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Monday July 22, 2024
Wildcats Win CCHA Playoff Opener Over Bemidji

Click the AUDIO buttons to hear post-game comments from Joey Larson, Mikey Colella and Coach Grant Potulny.

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%.

How It Happened
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.
  • Andre Ghantous proved why he received CCHA Forward of the Month for February and continued his heater, scoring a goal and registering two assists for three points. Dr. Dre is now on a five-game point streak, where he has 11 points in that frame (6G, 5A).
  • Joey Larson recorded his seventh multi-point game and second two-goal game, potting a pair along with the eventual game-winner. Larson now has seven points in his last six games (5G, 2A).
  • Michael Colella also recorded a multi-goal evening and is on a three-game point streak with two goals and two assists in that frame.
  • Rylan Van Unen netted his third goal of the year and has three goals in his last five games played. Twin brother Michael Van Unen found the empty-net goal for his second goal in three games fourth point in his last five.
  • Artem Shlaine recorded two points and now has eight points in his last five games (1G, 7A).
  • Simon Kjellberg recorded an assist, extending his point streak to five games with six points in that frame (2G, 4A).
  • Kristof Papp recorded an assist, giving him seven points in his last five games (2G, 5A).
  • Alex Frye, David Keefer, AJ Vanderbeck, Connor Eddy, Reily Funk, Tanner Vescio, and Colby Enns all recorded assists.
  • Beni Halasz made 28 saves on 31 shots.
Scoring Summary
1st Period
4:36 - Kyle Looft (BSU, 0-1), Assisted by Vince Corcoran and Mitchell Martan.
11:36 - Rylan Van Unen (NMU, 1-1), Assisted by AJ Vanderbeck and Reily Funk.
12:13 - Joey Larson (NMU, 2-1), Assisted by Artem Shlaine and Kristof Papp.
13:20 - Carter Jones (BSU, 2-2), Unassisted.

2nd Period
16:59 - Michael Colella (NMU, 3-2), Assisted by Colby Enns and Tanner Vescio.

3rd Period
6:32 - Ross Armour (BSU, 3-3), Assisted by Kaden Pickering and Lleyton Roed.
9:43 - Joey Larson (NMU PP, 4-3), Assisted by Artem Shlaine and Andre Ghantous.
10:47 - Michael Colella (NMU, 5-3), Assisted by Andre Ghantous and Simon Kjellberg.
16:04 - Andre Ghantous (NMU, 6-3), Assisted by Connor Eddy.
17:09 - Michael Van Unen (NMU, 7-3), Assisted by Alex Frye and David Keefer.

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