MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University goaltender Atte Tolvanen had a night he is never going to forget Friday and Wildcat fans will not forget it either.
Tolvanen, who was recently named the WCHA Goaltender of the Month for November, made NMU-Michigan Tech rivalry history when he scored unassisted with a little less than two minutes left in the game. The goal iced what would turn out to be a 5-3 victory for NMU over the Huskies, and caused an already excited sold out Berry Events Center crowd to erupt in what was one of the loudest cheers the arena has ever heard.
“I realized there was no one coming at me, so I figured I might as well take a shot,” Tolvanen said. “I’ve never done it before, so that makes it even better. And doing it against Tech makes it special.”
Per NMU Sports Information, the goal was the first by a netminder in school history and just the second scored in WCHA conference history. The other was also scored versus Tech.
Tolvanen said he practiced a few shots on goal Thursday, but it is not something he spends much time on.
“I tried it in Bowling Green once earlier this year, but I missed it by like five feet,” he said. “I told the guys I’d get it in the next time.”
Doing his day job, Tolvanen made 23 saves on 26 Tech shots in the victory, which lifted the Wildcats’ record to 7-9 on the year and 6-3 in WCHA play. MTU fell to 8-6-1 overall suffered their first league loss to drop to 7-1-1-1 in league play.
“It wasn’t the greatest game for me (in) history, but we got the job done we came here to do, which was win the game,” Tolvanen said.
Tech goalie Matt Jurusik shouldered the loss, his third of the season, stopping 28 of 32 shots.
NMU’s five goals, scored by five different players, marked the team’s high water mark on the season.
“We’ve scored lots of pretty goals this year. We haven’t scored the goals that I called the easy ones,” NMU coach Grant Potulny said. “We got two of those tonight. …
“When I say easy, it’s goals you can score in your street shoes. It’s hard to get there. But just banging it home are the ones we struggled to score. I thought it was a great effort by our guys who stuck with it. That’s a good team. Tonight, I thought it was rewarding win for us.”
After a 10-day layoff following a loss at Notre Dame, NMU came into the came with some energy and took a 1-0 lead at the 6:20 mark when NMU senior captain Denver Pierce scored unassisted from the crease following an intercepted pass.
Not long after that point, Tech started to take over control of the game with Greyson Reitmeier notching the game-tying goal 3:55 into the second period and go-ahead goal at 15:17.
Both were assisted by Tommy Parrottino and Thomas Beretta, the second goal on a nice centering pass by Parrottino.
The Wildcats answered with 1:58 left when Ty Readman stuffed in a shot by defenseman Tony Bretzman that nearly went in itself.
Then not a minute into the third, the Wildcats took a lead they would not relinquish when Daniel Craighead snuck behind MTU’s defense and took a pass just on the safe side of the blue line. He fired it in unimpeded from the right circle to give NMU at 3-2 lead 51 seconds into the third period.
“I saw that they were changing and Phil (Beaulieu) made a ridiculous pass there, looking on the other side of the rink and just hit me right on the tape,” Craighead said. “I saw the goalie was cheating to the other side so I put it far side and it happened to go in.”
NMU held control for most of the rest of the game after that. MTU did not manage to get a second shot on goal for the period until just five minutes remained.
Northern forward Troy Loggins iced the game with 3:39 remaining by scoring a wraparound goal for a 4-2 lead. It became the game-winner when Tech forward Trenton Bliss scored with eight seconds remaining following a game misconduct penalty behind Tech’s net by Northern forward Luke Voltin.
Huskies head coach Joe Shawhan said the main key to the third period was that NMU kept the Huskies on defense the whole time.
“By the time we got it out of our zone, we were tired,” he said. “We might be cheating and trying to do something and we’re gassed, and then when they come out again, we’re doing line changes, so we’re already defending and having to play for another 30 seconds.”
The two teams will meet again at 7:07 p.m. tonight at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. Shawhan, who praised the Wildcats effusively and said he “enjoyed” watching them play Friday, hopes to see his team show up better in the rivalry game.
“Tremendous effort by Northern Michigan,” he said. “Outstanding effort by Northern Michigan. We’ll see how we match up with them. Some teams just don’t match up. We don’t know right now if we match up with them that well. Maybe they just were that much better and what they do is just that much better against us than what we do.
“We’ll see if we can play better (Saturday) and if we can’t we get another crack at it at the end of the year. Our job is to continue to make our team better.”