NMU hockey: Michigan Tech salvages split, beats Wildcats in home opener

HOUGHTON – The John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton was once again the house of horrors for the Northern Michigan University hockey team Saturday.

While it wasn’t the 8-2 shellacking of a season ago, the Wildcats still took a beating from Michigan Tech University, falling 4-1 in the Huskies’ home opener for a WCHA series split.

It was Tech’s (1-4-1 overall, 1-1-0 in WCHA) first win of the season after opening with five games on the road, while the Wildcats (2-4-0 overall, 1-1-0 in WCHA) now head to Alaska next weekend winless in three road contests.

“I think our team has played well enough to win some other games, but you actually have to grind it out and win,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “We haven’t been at home all year and we’ve stressed the importance of finally getting a home game and starting off on the right foot.”

Opposite of Northern’s 2-0 win in the WCHA opener for both schools Friday, it was Tech taking a 2-0 lead after the first period via a pair of goals – the first at even strength and the second on the power play – by junior forward Blake Hietala of Houghton.

Tech, which had struggled offensively on the road, scored two more in the second period to take a 4-1 lead into the third period. Preseason All-WCHA sophomore forward Alex Petan scored his second goal of the year 39 seconds into the second and junior forward David Johnstone tallied his first goal of the year in three games at the 7:37 mark.

“As much credit as you give us last night, you have to give them the same degree of credit tonight,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “I thought they did a great job putting us behind the eight ball. We didn’t respond to it. Last night was the same thing, very much true with them.”

NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier, unassisted, brought Tech’s lead down to two momentarily at 1:17 of the second period with a shot that bounced into the Husky net off the left post. It was Vigier’s fifth goal of the season and sixth point in six games.

NMU redshirt freshman Mathias Dahlstrom was awarded back-to-back starts for the first time as a Wildcat after picking up his first collegiate win and shootout on Friday. He finished with 29 saves after making 24 stops the night before.

Tech sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley, who was also making his first back-to-back starts of the year, stopped 14 of Northern’s 15 shots.

NOTES: NMU lost sophomore forward Darren Nowick in the first period with a right arm injury. … Wildcats junior forward Ryan Daugherty was ejected from the game in the second period receiving a five-minute major and 10-minute game misconduct for contact to the head. … NMU was called for nine penalties for 29 minutes while the Huskies where whistled five times for 10 minutes. … NMU went 0-5 on the power play while Tech was 1 for 7. … Tech travels to Ann Arbor next week to play Michigan.