Four Third-Period Goals Lead ‘Cats to Statement 7-3 Victory

Game two of the Mason Cup Quarterfinals from the Berry Events Center takes place March 4th at 6:07 p.m.
Published: Mar. 5, 2023 at 12:02 AM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The Northern Michigan University men’s hockey team welcomed the Bemidji State Beavers to town for game one of the Mason Cup Playoffs and beat the Beavers after an explosive four-goal third period to take game one by a score of 7-3.15 different ‘Cats recorded at least a point, highlighted by Andre Ghantous’ three-point night (1G, 2A) along with Joey Larson and Michael Colella scoring two goals each. Beni Halasz stopped 28/31 shots faced for a .903 SV%, went 1/3 on the PP and 3/3 on the PK, won 36 faceoffs to BSU’s 18, and blocked 18 shots to Bemidji’s 10.Kyle Looft, Carter Jones, and Ross Armour all scored for the Beavers, and Mattias Scholl stopped 17/23 for a .739 SV%.

The game started with an NMU penalty for tripping, sending the ‘Cats shorthanded within the first few minutes of the game. Bemidji hit the crossbar off a deflection from on top of the crease, and Andre Ghantous almost beat his defender for a short-handed breakaway, but couldn’t create separation. As the penalty was expiring, Kyle Looft fired a seeing-eye shot from the point that beat Beni Halasz through traffic to give the Beavers the early lead.Momentum stayed in Bemidji’s favor, hemming the ‘Cats in their zone and making it difficult for Northern to get anything going, and not allowing Northern a shot on goal through the first 10 minutes of the frame. Beni Halasz had to remain sharp, stopping plenty of quality scoring chances from the Beavers.

On the Wildcat’s second shot of the game, AJ Vanderbeck sprung a streaking Rylan Van Unen who had a defender to beat and drove the net, and finished in tight. This was Rylan’s third goal of the season, and Reily Funk picked up the secondary helper. Not moments later, Joey Larson received a slick pass from Artem Shlaine and made a nifty little toe-drag to beat his defender and walk in on a mini breakaway. Larson went backhand and beat Sholl over the pad to give the ‘Cats a 2-1 lead on his 12th goal of the season. The whole line contributed, as Kristof Papp picked up the secondary helper.The Beavers responded with a tally of their own, as Carter Jones took advantage of a turnover in the ‘Cats zone and beat Halasz over the blocker hand.

After fireworks in the first period, the teams skated to their respective dressing rooms with a 2-2 tie. The Beavers led in shots (10-7), but the ‘Cats heavily outnumbered them in the faceoff dot winning 13 to BSU’s four. The ‘Cats took the only penalty in the frame and successfully killed it. This time it was the Wildcats who were awarded a powerplay to start the period, and Vincent de Mey received a sweet saucer pass and walked in all alone, but Mattias Sholl had to make two saves from in tight. Seconds later, Joey Larson got a cross-ice pass and was looking for his second of the night, but Sholl stretched into the splits to make an incredible cross-crease save to keep the game tied. The Wildcats maintained pressure and momentum through the first half of the period generating multiple grade-A chances, but couldn’t quite solve Mattias Sholl.

The two teams played tug-of-war, but neither was able to pull the rope to their side on the scoreboard.The Wildcats skated four-on-four, and immediately off the ensuing faceoff Colby Enns fired a shot from the point and Michael Colella was in the perfect position to tip the puck past the outstretched glove hand of Sholl for his sixth goal of the season. Tanner Vescio picked up the secondary assist on the go-ahead goal for the ‘Cats.Colella’s late-period goal would hold as the only goal of the period, giving the Wildcats a 3-2 lead going into the third period. Shots were dead even at 10 a-piece, and the ‘Cats once again had the edge in the faceoff dot winning 13 to BSU’s six. The theme continued, and just like that there was a penalty called within the first two minutes and thirty seconds of the period, this time against the ‘Cats. Backstopped by a couple of crucial saves from Beni Halasz, the ‘Cats killed off the penalty and returned to full strength. The Wildcats had a chance to extend the lead to two as Andre Ghantous fed Michael Colella with a wide-open net to look at but didn’t get enough on the shot and rung it off the post.

The Beavers picked up the puck and went the other way and would score on the rush to tie the game at three a piece. The Wildcats would find themselves on a power play and Artem Shlaine once again found Joey Larson wide open on the back door and he finished emphatically, blowing it by a diving Sholl for a powerplay tally. A minute later, Michael Colella made up for missing the wide-open net and fired a shot from the slot that hit Sholl, jumped up and behind the netminder, and took an NMU bounce to find the back of the net and extend the ‘Cats lead to two halfway through the final period. The ‘Cats put an exclamation point on the game after Connor Eddy blocked a shot and was off to the races. He placed a perfect saucer pass onto the tape of Andre Ghantous who made a head fake to get the goalie moving and beat Sholl between the legs to give the ‘Cats a three-goal cushion.The Beavers pulled the goalie in a last-ditch effort, and Michael Van Unen fired the puck the length of the ice into the empty cage to put the nail in the coffin with a four-goal lead.

Game two of the Mason Cup Quarterfinals from the Berry Events Center takes place March 4th at 6:07 p.m.