SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — With both Lake Superior and Northern Michigan missing key players, the Lakers forced the Wildcats to play their hard-hitting physical game, winning 3-1 in the first game in a home-and-home series at Taffy Abel Arena on Friday night.
Defenseman Kory Scoran netted the game-winning goal for the Lakers at 8:13 in the second period, firing a blistering shot over the shoulder of Wildcat netminder Bill Zaniboni from the blue line while the team was on the power play. The Lakers also had an extra attacker on the ice on a delayed penalty on Zach Tarkir.
Northern Michigan, which was coming off a bye week after being swept by Ohio State, showed its rust in the first period.
“I thought we came out a little flat, which is to be expected after an off week,” said Wildcat head coach Walt Kyle. “I thought we got better as the game went on … but we just didn’t get it done tonight.”
Matt Violin was the difference for the Lakers, stopping 37 of 38 shots.
“Most of the time, Matt was very solid, which gave us a chance to hang in there,” said Laker head coach Frank Anzalone. “He made some very key saves.” Violin is continuing his unbeaten streak in games he starts, going 2-0-1. His one loss came during a 4-3 defeat to Michigan where he replaced Jeff Jakaitis after the second period.
The Lakers got on the board first when Derek R. Smith lit the lamp on the power play 5:04 into the first stanza. Toward the end of the first, Smith was called for a five-minute boarding penalty after he slammed Nathan Oystrick into the boards, causing Oystrick to lay on the ice for a few minutes.
Even with this opportunity, the Wildcats were unable to get on the board. Northern mustered 10 shots on goal, and Violin saved nine while the post saved one.
“They had some good shots [on the power play],” said Anzalone. I think it was fortunate that the penalty was broken up between the two periods; it gave us some breathing time.”
Fifteen seconds after Smith’s penalty was up, Northern tied the game with a opportunistic goal by Matt Siddell. Violin gave up a short rebound while lying on the ice, and Siddell pushed it passed the red line for his fourth goal of the season.
After Scoran’s power-play goal, the Laker forward Matt Restoule finished off the scoring after Zaniboni let a shot by Dan Eves slide under his glove, and Restoule pounded the puck in the open net with 3:14 left in the second stanza.
The Wildcats were not able to deal with the Lakers’ physical play.
“The game turned into the kind of game that they wanted,” said Kyle. “They controlled the game in our end of the rink. Our defensemen were not able to end the play with their forwards.”
Northern has struggled offensively of late, scoring only two goals in the last three games.
“We are having a tough finding offensive opportunities,” said Kyle. “Darin [Olver] hasn’t had a point in three games, and we need Darin to step up.”
The Wildcats were playing without forward Dirk Southern, who will be out for the next few weeks with an ankle injury, and Pat Bateman, who was serving a one-game suspension after a game misconduct against Ohio State.
The Lakers’ defense was shorthanded after three defenseman — junior Mark Adamek, sophomore Barnabas Birkeland, and freshman John Nogatch — were all dismissed from the squad this week for what were identified as violations of team rules.
Senior defenseman Ryan Reid has been suspended for most of the season dealing with legal problems, so forwards Alex Dunn and Steve McJannet filled in on the back line for the Lakers.
To make matters worse, Scoran did not play during the third period after his ankle was twisted at the end of the second, forcing the Lakers to play a five-man rotation during the third. “Those guys did a great job for us during the third,” said Anzalone.
Lake Superior (4-6-1 overall, 4-4-1 CCHA) travel to the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Saturday to finish their first home-and-home series against Northern Michigan (5-4-2 overall, 3- 3-1 CCHA).
• Justin Gutwald made his first career start for the Lakers after being forced into the lineup due to suspensions and dismissals. He had no shots on goal and had two penalty minutes.
• Wildcat senior Alan Swanson made his first start of the season after missing the first 10 games recovering from shoulder surgery. He had no goals on two shots.
• The Lakers are on a three-game unbeaten streak, their longest in over a year. On the other hand, the Wildcats have lost their last three games, their longest losing streak since January.