Courtesy of NMU Athletics

MANKATO, Minn. – The Northern Michigan University hockey team ended its season with a 5-4 overtime thriller in the opening round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs at Minnesota State Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

The Wildcats finish the season with a 15-21-2 overall record. Minnesota State will move on to the Final Five in Grand Rapids next weekend.

Northern Michigan took a 1-0 lead at the 7:18 mark of the first period when senior forward Jake Johnson took a feed from junior forward Ryan Kesti. It was the third goal of the season for Johnson.

Minnesota State’s Matt Leitner evened the score at 1-1 in the final second of the first period (19:59) on assists from Bryce Gervais and Cole Huggins.

At the 3:21 mark of the second, Kesti put NMU back on top on an assist from freshman forward Dominik Shine. It marked the fourth goal of the season for Kesti.

Johnny McInnes tied the game for Minnesota State at the 14:00 mark of the second period on assists from Teddy Bluger and Zach Stepan.

Senior forward and captain Stephan Vigier gave the Wildcats a 3-2 lead at the 4:44 mark of the third period. Vigier scored on the power play netting his 16th goal of the season on assists from freshman defenseman Brock Maschmeyer and freshman forward Shane Sooth.

Gervais tied the game for the Mavericks on assists from Leitner and Chase Grant at the 7:22 mark of the third period.

Maschmeyer gave the Wildcats a 4-3 advantage scoring on the power play at the 12:11 mark of the third on assists from junior defenseman Mitch Jones and Vigier. It was the sixth goal on the season from Maschmeyer.

Gervais scored the tying goal to force overtime at the 15:37 mark of the third on the power play, Zach Palmquist and Stepan assisted on the game-tying goal.

Stepan scored on assists from Palmquist and McInnis to end the game at the 16:32 mark of the first overtime, giving the Mavericks the 5-4 win.

The Wildcats were 2-2 on the power play and 2-4 on the penalty kill. Minnesota State outshot the Wildcats 58-32 in the contest including a 19-8 advantage in the opening frame.

Freshman goalie Mathias Dahlstrom made a career high 53 saves in net for NMU and faced 58 total shots. Dahlstrom finished the season with a 14-19-2 overall record for the Wildcats. Huggins made 28 saves in net picking up the win for the Mavericks.