MARQUETTE, Mich. — Northern Michigan put on the most important rally of its season Sunday, overcoming a three-goal deficit to beat Western Michigan 5-4 in overtime, winning its best-of-three series in dramatic fashion.
Ryan Riipi’s goal 11:40 into overtime capped off an incredible comeback for the Wildcats. In the end, Northern Michigan won both of its games against Western in extra sessions.
Terry Harrison scored twice for the Wildcats in regulation time, helping NMU erase a 3-0 first-period deficit. Harrison’s second goal — 1:16 into the third period — tied the game at 4-4, after goals by Fred Mattersdorfer, Harrison and Bryce Cockburn had helped put NMU back into the game.
During the first 20 minutes, Western took advantage of every NMU mistake to take a 3-0 lead. Steve Rymsha opened the scoring with an unassisted marker just 1:26 in, as he took a Wildcat turnover in alone on Dan Ragusett and converted to give his team an early lead. Dana Lattery added a power-play goal at 10:04, while Mike Bishai scored shorthanded two minutes later to make it 3-0.
Mattersdorfer made it 3-1 late in the first, striking on the power play from Justin Kinnunen and Sean Owens. The Wildcats closed it to a one-goal game early in the second when Harrison scored his first, but Jeff Campbell’s shorthanded goal for Western Michigan helped the Broncos regain a two-goal lead.
Cockburn answered on the power play late in the second, and when Harrison scored again early in the third, things were tied at 4-4.
The play of both netminders became key in the late going, and both made the saves they had to make to keep their teams alive. Ragusett rebounded quickly from the three early goals, stopping a handful of quality Bronco scoring chances during the final minutes of the third period. The senior goalie finished with 27 stops, while Jeff Reynaert made 28 saves in net for WMU.
Riipi — a senior and Marquette native — was the one to eventually beat Reynaert, when he took a loose puck and fired it five-hole to earn the winner 11:40 into overtime.
“The puck went low and Harrison set me a perfect pick block around the corner,” Riipi said. “Terry set a great pick; I threw it at the net and it went in.”
“There’s nothing better for a guy like that,” Mattersdorfer said of Riipi’s goal. “He’s one of the hardest workers on the team. For four years he’s worked so hard — no other guy deserves it more than him.”
Harrison and Chris Gobert earned assists on the play. Gobert finished with four helpers in the game.