NMU hockey: Potent power play gives Wildcats 6-3 victory over Nebraska-Omaha

MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University hockey team’s power play picked up where it left off from 2012-13 on its first opportunity in its first game of the season at University of Wisconsin by giving up a shorthanded goal to the Badgers.

Three games later, the Wildcats’ power play is nothing like the unit that gave up 13 shorties a year ago.

“It’s just a little more cohesive, more guys working together right now,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “We still have work to do for sure, but it was a really good effort.”

Northern scored four power play goals on 10 chances Saturday to defeat Nebraska-Omaha 6-3 and salvage a split in nonconference play at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

After losing 2-1 on Friday to fall to 0-3 for the first time since the 1995-96 season, the ‘Cats improved to 1-3 overall to avoid their first 0-4 start since 1992-93 heading into WCHA play on Friday against Michigan Tech in Marquette.

“We were really pleased to get it,” Kyle said about the win. “One of the things I talked about after the game was what a good bounce back effort it was after getting beat last night.”

NMU junior forward Ryan Daugherty, senior forward Stephan Vigier and freshman defenseman turned forward Brock Maschmeyer scored on one-man advantages while senior defenseman and captain C.J. Ludwig scored on a 5-on-3 power play.

Senior forward Jake Johnson scored the Wildcats lone even strength goal of the night on a wrap around 2:39 into the game for a 1-0 lead while senior forward Erik Higby sealed the win with an empty net goal with under two minutes to play.

“We were due to have some pucks go in,” Kyle said. “We were a little bit snake bitten. We got a lot of people around the net. We got a lot of greasy goals tonight. It was due to happen.”

Northern and Omaha were knotted at 1-1 after the first period due to a John Archibald power play goal for the Mavs 22 seconds before the first intermission.

Daugherty tipped in a blast by NMU junior defenseman Mitch Jones on the power play for his first goal of the season to give NMU a 2-1 lead 7:31 into the second period; Ludwig got his second goal of the season at 11:54 on the two-man advantage; and Vigier followed just over a minute later with his third goal of the year – all of which have been on the power play.

Maschmeyer registered his first collegiate goal on the power play 7:49 into the third period to put NMU up 5-2.

“I think we have a lot of depth throughout our whole roster here, so it’s just whoever is getting them, getting them and it’s just good for the team,” Ludwig said.

In just two weekends, Northern’s power play has had plenty of chances to improve, having gone 7 for 29.

Against the Badgers in Week 1, NMU converted twice on nine chances in Game 1 before being shutout on three chances in Game 2.

The ‘Cats went 1 for 8 Friday in the loss to UNO, but boosted their conversion percentage to 24.1 percent by going 4 for 10 Saturday

NMU finished 2012-13 having only scored on 13.7 power play chances.

“That helps to have a lot of opportunities,” Jones said about the early success. “We had a good week of practice. I think as a group, we’re fighting for spots. The personnel is changing a bit and we’re just clicking. Guys are moving the puck well and we’re kind of feeding off each other. It’s more of a five-man unit where last year, we kind of struggled to get all five guys on the same page. It’s early in the season, but so far we’re doing a good job.”

Omaha cut the NMU margin to two goals twice on Saturday before Higby got his first goal of the year.

UNO senior forward Ryan Walters scored at 16:15 of the second period on the power play to make it a 4-2 game. UNO junior forward Dominic Zombo scored the second shorthanded goal of the season on NMU at 10:57 of the third to make it 5-3.

The Mavericks were called for 12 penalties for 32 minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct in the second period.

Northern received 20 penalty minutes on 10 penalties with Omaha converting on two of its nine power play chances.

“This was just a frustrating game,” Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “I’m sure Walt Kyle was frustrated too. It’s too many penalties. Whether the referee called them or we took them, that was too many penalties.

Whether it’s the referees adjusting to the new leagues or teams adjusting to new groups of referees, Blais said you can’t blame the men in stripes for all the penalties.

“You blame your own teams and Walt will do the same,” Blais said. “You can’t control what a referee is doing. You have a better chance of controlling what your own team is doing.”