Northern Michigan hockey team matches worst loss ever to Michigan Tech

HOUGHTON – Three days after Northern Michigan University junior goaltender Jared Coreau registered his first shutout of the season and three days after what Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle called the team’s best defensive performance to date in 2012-13, Coreau got lit up behind a defense that can only be described as a great big sieve.

To top it all off, the embarrassment came against the Wildcats’ top rivals in Michigan Tech.

“We were not very good and they were very good,” Kyle said.

“We were awful tonight. This was the worst.”

Northern matched its most lopsided loss ever Tuesday in 128 games against the Huskies, falling 8-2 in front of 2,653 fans at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.

Northern, which finishes 6-2 in non-league play, was defeated by that same score in Houghton on Oct. 18. 1997, and had won four straight over the Huskies dating back to Dec. 17, 2010.

The 8-2 losses are the worst ever for the ‘Cats against the top rivals.

“Any time you beat Northern it’s good,” Tech head coach Mel Pearson said about his first victory over the Wildcats in four tries as head coach of the Huskies. “Hopefully it’s the first of many. It’s a good rivalry, an intense rivalry, and I think it’ll only get better as we go into the same league with each other, and probably play each other four times.”

NMU fell behind 4-0 just over eight minutes into the game, cut the Husky lead to three before the midway point of the first period and then allowed another four goals in the second half of the second period before sneaking in a score with 50 seconds to play.

“We just have to start off better,” NMU junior forward Jake Johnson said. “I don’t know if it is our pregame preparation or what it was tonight. It was all the start and it kept getting worse as it went on.

“We know we’re a better hockey team that that. We’re just going to flush this. We have to and be ready to play Friday.”

Northern, which returns to CCHA play on Friday and Saturday against Michigan State in East Lansing, split with Ferris State over the weekend in Marquette, losing 3-1 in Game 1 and rebounding the following night for a 3-0 win.

Coreau picked up his second career shutout in the Game 2 victory, having to only make 19 saves. In the Game 1 loss to Ferris, Coreau stopped 15 of the 17 shots he faced.

On Tuesday, Tech put 31 shots on the NMU net as Coreau and freshman goaltender Michigan Doan rotated time in goal.

Coreau gave up four first period goals to Tech sophomore Tanner Kero from Hancock, junior Jacob Johnstone, sophomore Blake Pietila and freshman Alex Petan, all forwards.

Coreau finished with 14 saves after being pulled 8:24 into the first period and thrown back in net with 4:51 to play in the second period.

“I think we hung Coreau out to dry big time early,” Kyle said. “I don’t think he had a chance.”

Doan, in only his fifth appearance this season, gave up four goals in the second period to Tech defenseman Walker Hyland, freshman forward Jujhar Khaira, Kero and junior forward Ryan Furne.

The rookie finished with nine saves.

“It wasn’t a goaltending issue tonight,” Kyle said. “I’m sure there were a couple goals we would have liked to have back, but the reality was they outplayed us. They won net-front battles. They won battles everywhere on the ice. They really took it to us early.

“We were rotten in front of both of them.”

The ‘Cats first-period goal came from junior forward Erik Higby with assists by senior defenseman Scott Macaulay and sophomore defenseman Jake Baker 8:59 into the first period to cut the Tech lead down to 4-1.

The second goal came from Johnson at 19:10 of the third period with assists by sophomore Nate Taurance and Baker on Tech freshman goaltender Jamie Phillips, who made six third-period saves.

Tech freshman Pheonix Copley made 18 saves in the first two periods before getting a rest in the third.

“They did a great job,” Kyle said. “You have to give them a lot of credit. They jumped on our D. I thought our D played real poorly early on and gave them a number of real good quality opportunities around our net front.”

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at