NMU hockey: Wildcats sweep Chargers, clinch WCHA playoff spot

HUNTSVILLE – Only one scenario Saturday could have dropped the Northern Michigan University hockey team back into ninth place and out of the WCHA playoffs.

And the Wildcats never let it come close to happening.

The ‘Cats made the rest of the results around the league on the final night of the regular season mute in the first period with three goals. They then had to hang on from there for a 5-2 victory over Alabama-Huntsville at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Nine different scenarios involving Alaska-Anchorage, Lake Superior State and Bemidji State got the Wildcats into the playoffs and seeded them anywhere from No. 6-8, but only one – an NMU loss, combined with wins by both LSSU and BSU – kept the Wildcats out.

That ninth-place scenario was dead before the second intermission in Alabama with LSSU losing 2-1 at Ferris State and Bemidji falling 5-2 at Bowling Green.

NMU sophomore forward Darren Nowick scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season at 5:53 and 8:59 to get the Wildcats a 3-0 lead. Freshmen forwards Gerard Hanson and John Siemer assisted on the first goal while the second was unassisted.

Nowick picked up his sixth goal of the season for the hat trick at 13:54 of the third period.

NMU senior defenseman Wade Epp scored the first goal of the night 3:24 in with senior forward Stephan Vigier and junior defenseman Luke Eibler assisting on what was only Epp second goal this year. He put in the last goal as well, scoring on an empty net with 39 seconds to play.

The Chargers’ Jack Prince scored two goals – his seventh and eighth of the year – in the second period to cut NMU’s lead to one heading into the third.

NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom finished with 27 saves while UAH senior goaltender CJ Groh made 24 saves on Senior Night in Huntsville.

NOTES: The Wildcats seed and opponent in the WCHA playoffs is not known yet due to the 11:07 p.m. EST start of Alaska-Anchorage at Alaska. The Wildcats will either be the No. 6 or 7 seed. If UAA wins, NMU is the No. 7 seed and travels to Minnesota State for a Friday through Sunday best-of-three series. If Alaska wins or the game ends in a tie, NMU is the No. 6 seed and traveling to Alaska for a Thursday-Saturday series. Ferris State won the WCHA regular season title outright after MSU and Michigan Tech tied.