DENVER — In a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, the Northern Michigan Wildcats beat the Sacred Heart Pioneers 5-2 in the consolation game of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup Saturday night. Sophomore Billy Smith had a big game for the Wildcats, notching a goal and an assist in the win.
The first period started very much like last night’s game for the Wildcats, as they used their speed to generate a lot of chances and keep the Pioneers pinned in their defensive zone. They had several good chances, including a goal off a rebound at 2:23 that was disallowed because the referee blew the whistle before it crossed the goal line.
The Wildcats drew the first couple of power plays, and cycled the puck well. However, it was the Pioneers who capitalized shorthanded when Erik Boisvert intercepted Erik Spady’s pass and sent Dave Jarman clear on a breakaway. Jarman held the puck then lifted it in low stick side past Reid Ellingson at 9:47 of the period.
“Boisvert was very good this weekend,” said Pioneers’ coach Shaun Hannah. “He can skate and he plays with a lot of heart, so I was really happy with how he played this weekend.”
The Pioneers looked like they would take the lead into the intermission, but the Wildcats finally were rewarded for their hard work down low when Phil Fox got a pass from Billy Smith and ripped it past Olivier St. Onge at 19:32.
“That was really important,” said Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle. “We’re a team that, that might have been the first time we got five this year. We don’t score a lot, and we don’t want to be playing from behind. To be able to get that, I think was a big boost for us.”
Sacred Heart regained the lead early in the second period on a power-play goal. Bear Trapp fired a shot from the slot high glove side past Ellingson at 2:26 of the period.
The Wildcats answered with a power play goal of their own at 7:21 when Matt Butcher, standing on the left post, grabbed a loose rebound of a shot by Matt Siddall and lifted it into the far top corner.
The Pioneers had a good chance to regain the lead when Boisvert came flying down the right side and ripped a wrist shot that hit Ellingson’s glove and bounced over the crossbar.
The Wildcats finally got the lead with another power-play goal late on a five-on-three when Spady fired a shot from the middle of the ice just inside the blue line that got passed a screened St. Onge at 13:38.
“We changed some things (on the power play) tonight,” said Kyle. “We put Spady up there, and we got two tonight and that was important for us.”
“I thought the power-play goal to go up 3-2 was a killer,” said Hannah. “It was a tough spot of the game. The officiating was tight; we got the two penalties to go down five-on-three.”
Sacred Heart had a couple of chances early in the third to tie it up. Nick Johnson had perhaps the best chance when he rifled a shot from the left circle that Ellingson gloved.
Smith and Mark Olver combined on a two-on-one to put the game out of reach. Olver game streaking down the left side boards and fed a pass through the slot to Smith, who had a wide open net to score on at 15:40. Fox added an empty net tally at 19:13.
“Smith has been arguably one of our best forwards all year,” said Kyle. “He’s had zero offensive success but his work ethic and forechecking ability has been outstanding and it’s nice to see him get rewarded. He had a goal and an assist and I thought that was really important for us.”