SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Northern Michigan University hockey program defeated the Lake Superior State University Lakers, 4-3, in an overtime nail biter Sunday evening.
Wildcat sophomore AJ Vanderbeck highlighted the night for the Wildcats as he net three goals in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory, including the overtime winner.
For the second consecutive night, the Wildcats struck first with a power play tally from Andre Ghantous at 1:53 of the first period.
The Lakers would tie things up at 10:19 of the opening period, sneaking one past DiMatteo for the game-tying goal.
NMU continued to pepper the Laker net with shots, including a close call with less than a second remaining in the period, but were unable to break the LSSU goaltender and the two teams would head to the locker rooms tied at one after one.
Partway through the second period, the Lakers held the edge in shots on net, 14-9, with Rico DiMatteo making a handful of huge saves to keep the puck out of the Wildcat net.
With three minutes to play in the second period, Michael Van Unen pokechecked the puck away from a Laker attacker to stifle a three-on-one chance. The Lakers managed to hold possession in the Wildcats’ zone but DiMatteo made four straight stops without a whistle to keep it a 1-1 game as the clock showed 120 seconds left in the frame.
Vanderbeck broke the stalemate just 60 seconds into the third period with a rocket from the far dot to give his team the 2-1 lead.
The sophomore forward, Vanderbeck, scored his second of the evening on a breakaway to make iot 3-1 Wildcats at 13:27 of the final period.
LSSU scored twice in the final 61 seconds of regulation to force an overtime session for the second straight night.
The Wildcats thought they had scored, celebrating on the ice at the 1:25 mark of overtime but after a lengthy review the goal was waved off and play continued.
In his first appearance between the pipes, DiMatteo made a few key saves following the disallowed goal to keep play rolling and give his teammates another chance at the other end of the ice.
The Lakers used their timeout at 3:40 of the overtime session following a big save from DiMatteo but momentum continued in favor of the Wildcats when Joseph Nardi won the draw. He sent the puck up to Van Unen who found an open Vanderbeck at the blue line. Carrying it in, Vanderbeck’s first shot bounced off the pads of the LSSU netminder and right back onto his stick for him to send it home and get the Wildcats their first overtime win of 2021.
- Andre Ghantous tapped it in on the doorstep for the early 1-0 lead with just 10 seconds elapsed on the first power play of the afternoon. Alex Frye won the draw off the penalty, sending the puck behind him where Hank Sorensen picked it up before passing it off to Ghantous for the first tally of the night.
- Mason Palmer broke up a Laker rush in the neutral zone where it bounced across the ice and onto the stick of AJ Vanderbeck who skated it over the blue line. He fired it from the far faceoff dot for the Wildcat’s second goal of the day for the 2-1 score.
- With 6:33 to play in the third, Vanderbeck broke free of all Laker defenders where he capitalized on the one-on-goalie opportunity for the 3-1 mark.
- After having an earlier overtime goal waved off, Vanderbeck posted his first career hat trick with the overtime game-winning tally with 1:06 left in the extra frame. Firing a shot from the slot, Vanderbeck picked up his own rebound and danced around the goaltender, flipping the puck up and over the goal line for the sudden-death tally. Michael Van Unen and Joseph Nardi each earned an assist on the play.
- AJ Vanderbeck‘s three goals is a career-best for the sophomore forward. He concludes the weekend series with four points, including an assist in game one.
- After a four-point night on Saturday, picking up an assist on each of NMU’s goals, Andre Ghantous found the back of the net in the opening period for his first goal of the weekend and the Wildcats first of the night.
- Four Wildcats own point-streaks following the win over LSSU Sunday evening. Ghantous leads the team with a five-game stretch (3-7-10) while Alex Frye extends his streak to a career-long three games (2-1-3). Vanderbeck and Joseph Nardi both highlighted the box score in each of the team’s games against LSSU this weekend as Vanderbeck has four points (3-1-4) over the last two games. Nardi also boasts four points in two games off two goals and two assists.
- In his debut with the Wildcats, Rico DiMatteo stopped 34 of 37 shots for his first career win.
- 15th — With 19 points in 16 games played (7-12-19), the Wildcats leading scorer, Nardi ranks 15th nationally in points per game, averaging 1.19.
- 17th — His team-leading nine goals this season puts Vanderbeck 17th in the nation in goals per game (0.56).
- 19th — Two Wildcats sit tied for 19th nationally in assists per game as both Nardi and Ghantous are averaging 0.75 apples per game. Nardi leads the team with 12 while Ghantous boasts nine through his 12 games played.
- 20th — Picking up the game-winning goal Sunday, Vanderbeck is now tied with teammate Nardi for 20th among all Division I skaters with two a piece.
- The Wildcats move to 5-11-0 on the year and are 3-3-0 in WCHA play.
The Wildcats return to action next Friday and Saturday with a trip to Bemidji State University on deck, Feb. 12-13. Puck drop of the WCHA series is set for 8:07 p.m. ET on Friday before a 7:07 p.m. ET start on Saturday.