Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wildcats end season with sweep of the Lakers

By Susannah Nichols/ Northern Michigan Beat Writer

The Northern Michigan Wildcats closed out the regular season with a sweep of UP-rival Lake Superior State. The 'Cats won 6-2 on Friday and 5-3 on Saturday.

The teams were evenly matched at the start Friday's game: Wildcat Reed Seckel and Laker Kyle Jean traded goals in the first period. But the 'Cats lit it up in the second period, outshooting the Lakers 13-8 and netting three goals thanks to Tyler Gron, Justin Florek, and Stephan Vigier.

The second period also saw Jean receive a five-minute major and game disqualification for facemasking.

A short-handed tally from Matt Thurber gave the 'Cats a 5-1 lead early in the third period. Laker Buddy Robinson chipped away at that lead with a goal at 10:39, but Andrew Cherniwchan sealed the game for the 'Cats with their sixth goal of the night and his ninth of the season.

Kevin Kapalka had 18 saves for the Lakers, while Jared Coreau had 26 saves for the Wildcats.

Saturday's game seemed to start out the same, with Gron getting the 'Cats on the board first with some help from Seckel and Scott Macaulay. They were probably hoping to extend the lead when they went on the power play late in the period, but Laker Stephen Perfetto had his own ideas; he netted an unassisted shorthanded goal to tie the game at one.

The 'Cats scored the next four goals, with Macaulay assisting on three of them. Ryan Daugherty and Mitch Jones scored even-strength goals, and Thurber and Kyle Follmer each added a power-play goal by the end of the second period.

After switching out Kapalka for Kevin Murdock in net, the Lakers narrowed the lead in the third period. Colin Campbell made it a 5-2 game with an even-strength marker. And Perfetto worked some short-handed magic again, setting up Fred Cassiani for a goal at 4:57.  

But Reid Ellingson was done letting in goals and stonewalled the Lakers to preserve the 5-3 score. Ellingson traded places with fellow senior Devan Hartigan for the last seven seconds, giving Hartigan his first playing time this season.

With the sweep, the Wildcats secured home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs next weekend against the Bowling Green Falcons. “I think it’s great to have home ice,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said. “Our league is so tight. There’s a group at the top and everything else is up for grabs.”

The Lakers will also host the first round of the tournament: they face off against the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.

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