NMU hockey: Michigan Tech loses its cool, but still sweeps Wildcats

MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University hockey team had two goals controversially waived off by WCHA officials during the first period Saturday night against Michigan Tech at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

The Wildcats were also handed a golden opportunity by Tech to tie the game or possibly take the lead on power plays late in the third period because of a minor meltdown by the Huskies.

“We have to keep our composure regardless of what is going on and regardless of whether we like the refereeing or not,” Tech head coach Mel Pearson said. “We just have to learn to keep our composure going forward. That’s a little bit a sign of a team that hasn’t won a lot in the past and being in tight, tough games like this. We’ll address that going forward.”

Tech eventually did regain its composure, Huskies sophomore goaltender Phoenix Copley made a few more key saves and the Wildcats fell 3-2 on their home ice to give their Upper Peninsula rivals a weekend sweep with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

NMU – now one-point back of eighth-place Bemidji in ninth in the WCHA – will close against Bowling Green next weekend in Marquette before a trip to Alabama-Huntsville.

Tech – which is back alone in third place and seven-points clear of the ‘Cats – is off next weekend before traveling to second-place Minnesota State.

“Every game from now on is a playoff game, like do-or-die,” NMU senior defenseman Wade Epp said. “I don’t think we’re even in a playoff spot as of right now. We need to win the next four games and it starts next Friday.”

NMU freshman forward Dominik Shine received a five-minute major and 10-minute game misconduct with 7:28 to play in the game for contact to the head, but with 4:02 remaining in regulation and 1:36 left in the major, Tech lost its cool.

With MTU junior David Johnstone already in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct, older brother and senior forward Jacob Johnstone was whistled for goaltender interference, a call the Huskies didn’t agree with.

The ensuing arguing by the Huskies over the goaltender interference resulted in a 10-minute misconduct on senior captain Blake Pietila and a two-minute bench minor on head coach Mel Pearson, turning a major power play for Tech into a 4-on-3 power play for Northern.

Once Shine’s major expired, NMU had a two-man advantage, but the Wildcats couldn’t beat Copley, who finished with 37 saves at the BEC.

“It starts with the coach,” Pearson said about the meltdown. “The coach has to stay a little bit more calmer than I was. We had the power play and a couple good chances.

“I told (the team) I took the bench minor on purpose so I know we’d get some desperation in our game. They weren’t sure if it was a joke or I was serious. They laughed after awhile.

“I’m an emotional guy. I wear my emotions on my shoulder and sometimes I need to reign it back a bit. I thought tonight was one of those nights I have to learn to keep myself in better control.”

The Huskies took a 1-0 lead in the first period on the fourth goal of the weekend by freshman forward Reid Sturos, who beat NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom back door via a pass by Pietila.

MTU senior forward Daniel Holmberg put away a pass by from junior forward Blake Hietala 14:04 into the second period to give Tech a 2-1 lead after Hietala fed Holmberg from Dahlstrom’s right for a one-timer.

The Huskies went up 3-2 with another backdoor goal on Dahlstrom, this time with sophomore forward Alex Petan finding junior forward Tanner Kero for the game-winner.

“I didn’t think tonight was our best game, but I thought our goaltender Phoenix Copley really rose to the occasion as well as our penalty killers late in the game,” Pearson said.

The Wildcats scored twice on the power play in the second period with the first goal by Shine that was assisted by freshman forward John Siemer tying the game at 1-1 at the 6:12 mark.

NMU junior forward Ryan Daugherty tied the game again at 2-2 at 17:37 of the second period with assists from senior captain Stephan Vigier and freshman defenseman Brock Maschmeyer.

The two goals Wildcats fans will remember from Saturday, though, are the ones that didn’t count.

The first disallowed goal came because of an early whistle, which negated a blast by senior defenseman Wade Epp that trickled through the five hole of Copley. Officials thought Copley had possession of the puck, but he didn’t.

“You can’t fault an official who struggles to skate, when he doesn’t get in position to read the play,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “He didn’t get down where he needs to be on the goal line and consequently, he didn’t see that the puck was out of the goalie’s pads and behind the goalie.

“When you watch it on film, there should have never been a whistle, but he couldn’t get down there and you can’t fault him for not being able to skate.”

The second no-goal was an apparent wrap-around by junior forward Reed Seckel in the closing minutes of the first period, was never officially reviewed despite requests from Kyle, though the coach later agreed it was a not a goal.

According to NMU officials who saw the overhead video footage at the BEC, the puck hit the post. This video was not made available to The Mining Journal.

Video that was available to The Mining Journal – including highlights on WCHA.com and footage shot by WBUP-TV sports director Jerry Taylor – showed the puck may have went into the net and bounced out, or it could have hit the post, but neither video would have been available for WCHA officials to review.

The WCHA officials did turn to video review after play had stopped following Seckel’s wrap around attempt, but it was to confirm the whistle had blown before the puck slipped across the goal line again seconds later during a monkey pile in front of the Husky goal – the whistle had blown before the puck crossed.

“It hit the post,” Kyle said about Seckel’s wrap around attempt. “When I talked to the official there, he had reviewed the scramble, not the wrap. We wanted them to review the wrap.

“They made the right call on the ice and they didn’t need to (review it). They were correct.”