into the power play.
While both coaches praised the officiating of last night’s game, Poulin wasn’t as positive about the officiating of tonight’s game.
“The first period was a differently-refereed period than the game last night. And then the second period was different from the first period. I thought last night was a tremendously officiated game. And the first period tonight was totally different. We struggled with that. We got into special teams situations that I don’t what we could have done any different.”
The Irish will next play on Thursday against the Bowling Green Falcons in Bowling Green, before finishing the two-game set at home with the Falcons on Friday night.
Northern will take on Upper Peninsula and former WCHA rival Michigan Tech in a home-and-home on Thursday and Saturday. The teams will play four times this year, with the Ramada Cup at stake.