MARQUETTE, Mich. — Head coach Walt Kyle made sure that the No. 20 Northern Michigan Wildcats were not surprised by what the Michigan Tech Huskies were going to bring on Saturday night at the Berry Events Center. A quick power-play goal in the opening minute gave the Wildcats a 1-0 win.
“We lost the lead last night in the third,” said Kyle, “To be able to hold tonight for that long and come away with the win was great.”
The Wildcats jumped on the Huskies right from the opening faceoff with Matt Siddall drawing the first Wildcat power play just six seconds into the contest.
Siddall celebrated the man-advantage with a hard wrist shot over the left shoulder of Huskies goaltender Rob Nolan at the :45 mark, bringing the 4,139 Wildcat faithful to their feet. Assistant captain Darin Olver and Mike Santorelli both assisted on the play.
“Against Tech it feels really good to score,” said Siddall. “Darin is one of those guys who works really hard, and he made a great pass, and I just closed my eyes and shot.”
The Wildcats appeared primed to score again when Husky forward Derek Kitti was whistled for a major penalty for checking from behind. However, the Huskies stood tall, and never really let the Wildcats get settled in on the five-minute power play.
The Huskies had a perfect opportunity to even the game with a five-on-three advantage for 1:22, but came up empty. Huskies forward Jimmy Kerr had the best opportunity in close, but Wildcats goaltender Bill Zaniboni came up big.
The second period was full of stoppages as both teams were whistled for a combined 16 penalties. The result was a period where both teams had numerous power-play opportunities, but nothing to show for them.
“There was absolutely no flow to the game tonight,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “You’re using a lot of the same guys over and over (with all the penalties).”
With Ray Kaunisto and captain Pat Bateman off with penalties, the Huskies had opportunities in close to Zaniboni, but either fired the puck wide or failed to get a clean piece of the puck. Kerr nearly scored again with an open net, but the puck slid just wide.
Zaniboni continued his hot play in the net in the third period, stopping all eight Huskies shots. The Huskies had four faceoffs within the last 31.4 seconds of the game, but couldn’t squeeze a shot through. Not even the collective will of the Mitch’s Misfits who made the trek to Marquette could lift the puck past Zaniboni, and Huskies co-captain Lars Helminen missed the net just before time expired.
Kyle was impressed with what he saw from his opponent again Saturday.
“Tech is a very improved team,” said Kyle. “Jamie Russell is doing a great job there.”
Nolan came up with 13 saves on the night, and had long stretches where he didn’t see much action.
“I tried to just focus on the puck and the simple things,” said Nolan.
The Wildcats finished 1-for-9 with the man advantage while the Huskies were 0-for-12. The Huskies also finished with 22 shots on goal on 57 attempts, continuing their positive trend toward getting pucks to the net.