NMU hockey: Wildcats fall to Nebraska-Omaha 2-1 in home opener

MARQUETTE – For the second game in a row, the Northern Michigan University hockey team gave up a game-winning goal late.

It also happened to be the second game in a row the only forward to score for the Wildcats three games into the regular season – senior Stephan Vigier – could have forced a potential tie.

Vigier and fellow NMU senior forward Erik Higby were both robbed of go-ahead goals late in the third period, only to see Nebraska-Omaha move ahead minutes later in a 2-1 nonconference victory for the Mavericks in the home opener for the ‘Cats at the Berry Events Center.

Mavs senior center Brock Montpetit tallied the UNO game-winner with 2:51 to play in regulation just six days after freshman Grant Besse scored with 3:35 remaining to give No. 2-ranked Wisconsin a 2-1 victory over NMU in Madison, Wis.

“We always talk about winning third periods,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “You don’t like losing third period, but I think we played well throughout the whole thing. It’s not like they were coming at us in the third. They did a great job winning a battle in front of the net.”

Vigier, who scored a power play goal on Oct. 11 at Wisconsin and another power play goal Friday against Omaha, ricochetted the game-tying goal off the cross bar in Madison with 33.9 seconds to play on Oct. 12.

On Friday, Vigier tied the game at 1-1 at 7:06 of the second period by holding the puck on a three-on-one breakaway and sniping the glove side of Mavs freshman goaltender Kirk Thompson during a five-on-three NMU power play.

“I saw it was a three-on-one and I honestly thought pass right away, but I saw his glove as down, so I just ripped it,” Vigier said. “I was lucky it went in.”

Vigier wasn’t as lucky with less than nine minutes to play in the third period. With a wide open net to shoot on during a power play, Vigier’s potential go-ahead goal for Northern was deflected wide by Omaha senior forward Ryan Walters, who laid out with his stick at the last second to get a piece of the puck.

With just over five minutes to play and Omaha at full strength, a short-range blast by Higby was then gloved by Thompson to keep the game tied at 1-1.”We just failed to put pucks away,” Kyle said. “We had a lot of pucks left laying around and some opportunities missed for sure. You have to give them credit. They did a great job blocking some shots.

“Vigier came in late there and had a whole net and one of their guys came in and deflected it away. You have to give them credit for making plays like that.”

In three losses, the Wildcats four goals have come from two defenseman – senior captain CJ Ludwig and junior Luke Eibler – and Vigier on the power play.

Ludwig leads the team in points with a goal and two assists and Vigier is second with his two goals.

As for the Wildcats’ leading scorers a year ago, Higby has one assist, as does junior forward Ryan Daugherty.

Sophomore Darren Nowick, who Kyle said before the season was expected to be a scorer, has been shutout through three games.

“Maybe it’s an unfair thing to ask, but you have to have guys like Higby, and Daugherty … Nowick, guys you were looking to provide offense, provide some offense,” Kyle said. “Right now it’s our power play and Stephan Vigier. Some of these other guys have to find a way to get on the board and get some pucks in the net.”

Notes: NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom finished with 29 saves on 31 shots in his second collegiate start. … Thompson, also making his second start for Omaha, stopped 28 shots. … The Wildcats and Mavericks meet in Game 2 of the series tonight at 7:07 p.m. at the Berry Events Center. … Omaha finished 1 for 4 on the power play and was called for nine penalties. … NMU was whistled five times for 13 penalty minutes, including the five-minute major accessed to NMU senior forward Jake Johnson for kneeing in the second period. NMU killed the major. … The Wildcats are winless in their first three games for the first time since 2010-11 when they started the year 0-2-1 before going 0-4-1. The last time NMU started 0-3-0 was 1995-96. NMU started 0-4 in 1992-93.