NMU hockey: Vigier, Maschmeyer lead Wildcats to victory over Michigan Tech in WCHA opener
MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University hockey program excepted junior forward Stephan Vigier to score goals this season and so far, he’s produced.
What the Wildcats didn’t expect was the offensive boost its received from freshman forward Brock Maschmeyer.
That’s because the rookie out of Alberta was supposed to be stopping goals as a defenseman, not scoring them.
“He’s doing what he’s supposed to, that’s for sure,” Vigier said. “He’s in the right spot at the right time and he’s taking advantage of his opportunities.”
The Wildcats picked up two first-period goals on Friday from Vigier and Maschmeyer, then hung on for 40 minutes to tally a 2-0 victory over Upper Peninsula arch rival Michigan Tech in front of a sellout crowd of 4,260 fans at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
It was the Wildcats (1-0-0 in WCHA, 2-3-0 overall) first WCHA game and victory in 15 years. Now the Wildcats will go for their first WCHA sweep since leaving the league in 1997 at 7:07 p.m. tonight in the Huskies’ (0-1-0, 0-4-1) home opener at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.
“The building was phenomenal,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “It’s great to see when the building is like that.
“I think these Tech games are really special. To have that kind of energy and that environment here is special. Our guys can feel it and I think our guys fed off it.”
Vigier sniped his fourth goal and fifth point of the season in five games past Tech sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley 4:55 into the game to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead over the Huskies.
Vigier, who was left alone just a few feet in front of Copley for the quick shot, credited his linemates – junior Reed Seckel and senior Erik Higby – for his latest score, whoever it was that made the precise pass.
“I don’t even know who made the pass, Seckel or Higby, but it was a great play,” Vigier said. “We have some good chemistry now and we have to keep it going for sure.”
Maschmeyer scored on the power play at 16:08 of the first period to give NMU a 2-0 lead over the Huskies. With assists from Higby and senior defenseman Luke Eibler, he rang a wrister off the right goal post and in past Copley for his second goal of the season.
Maschmeyer said he has experience as a forward having last played the position at the Junior A level in Canada, so the transition hasn’t been a major challenge, as evidence by his two power play goals now in back-to-back games.
“The boys have been helping me out a lot and it just made the transition that much easier,” Maschmeyer said. “It’s not too bad, just getting to know the systems again and getting to know where you need to be on the ice for the forward position.”
Maschmeyer was a healthy scratch in the Wildcats opener at Wisconsin on Oct. 11, then played as a seventh defenseman the following night.
He debuted at forward a week from Friday in the 2-1 loss to Nebraska-Omaha and recorded that first collegiate goal the following night in a 6-3.
Kyle said they decided to use Maschmeyer as a center instead of as an extra defenseman because it gave the freshman the most possible ice time.
“We want him in our lineup because I think he has a huge value on the power play,” Kyle said.
“I think he’s been outstanding in his adjustment to forward. I think he’s been really, really efficient on the power play for us – really efficient.”
The Huskies only generated 24 shots on goal against NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom, who earned his first collegiate win and shutout in his third career start Friday.
For Kyle, the start was a better representation of Dahlstrom’s performance early in the year.
“He has been outstanding,” Kyle said. “I thought he was really, really solid tonight and it wasn’t that hard of a game for him. What I mean by that is, there were hard moments, but it wasn’t like he was peppered. He wasn’t peppered with high-end chances, and then they’d get a couple great chances.
“Those are the hardest games for goaltenders to play in. He responded really, really well.”
While scoring chances came at a premium for Tech, penalties did not for the second game in row to the tune of 10 call for 42 minutes.
Two of the 10 calls were five minute majors and 10-minute game misconducts for checking from behind in the third period – one going to freshman center Mike Neville and the other to freshman defenseman Chris Leibinger.
That all came less than a week removed from a Sunday loss at Notre Dame where Tech was awarded 18 penalties for 85 minutes, including three majors and three game misconducts and two additional misconducts.
“We just couldn’t get behind and play from behind like we did tonight,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said.
“Northern got those three power plays right at the end of the first period and it took us out of the game. They had seven or 10 goals on the power play and we talked about it coming in. I can’t tell you they were blatant penalties, but they were calls and they have a good power play.”
Copley finished with 30 saves for Tech, but fell to 0-3-0 in his third start of the year. In the three losses, Tech’s scored three goals and posted an average of 21.3 shots per night.
Tech only has seven goals this season in five games, with sophomore Alex Petan’s goal Sunday at Notre Dame being the only goal for the Huskies top line, which also includes juniors Blake Pietila and Tanner Kero.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Pearson said about the scoring woes. ‘Some of it is trying too hard, squeezing your stick too tight. Some of it is not working hard enough. Some of it is not working together. Obviously we need to find the right combination.”
Pearson said the home ice tonight in Houghton will hopefully provide a boost for his offense, which he isn’t planning to shake up just yet.
“You can’t over react and we’ve been on the road from Day 1,” Pearson said. “We have to get some confidence at home. We have to give our guys a chance to play at home and see what they do there.
“It’s going to be nice to be home.”