The NMU Wildcats returned to the ice, but fell to the No. 3 ranked Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks 4-1.
“We got kicked around,” said NMU head coach Walt Kyle. “Can’t tell you one area I was really happy with.”
Northern held Mankato tight in the first period despite being outshot 17-7. Matt Leitner got the only goal of the first period after linemate Bryce Gervais crossed the blue line and drew both NMU defenders to Doan’s stick side. He then got a quick pass for Leitner for the easy goal.
The lone goal for the Cats came 5:34 into the second when Ryan Kesti put in the loose puck. After a shot by Cohen Adair was stopped and deflected upwards, the teams created a mosh pit around the crease. The puck slapped the ice and sat untouched for almost a second before Kesti put it in.
A penalty plague hit Northern, as the Wildcats committed four penalties in the next nine minutes. The penalties besieged the NMU defense as MSU scored three times in the second period.
Turnovers were also costly for Northern Michigan. The last three goals all came quickly after the Wildcats turned over the puck.
“They took our turnovers and scored,” said NMU defenseman Jake Baker. “We have to eliminate those mistakes.”
Northern was quick to praise the Mavericks, who are ranked third in both the USCHO and USA Today/Coaches poll. Minnesota State went into the weekend tied with Michigan Tech for first place in the conference.
“It’s never good to lose a game but it is good to play a good team,” Kyle said. “The better teams they have some bite and force you to not make mistakes. They make you tighten up your game a bit.”
Northern’s usual goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom is still unavailable for play and did not dress tonight. Doan was the starting goalie against Bemidji State, the last series NMU played before semester break on Dec. 12-13. The Wildcats lost and tied with the Beavers that series.
“He’ll be back soon,” Kyle said of Dahlstrom. “Soon can mean one week or three weeks though.”
Aaron Beutenmiller, a junior who played with the Soo Greyhounds, played as the third string goalie tonight.
The majority of NMU’s came on transition. Their best shot opportunities came on high-velocity shots from Sami Salminen and Robbie Payne as they came across the blue line.
Minnesota State had 37 shots on goal. Mankato prefers high-shooting games against the Wildcats, as their last game had over 50 shots on goal as well.
Brett Knowles led the way offensively for the Mavericks, with four shots on goal. Four other MSU players had three shots. Northern’s Brock Maschmeyer and Dominik Shine had four shots a piece. Doan had 33 saves while Cole Huggins stopped 19 for the Mavericks
NMU was scoreless on their only man advantage while Minnesota State went 1 for 5 on the power play.
Mankato improves to 14-4-0 overall and 11-2-0 in the WCHA while Northern drops below .500 in conference play to 5-6-2 and 8-6-3 overall.
The two teams will face off again tomorrow night at the Berry Events Center. Puck drops at 7:07 p.m..