NMU Hockey bounces back with big win over LSSU

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SAULT STE. MARIE, Mi. The Northern Michigan University hockey team (17-13-4, 15-10-1-1 WCHA) earned the weekend split with Lake Superior State University (11-21-4, 9-12-4-4 WCHA), 5-1, snapping their losing streak and returning to the win column at Taffy Abel Arena Saturday night.

The Wildcats drew first blood when Mitchel Slattery found twine at 3:46 of the opening period, picking up the rebound from Darien Craighead on the doorstep for the 1-0 lead.

After Nolan Kent stifled a few shots on a two-on-one rush to keep the Wildcats on top half way through the period before Luke Voltin scored his second of the weekend to give his team the two-goal lead with just over four minutes to play in the opening frame.

Despite being outshot, 10-7, to start things off, NMU took the 2-0 lead to the locker room for their first intermission.

A pair of power play goals on a LSSU major penalty gave the Wildcats the 4-0 lead through 40 minutes of play. Joseph Nardi scored the first goal of the period and third for NMU on the night before his linemate Griffin Loughran found the back of the net just 1:35 later to put the team up 4-0 late.

Nolan Kent stopped two huge breakaway chances for the Lakers in the final three minutes of play to keep the home team off the board after two periods of hockey.

The Lakers spoiled Kent's shutout bid at 8:06 of the third period, finding the back of the net on a backhander past the Wildcat goaltender to cut the NMU lead to 4-1.

Playing six-on-four as the Lakers pulled their netminder late in the third period, Brandon Schultz and Nardi combined to find the empty net and give the Wildcats their final score of 5-1.

Nolan Kent posted 31 saves in the victory, including a handful of huge saves late in the game to maintain the Wildcats' four-goal lead.

GOALS
Mitchel Slattery opened the scoring for NMU with 16:14 to play in the opening period when he picked up the rebound out front and snuck it past Lakers netminder Mareks Mitens' blocker for the 1-0 score. Darien Craighead, who had the initial shot saved, was fed the puck by Grant Loven along the boards as both were credited with assists on the goal.

Luke Voltin extended the lead to two when he found twine for the second straight night and his first career goal streak with 4:23 to play in the first period. Voltin won the faceoff in the Laker zone and although his first shot was turned aside, he was able to corral the puck and fire it home, unassisted, to give the team the 2-0 lead through the first 20 minutes of play.

Joseph Nardi extended the Wildcat lead with his five-hole goal at 14:48 of the second period with a power play goal. Vincent de Mey leapt in the air as the Lakers tried to clear their zone, knocking the puck back to the ice and passing it up to Nardi for the tally.

Just 1:35 later, the nation's leading goal scorer (at the time) snapped his scoring drought as Griffin Loughran tapped the puck in at the near post to give NMU the 4-0 lead.Ty Readman carried the puck up before sending it back towards the blue line where Philip Beaulieu tried a one-timer at the net. Initially stopped by Mitens, Loughran picked up the loose puck and buried it for his 22nd of the season.

Shorthanded and with the Laker net open, the Wildcats sent the puck flying into the LSSU zone with less than a minute to play in regulation. The Lakers picked up the puck but Brandon Schultz picked it off a defenders stick deep in their zone and fed it over to Nardi for his empty net goal and second tally of the night.

KEY STATS
Hank Sorensen led the team in shots on net, posting five but was unable to crack Mitens in the Laker goal. A handful of forwards sat close behind Sorensen with four a piece in Griffin Loughran, Joseph Nardi and Luke Voltin, all of whom posted at least one goal in the victory.

Three Wildcat defensemen posted three blocks each for the team lead. Ben Newhouse, Rylan Yaremko and Michael Van Unen all jumped in front of three Laker shots to keep the Wildcats ahead Saturday night in the Soo.

Griffin Loughran now boasts the second most goals in the nation as he recorded his 22nd of the season in the second period of tonight's matchup at LSSU. He also leads the team in points with 37 while 11th in the nation in the same category (22-15-37).

UP NEXT
The men return home to the Berry Events Center for their final home game of the regular season as they host night one of a home-and-home series against rival Michigan Tech.

Puck drop for Friday night is set for 7:07 p.m. before a 6:07 start the following night in Houghton, Michigan.

Prior to puck drop on Friday night, the team will honor their three seniors in Philip Beaulieu, Darien Craighead and Luke Voltin.