MARQUETTE, Mich. — Playing in its first WCHA game in 15 years, the Northern Michigan Wildcats scored a 2-0 victory on Friday over Upper Peninsula archrival Michigan Tech in front of a sellout crowd of 4,260 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The two sides meet again Saturday in Houghton at 7:07 p.m. in the home opener for Tech, which after five games on the road finally returns to the friendly confines of John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Coach Mel Pearson is hoping a few goals and calls are waiting upon their return.
“It’s hard on the road,” Pearson said. “You’re not going to get many calls on the road. We haven’t been getting any bounces on the road. We had two goals waved off —- in Duluth a good goal and in Notre Dame —- that could have changed the complexion of both of those games.
“It’s going to be nice to be home.”
Northern scored twice in the first period via an even-strength goal by senior forward Stephan Vigier and a power-play goal by freshman defenseman turned forward Brock Maschmeyer.
Vigier fired a quick shot past Tech sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley 4:55 into the game to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead over the Huskies, with assists coming from junior linemate Reed Seckel and senior linemate Erik Higby.
“I don’t even know who made the pass, Seckel or Higby, but it was a great play,” Vigier said. “We have some good chemistry now and we have to keep it going for sure.”
Maschmeyer scored on a power play at 16:08 of the first period to give NMU a 2-0 lead over the Huskies. With assists from Higby and senior defenseman Luke Eibler, he rang a wrister off the right goal post and in past Copley for his second goal of the season.
Vigier, who now has four goals and five points in five games, was expected to score for the Wildcats this season, while Maschmeyer has been an early surprise with two power-play goals in back-to-back games.
“He’s doing what he’s supposed to, that’s for sure,” Vigier said. “He’s in the right spot at the right time and he’s taking advantage of his opportunities.”
Copley finished with 30 saves for Tech, but fell to 0-3-0 in his third start of the year. In the three losses, Tech’s scored three goals and posted an average of 21.3 shots per night.
Tech only has seven goals this season, with sophomore Alex Petan’s goal Sunday at Notre Dame being the only goal for the Huskies top line, which also includes juniors Blake Pietila and Tanner Kero.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Pearson said about the scoring woes. “Some of it is trying too hard, squeezing your stick too tight. Some of it is not working hard enough. Some of it is not working together. Obviously, we need to find the right combination.”
NMU redshirt freshman Mathias Dahlstrom picked up his first collegiate shutout and win in three starts after stopping all 24 Tech shots.
For NMU coach Walt Kyle, the start was a better representation of Dahlstrom’s performance early in the year.
“He has been outstanding,” Kyle said. “I thought he was really, really solid tonight, and it wasn’t that hard of a game for him. What I mean by that is, there were hard moments, but it wasn’t like he was peppered. He wasn’t peppered with high-end chances, and then they’d get a couple great chances.
“Those are the hardest games for goaltenders to play in. He responded really, really well.”