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Thursday April 22, 2021
SHOCK THE WORLD: 'Cats Upset Mankato State

This story was written by NMU Sports Information.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Rosvold)

MANKATO, Minn. —
The Northern Michigan University hockey team advanced to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's conference final with a 5-1 victory over No. 3 Minnesota State University - Mankato, Friday afternoon. 
The Wildcats lit the lamp just over a minute into the opening period when Andre Ghantous fired the puck top shelf for the early 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats continued to dominate puck possession in the opening stages of Friday's game as they were outshooting the Mavericks 5-0 with 10:22 elapsed in the frame. 
With seconds remaining in the first period, Joseph Nardi and Ghantous rushed the length of the ice and nearly doubled their lead but Nardi's shot with 0.1 seconds left was denied and the teams skated to the locker rooms with the Wildcats holding the 1-0 lead.
It didn't take long in the second for Alex Frye to find twine as the sophomore lit the lamp just 24 seconds into the middle frame for the 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats would find the back of the net a total of four times in the middle frame as Frye, Nardi, Vanderbeck and Ghantous all hit twine in the middle frame to carry NMU to a 5-0 lead heading into the third period.
With 40 minutes of action gone, Rico DiMatteo had made 16 saves to keep the Mavericks scoreless.
MSU was not letting up early in the third as they opened with seven straight shots in the NMU zone, finding the back of the net once as the Wildcats held onto the 5-1 lead.
The Wildcats continued to offset the pressure the Mavericks put on in the waning minutes of the third period as DiMatteo made 28 saves in the contest to improve to 7-5-1 on the season.
Their appearance in tomorrow's WCHA conference championship will be their sixth in program history, having previously advanced to the league finals in 1989, '91, '92, '93 and 2018.
Andre Ghantous scored his eighth goal of the season with a rocket shot at 1:16 of the first period to give NMU the 1-0 lead. The sophomore picked up the pass from Joseph Nardi to the left of Mavericks' netminder Dryden McKay, sending a shot over MSU's shoulder for the 1-0 tally.
After Brandon Schultz and Ben Newhouse both took whacks at the net to now avail, Alex Frye settled the loose puck and fired a shot into the wide open net to make it 2-0 Wildcats at 24 seconds of the second period. 
Nardi scored his first of the game at 8:56 of the second period when his shot from the point hit the shoulder of McKay, flew up in the air, and dropped down to the ice in the back of the net. Hank Sorensen picked up an assist on the play.
AJ Vanderbeck and Alex Frye created an odd-man rush as they skated together in stride into the offensive zone. Carrying the puck, Frye sent it over to Vanderbeck who buried it for the 4-0 lead.
Ghantous net his second of the game at 12:57 of the second period with a power play goal. Nardi and Vanderbeck both picked up assists on the Wildcats' fifth goal of the day.

With his three points tonight, senior Joseph Nardi improves his career total to 99 points, boasting 38 goals and 61 assists in his four seasons with the Wildcats.
His 33 points this season, including three on Friday, ranks seventh nationally.
Rico DiMatteo had 28 saves in the contest to lead his team to victory.
Each team went one-for-two on the power play, with Andre Ghantous scoring his second of the night on the man-advantage.
With the win, the sixth-seeded Wildcats advance to their sixth ever WCHA Conference Championship game. The Wildcats await their conference final opponent and will face the winner of Lake Superior State vs. Bemidji State.

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