MARQUETTE – In need of points, the Lake Superior State Lakers came up empty-handed in a Friday night loss to the Wildcats of Northern Michigan.
Lake Superior got on the board first when Diego Cuglietta netted goal number six on the year, scoring an unassisted goal under five minutes into the game. The Lakers came out hard, outplaying the host Wildcats through the first half of the opening period. A penalty to Alex Ambrosio seemed to spark the ‘Cats, as they began to get the better of the play.
Just 55 seconds into the second period, the Lakers’ lead was gone, as Adam Rockwood picked up his 3rd goal of the year. An even strength goal, Rookwood’s tally came right after the expiration of an Anthony Nellis penalty. Rockwood got assists from Demico Hannoun and Robbie Payne, the latter of whom is a candidate for the 2018 Hobey Baker Award.
Darien Craighead kept the momentum going for Northern Michigan with a goal 1:15 later, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the night. Craighead added a power play tally later in the period for his 15th of the season.
Down but not out, the Lakers closed within one when J.T. Henke found the back of the net. Despite the shots standing at 27-14 in favour of the hosts after 40 minutes, Lake Superior trailed by only one goal entering the final session.
To start the third period, the Laker offense came out firing shot after shot at ‘Cats goaltender Atte Tolvanen. Tolvanan, who came close to breaking the NCAA shutout record last season (held by former Laker Blaine Lacher), stood tall, keeping the Lakers in check. At the other end, Nick Kossoff kept the Wildcats from climbing any higher, turning away each attempt to widen the scoring gap.
With Kossoff on the bench and the Lakers’ net empty, Lake Superior tried to send the game to overtime. Tolvanen, however, showed why he is one of the top goalies in the WCHA by coming up big for his team when they needed him, preserving the 3-2 score.
For the Lakers, Kossoff faced 34 shots, stopping 31. Tolvanen finished the night with 27 saves on 29 attempts.
With the loss, the Lakers now trail the Wildcats 2-1 in the standings for the Father Cappo Cup, and hold a 2 goal advantage. The rivalry for the cup started in 1992, and has been contested annually since 1995. The ‘Cats won the cup last season on a tiebreaker, as both teams finished 1-1-2, but NMU outscored LSSU 10-9.
On the plus side, the teams directly ahead and below the Lakers in the standings all lost, as Alaska-Anchorage fell to Bowling Green, Ferris State lost to Bemidji State and Alaska was defeated by Michigan Tech. While Lake Superior could not take advantage of the situation, they did not fall further out of the playoff race either.
The series will complete Saturday, January 20th at the Berry Events Centre in Marquette. Face off is at 7:07 p.m.