MARQUETTE, Mich. — When the Northern Michigan Wildcats and Lake Superior State Lakers met in December in Sault Ste. Marie, the Wildcats went home with two shootout wins at the hand of their third goalie. This time around, the Lakers came to Marquette and faced a different Wildcats’ roster and a very different outcome.
The Wildcats started their 7-3 victory strong and early after winning the first period 4-1. The penalties were even at two and the shots at eight but the Wildcats’ special teams were the difference, with a solid penalty kill and two power-play goals, including the game winner, a perfect wrist shot from sophomore Greger Hanson. The first period put nine Northern Michigan players on the score sheet.
“We’re going to have a tough time beating anyone when we can’t stop wrist shots from 25 feet out,” Lakers’ coach Jim Roque said. “That’s going to kill us. I felt bad for our guys after the first period. The shots were 8-8 and I didn’t think we played that bad, but we were down 4-1 so it was obviously a tough start.”
“I had an unlucky break with their first goal,” Wildcats’ goaltender Brian Stewart said. “They had a couple whacks at it in front of the net and it just kind of trickled in. I have to give them credit there, but I think we played well. We were scoring on our shots and making them matter.”
The second period also went to the Wildcats, who scored another two goals, including their third power-play goal of the night. Both teams were playing with more intensity, racking up 10 penalties between them.
“We took way too many penalties,” Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle said. “We took bad stick penalties in the offensive zone. We took bad stick penalties in the neutral zone. We can’t do that and move forward.”
The Lakers stepped up their game in the third period with two early goals, but the Wildcats came back to seal the deal with their seventh and final goal just moments later.
“There’s no quit in our team,” Roque said. “We had good chances tonight. We were around the net. We have to produce on the power play and we have to have more discipline. We’re going to come back with a better effort and take our chances.”
The Wildcats had their highest score of the season with seven goals with points coming from 13 different players.
“The forwards were clicking on all cylinders and were able to put some of the pucks in the back of the net,” the Wildcats’ Phil Fox said. “It’s a good feeling when we can do that. We were clicking and finding each other. It’s just something we’ve been trying to accomplish all year.”
With tonight’s win, the Wildcats secured home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs. The Lakers will try to find their placement with tomorrows game when the cross-state rivals face off at 7:35.