Tolvanen Earns 5th Straight Shutout; Closes In On Coveted Record
CHN Staff Report
MARQUETTE, Mich. Northern Michigan sophomore goaltender Atte Tolvanen is on the verge of history after posting two more shutouts this weekend.
Tolvanen has now recorded five straight shutouts, putting him just under two periods away from the all-time Division I men's NCAA record for consecutive scoreless minutes played, set by Lake Superior State's Blaine Lacher in 1994.
And he's not doing it the easy way either. Tolvanen had to make 39 saves Friday, then made a career-high 48 on Saturday in defeating visiting Alaska, 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. In all, he has stopped 215 consecutive shots for a scoreless streak of 335 minutes, 39 seconds. Lacher's streak was 375:01 for the Lakers, who won the national championship that year.
To break the record, Tolvanen will have to contend with Minnesota State next weekend in Mankato.
Tolvanen had to make numerous stellar saves in the third period to preserve the streak, and Northern Michigan's win.
The Wildcats, the reigning CHN Team of the Week, are now 7-0-2 in their last nine games, and have surged into six place in the WCHA, tied with Lake Superior, one point back of fifth-place Ferris State with four games remaining. Alaska and Alabama-Huntsville are one point back of that back, tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the league.
The losses left Alaska obviously flustered, but tipping its cap to Tolvanen, a 22-year old native of Vihti, Finland, who came to NMU by way of the North American Hockey League.
"The puck possession and scoring opportunities were there tonight. It can get really frustrating when it does not go in but I thought our team stayed with it and kept pushing," Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson said. "We have been snake-bitten the last three games. We have to keep grinding and pushing through it, the chances are there, so that's half the battle. The other half is finishing and we will eventually start scoring."
Early in the third period, Northern Michigan was forced to spend extended time on the penalty kill. At the tail end of the Nanooks' second power play, Tolvanen came up with a big save then denied two bids by Troy Van Tetering to send the rebound home.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Zach Frye had an uncontested look in transition, but Tolvanen gloved it to keep his shutout streak alive.