MARQUETTE, Mich. — Close calls was the theme of the third period Friday in Northern Michigan’s regular-season home opener against former CCHA rival Nebraska-Omaha.
For instance, Omaha senior forward Ryan Walters had to make a game-saving deflection on the penalty kill with his stick to keep a puck out of an open net.
Then Mavericks freshman goaltender Kirk Thompson gloved another potential go-ahead goal for the Wildcats just minutes later.
Finally, the Mavs got a chance of their own late during a scrum in front of the NMU net, but even that was close and it went to video review.
The second-look went in Omaha’s favor, senior forward Brock Montpetit’s game-winning goal at 2:51 stood up and the Mavericks (2-1-0) were able to spoil Northern’s (0-3-0) night with a 2-1 nonconference victory at the Berry Events Center.
“It was tough, especially in the third period when we killed off four penalties, but guys did a good job,” Omaha coach Dean Blais said.
Walters gave Omaha a 1-0 lead via assists by senior defenseman Michael Young and Montpetit 2:35 into the second period, but NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier tied the game at 1-1 on a 3-on-1 breakaway during a 5-on-3 NMU power play at 7:06 of the second period.
“I saw it was a 3-on-1 and I honestly thought pass right away, but I saw [Thompson's] glove down, so I just ripped it,” Vigier said. “I was lucky it went in.”
Vigier had the go-ahead goal for Northern in his sights on the power play with under nine minutes remaining in regulation, but his shot was deflected wide by Walters, who laid out with his stick at the last second to get a piece of the puck.
Minutes later with the Mavericks back to full strength, Thompson gloved a short-range blast from NMU senior forward Erik Higby to keep the game tied at 1-1.
“We just failed to put pucks away,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said. “We had a lot of pucks left laying around and some opportunities missed for sure. You have to give them credit. They did a great job blocking some shots.
“Vigier came in late there and had a whole net and one of their guys came in and deflected it away. You have to give them credit for making plays like that.”
Thompson and NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom both made their second collegiate starts Friday, with Thompson making 28 saves to improve to 2-0 and Dahlstrom making 29 saves to fall to 0-2.
Thompson and the Mavericks — who were called for nine penalties compared to the Wildcats’ four — had to kill off four NMU power plays total in the third period.
According to Blais, Thompson was the difference while the Mavs were a man short.
“The goaltender, Kirk Thompson, made some great saves, three or four saves, that there were guys around,” Blais said. “I don’t know how he got a stick on it or deflected it into the corner. Just huge saves on the penalty kill.”