MARQUETTE, Mich. – For the seventh time in Walt Kyle’s eight-year tenure behind the Northern Michigan University hockey bench the Wildcats are headed to Joe Louis Arena and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Championships next weekend (March 19-20). NMU has yet to advance to the championship game under Kyle, but could this be the year? NMU is now 12-3-4 since the beginning of January. The ‘Cats advanced with a 5-1 win over the Alaska Nanooks Saturday night to take the best-of-three series in two straight. The national picture even looks brighter tonight for the ‘Cats as they are now ranked 12th in the PairWise Ranking according to uscho.com.
The win improves the ‘Cats overall record to 19-11-8 while the Nanooks fall to 18-11-9.
After a scoreless opening period of play the ‘Cats turned the red lamp on twice in the middle frame. Justin Florek opened up the scoring for NMU with his 11th goal of the season 31 seconds into the period. Mark Olver assisted on the goal. Matt Butcher made the count 2-0 with a power-play goal a little over four minutes later (4:26) for his fifth of the season. Andrew Cherniwchan and Kyle Follmer assisted on the goal.
The third period saw the ‘Cats add to its lead after the Nanooks cut the score to 2-1 on a goal by Aaron Gens at 3:53. At 13:03 Greger Hanson made the score 3-1 with his 15th goal of the season. Gustafsson picked up one of the assists on NMU’s next goal which was scored by Gron at 17:48 for a 4-1 game. Hanson picked up the other assist on Gron’s ninth goal of the season, which was into an empty net. Ray Kaunisto scored the final goal of the game into an empty net at 19:45. For Kaunisto it was his 15th goal of the season.
Alaska outshot NMU by a 31-20 count. NMU was 1-2 on the power play for the game while the Nanooks were 1-5. Brian Stewart between the pipes for the ‘Cats turned away 30 shots to pick up his 17th win of the season (17-9-7). Scott Greenham picked up the loss as he had 15 saves for the game and falls to 18-11-9 for the season.
NMU’s opponent for the semifinals will be known once all the quarterfinal games are completed. Michigan advanced to the semifinals with a sweep of Michigan State. Ferris State needed overtime Saturday night, but took the series in two straight over Nebraska-Omaha. Ohio State forced a third game with a 5-4 overtime win over Miami Saturday night.
NMU Athletics will be sponsoring a fan bus for the weekend. Contact the Athletic Department at 906-227-2105 to reserve your seat which includes tickets to both night's for just $55.
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Sports Information Director