HOUGHTON — If the idea of an exhibition game is to exhibit competitiveness, the Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech hockey teams achieved their aim on Saturday night in Houghton.
The Wildcats and Huskies fought like cats and dogs to come up with a 4-4 tie that didn’t include an overtime as the game doesn’t even count. It was only an exhibition to get both teams their skating legs under them.
Nothing really needed to be settled, though, as they will meet four times during the regular season in a pair of home-and-home series in November and January. And there’s always the chance of a meeting in the CCHA playoffs in March.
On Saturday at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, the teams were tied three times as each had the lead at least once.
It was almost inevitable it would end in a tie, however, after the Huskies took a 4-3 lead early in the third period before a rash of MTU penalties a few minutes later led to Northern scoring the final goal during extended power play time that included several brief 5-on-3 situations.
AJ Vanderbeck scored the tying goal with about 12 1/2 minutes left off passes from Michael Van Unen and Hampus Erikkson. With a clear opening at the net, Vanderbeck fired off a shot top shelf.
Each team had a pair of players finish with two points.
For the Wildcats, Mikey Colella had the game’s first goal and an assist on the second goal, while Andre Ghantous had assists on each of those goals.
From Michigan Tech, Tyrone Bronte scored his team’s first goal in the opening period and assisted on the final one early in the third, while Ryland Mosley had assists on those same two goals.
Each team also split goaltending duties. In fact, NMU had three goalies with last season’s starter by the end of the season, Rico DiMatteo, allowing a pair of goals and making 12 saves in the first period, Nolan Kent not allowing a goal with 14 saves in the second period, and Charlie Glockner giving up two goals and making seven saves in the third.
The Huskies’ Blake Pietila and Cayden Bailey split duties nearly down the middle as both had around 30 minutes as Pietila allowed three goals as he made 13 saves and Bailey one goal and five saves.
The visitors from Marquette jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Colella and Tanner Vescio goals in the first seven minutes. Colella picked up a feed from Joseph Nardi through traffic on the opening goal.
Tech worked to get one back less than three minutes after Vescio on a power play shot by Bronte, then tied it 12 seconds before the first intermission on a tally by Logan Ganie.
On the Bronte goal, DiMatteo made an improbable save before the Huskies knocked in the power play rebound.
In the second period, Trevor Cosgrove needed less than two minutes to give NMU the lead again with a goal. Nothing else happened on the scoreboard until the referees called an early end to the period with 2:06 remaining due to fog on the ice.
But they were able to resume in the third like normal as Northern’s rookie goalie, Glockner, made a big save in the first minute that was still technically part of the second period.
A couple minutes later, though, the Huskies pumped out two goals in 61 seconds from the sticks of Arvid Caderoth and Tristian Ashbrook to first tie the score, then take a 4-3 lead.
Even with Van Unen called for a trip 4:45 into the third, Northern earned a long stretch of power play time with three minors called on Tech over the next 3:09 that lead to Vanderbeck’s final tally.
MTU held a 37-22 shots on goal advantage as the Wildcats’ Van Unen, Alex Frye and Ben Newhouse each took three shots.
NMU opens the season for real this weekend when it hosts new CCHA and NCAA Division I member University of St. Thomas of St. Paul, Minnesota, at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is [email protected]