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Offensive depth Llifts hockey to weekend sweep over St. Thomas

NMU hockey starts the season strong with a season sweep over the Tommies.
 (NMU Graphic)
(NMU Graphic) (WLUC)
Published: Oct. 10, 2021 at 12:06 AM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. — An explosive third period lifted the Northern Michigan University hockey team to an opening weekend sweep over the University of St. Thomas, 8-3.

Skating into the third period knotted at three, both teams came out strong in the opening minute of the final period, hoping to break the stalemate and swing momentum in their favor. Junior Hank Crone did just that for the Wildcats, finding the back of the net at 1:16 of the final frame for his first goal in the green and gold and eventual game-winner.

Despite the final score, the first 40 minutes were anyone’s game.

A four-goal first period left the two teams knotted 2-2 after 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats had wasted no time showing their offensive talents as they recorded six shots on net in the first six minutes of the game, as well as a handful of shots that narrowly missed the goal, as they were sent just wide.

AJ Vanderbeck lit the lamp at 1:30 of the opening frame with assists credited to Alex Frye and Hank Crone. His first goal of the season came with a wide open net as Frye’s initial move left the UST netminder out of position with the puck alone in the crease.

UST tied things up less than five minutes later when a Tommies’ forward fired the puck towards the far post and beat Wildcat netminder Rico DiMatteo glove side.

Connor Marritt scored his first collegiate goal to give the Wildcats the lead back with a tally at 13:18 of the period but the Tommies tied things up with a power play goal with seconds remaining to make it a 2-2 game after one.

With over three minutes to kill on the power play to start the second period, the Wildcats allowed another UST goal and found themselves trailing for the first time this season.

The early power play tally just 26 seconds into the frame was not enough to stall the Wildcats offensive efforts as they got one back with Vanderbeck’s second of the night.

With things all tied up after 40 minutes of action, both teams were hungry for that next goal going into the third period. The Wildcats held the edge in shots through the first two periods, owning a 26-14 mark while having 17 additional shots blocked.

NMU returned to the ice for the third period, unwavering from their second period offensive troubles. Four individuals would score for the Wildcats in the final period, while allowing just four shots on goal.

Crone’s goal at 1:16 of the period sparked the offensive flurry of goals that would ensue, including another from the junior just over two minutes later, notching goals one and two of his career as a Wildcat.

Trevor Cosgrove, David Keefer and Rylan Van Unen also found the back of the net in the final period of regulation to round out the night with the 8-3 final.

In 59:41 minutes played, DiMatteo finished with 15 saves while improving his season record to 2-0-0 to be named first star of the game.

SCORING PLAYS

  • The first goal of the night went in favor of the Wildcats when Alex Frye danced around defenders and left the puck on the goal line for AJ Vanderbeck to tap home just 1:30 into the game. Hank Crone set up the initial play and picked up the secondary assist on the play.
  • Connor Marritt net his first career goal to give NMU the 2-1 lead halfway through the first. The sophomore picked up Garrett Klee’s rebound and beat two defenders for the tally. Jett Jungels was also credited with an assist on the play, the first of his career.
  • Last season’s leading goal-scorer scored his second of the game with a power play tally to knot things back up at 3-3. He fired a shot from the top of the far circle, beating UST’s netminder for the goal. Ben Newhouse and Hampus Eriksson both earned assists on the goal.
  • Hank Crone scored the eventual game-winner when he picked up a no-look pass from AJ Vanderbeck just off the near post and ripped a shot left of the goaltender.
  • Crone took 137 seconds to score his second of the night, firing a shot off from just inside the far circle and beat UST’s netminder glove side. Hampus Eriksson sent the puck on net where Vanderbeck gathered the loose rebound and sent it back up the slot as Crone picked it up for the 5-3 score.
  • Andre Ghantous won the defensive battle in the Wildcats’ zone and carried the puck up ice creating a three-on-two opportunity. With no shooting line in sight for Ghantous, he fed the puck back to Trevor Cosgrove who skated with it for a brief second before firing one home for his first goal at NMU.
  • With their power play unit on the ice, the Wildcats drew up the perfect scoring opportunity to make it a 7-3 game. Ben Newhouse and Hampus Eriksson stood out by the blue line, passing the puck to one another, looking for an opportunity to move in. Newhouse faked the penalty kill unit for UST far left and fed Eriksson the puck to carry deep into the offensive zone where Hank Crone picked up a pass. Prior to wrapping around the net, he sent the puck back to David Keefer who stood at the near hash and fired a shot top shelf for the seventh NMU goal of the night.
  • The Wildcats rounded out the scoring when Vincent de Mey skated through multiple defenders before getting tripped up. With the puck alone in the slot, Rylan Van Unen moved in and sent a shot low right, sneaking the puck between the UST goaltender’s glove and left pad. Alex Frye also tallied an assist on the goal.

KEY STATS

  • Skating in his 151st-straight contest, Joseph Nardi now holds the NMU record for most consecutive games played in program history. He is now tied for 35th all-time in games played.
  • The Wildcats allowed only single-digit shots by the Tommies each period, including four in the final period for the 8-3 final. Rico DiMatteo ended the night with 15 saves on 18 shots faced.
  • Both teams scored opening minute goals, with a puck finding the back of the net within the first 90 seconds of each period. The Wildcats first goal of the night came 1:30 into the contest while the game-winner was scored at 1:16 of the third period. The Tommies also scored early on, tallying a power play goal 26 seconds into the middle frame.
  • Both teams went two for five on the power play as AJ Vanderbeck and David Keefer both lit the lamp with the man-advantage. Meanwhile, the Tommies scored twice on the major against the Wildcats.
  • After allowing three goals in the first 20:26 of game time, the Wildcats held the Tommies off the box score through the remaining two periods, backstopped by 12 saves by DiMatteo.
  • The self-coined “transfer line” each boasted a team-high four points Saturday night, combining for over half of the team’s overall points. Vanderbeck and Crone each had two goals and two assists in the contest while Eriksson picked up a career-high four assists. In total, NMU posted 23 points off eight goals and 15 assists.
  • The Wildcats blocked 14 shots in the game, including a team-best three from Tanner Vescio and Ben Newhouse.
  • Crone led the team in shots on goal, firing six towards the net and scoring on 33 percent of his chances.

UP NEXT

The Wildcats continue their home stand next week when they take on the USNTDP and University of Notre Dame, Friday and Saturday.

First, NMU welcomes the U-18 team to the Berry Events Center on Friday, Oct. 15 for an exhibition bout, before the Irish come to town the following night for non-conference play.

Puck drop for both games is set for 6:37 p.m.

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