MARQUETTE, Mich. — Freshman goalie Craig Kowalski stopped 25 shots to help earn Northern Michigan its first win of the season, a 5-3 triumph over visiting Ohio State at the Berry Events Center Saturday night.
Five different players scored for the Wildcats, who avenged a 5-3 Friday night loss to the Buckeyes with an offensive explosion of their own, outshooting Ohio State, 39-27.
“(Kowalski) started strong,” NMU coach Rick Comley said. “He made a lot of good saves. He’s an outstanding young goalie.”
Kowalski stopped 11 Buckeye attempts in the first period. His counterpart, Mike Betz, made a total of 34 saves for Ohio State.
NMU sophomore Chris Gobert opened the scoring when he tipped in teammate Terry Harrison’s shot at the 18:15 mark of the first period. Junior defenseman Sean Connolly earned an assist, as well.
But the Buckeyes wasted little time in knotting the score, as Jean-Francois Dufour notched a power-play goal with just 37 seconds left, getting assists from Scott May and Andre Signoretti. It was Dufour’s third goal of the weekend.
The Wildcats took the lead for good, however, when Fred Mattersdorfer tipped in a power-play shot by Mike Sandbeck, giving his team a 2-1 lead 5:33 into the second period. Connolly earned an assist on the goal as well.
NMU defenseman Jimmy Jackson scored his first of the season at the 17:17 mark, with Ryan Riipi and Mike Stutzel assisting.
“I thought the defensive trio of Connolly, Sandbeck and Jackson played very well,” Comley said. “They really stepped it up tonight.”
But again, the Buckeyes quickly countered, as Doug Andress scored on the power play at 18:01. Assists went to Luke Pavlas and Jaisen Freeman.
Junior center Chad Theuer gave NMU a 4-2 lead when he scored off a pass from Bryce Cockburn at the 1:35 mark of the third period. Cockburn later iced the game with an empty-net goal at 19:10.
“We needed the upperclassmen to stand up,” Comley said. “We have such a young team some nights we’re going to look good and some nights we aren’t. [Ohio State] jumped out on us last night, but I thought we did a good job tonight of neutralizing their speed.”
The Wildcats improved to 1-1-1 overall and 1-1-0 in the CCHA. The Buckeyes are 1-1-0 overall and in conference action.
NMU will continue CCHA play next weekend when it travels to Ferris State for a pair of games against the Bulldogs. Ohio State will host Niagara for a non-conference game next Saturday.