MARQUETTE, Mich. — Northern Michigan survived a late run of penalties at the end of the second period, then picked up two goals in less than two minutes early in the third to defeat Minnesota State 5-2 in WCHA play on Friday night at the Berry Events Center.
The Wildcats outshot the Mavericks 31-26 by blocking 21 of the Mavericks’ 60 shot attempts.
Northern’s penalty kill proved to be the true star, however, killing four of MSU’s five power plays.
“We took some penalties and I really liked our penalty killers,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said. “They did a great job, for sure. I thought the group of defensemen we had in did a great job, for sure. I thought our forwards were really committed as well.
“I think that was as good of a night collectively we’ve had all season.”
NMU junior forward Ryan Kesti gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead 4:26 into the third period with assists from junior defenseman Mitch Jones and junior forward Reed Seckel.
NMU freshman John Siemer then tallied his third goal of the season, an unassisted tally and eighth point in seven games, by beating MSU freshman goaltender Cole Huggins on a one-on-one breakaway 5:50 into the third to put Northern up 3-1.
Northern took three penalties, including a five-minute major by junior forward Ryan Daugherty for kneeing, in the final six minutes of the second that resulted in a pair of 5-on-3 advantages for the Mavericks.
Minnesota State converted on the second two-man advantage — a goal by senior forward Johnny McInnis with assists by freshman forward Zach Stepan and junior forward Matt Leitner — but then halted its major advantage with a high sticking call at 19:12.
Four seconds later, MSU gave NMU a man-advantage via a tripping penalty, leading to a power-play goal by Northern senior forward Stephan Vigier that tied the game at 1-1 going into the third period.
“We go down 4-on-3 and to me, you know, we’re supposed to help our goaltender out a little bit,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “We’ve got a veteran that doesn’t block a shot and it goes in the back of the net. All of sudden, there’s energy in the building.”
Mavericks’ junior forward Chase Grant brought Minnesota State to back within one goal at 7:59 of the third via assists by sophomore forward Teddy Blueger and freshman Sean Flanagan, but NMU freshman forward Dominik Shine put NMU back up by two with assists from Seckel and freshman forward Shane Sooth at 14:53 of the third.
Northern had to kill off a two-man and three-man disadvantage late in the game via a pair of cross checking penalties and an empty Minnesota State net.
The Wildcats killed off the first cross check and Kesti chased Huggins back into the MSU net with his second goal of the night, third of the season and fourth of his career — a shorthanded empty-netter – to put NMU up by three with 20 seconds to play in the game.
“To tie it up going into the third then was a big boost for us,” Kesti said. “It got us a little confidence knowing that we didn’t have much to kill off to start the third.
“I think 5-on-5, we felt very comfortable tonight. They are a very good team and we just have to continue to work.”