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Sunday, January 25, 2009

NMU stays hot, sweeps Alaska

By Susannah Nichols/ Northern Michigan Beat Writer

The year 2009 continues to be kind to the Northern Michigan Wildcats -since the new year, they have emerged victorious from five of their last six contests, including last weekend's victories over visiting Alaska.

The Wildcats (7-13-4,4-10-4-3 CCHA) blanked the Nanooks, 2-0, on Friday, and earned an extra point in a shootout after a 2-2 tie on Saturday.

Friday's game started quietly as each goalie made eight saves in the first period and each team only took one penalty apiece. Jared Brown lit the lamp on an unassisted goal early in the second period and then combined with Nick Sirota to set up Billy Smith for Smith's first goal of the season midway through the third period.

Brian Stewart remained steady. He turned aside all 21 of the Nanooks' shots for the shutout.

Saturday's game appeared to be going in a similar direction - a silent first period, followed by two NMU goals. First, Erik Gustafsson scored with some help from Phil Fox and Gregor Hanson. Less than a minute later, Tim Hartung and Blake Cosgrove connected to set up Ray Kaunisto for his fourth goal of the season.

Stewart wouldn't be able to cruise to a repeat shutout, however. Alaska mounted an impressive comeback beginning with Brandon Knelson's goal late in the second and continuing into the third period, when the team outshot the Wildcats, 18-5.

Braden Walls scored to send the game to overtime. Neither team scored, and the teams entered the decisive shootout.

The Wildcats won the shootout, 2-0, thanks to goals by Gustafsson and Mark Olver. Alaska missed both of their attempts.

The Wildcats hit the road next weekend as they face Western Michigan in Kalamazoo on Jan. 30-31. Both games are set to start at 7:30 p.m.

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