KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Leading 1-0 at the end of the first period, the Northern Michigan Wildcats (4-2-1, CCHA and 7-5-2 Overall) wasted no time adding to their lead just 28 seconds into the second period on a Mike Santorelli breakaway goal, the first of four tallies in the period.
Coming into the game, the Wildcats and the Western Michigan Broncos stood tied in fourth place in the conference with seven points, and the Wildcats added two points with a 7-2 victory over the Broncos.
“We played well tonight, said Walt Kyle, NMU Head Coach. “It was a good game offensively, with our special teams and a solid team effort all-around.”
The Wildcat special team play that Kyle eluded too was 4-5 on the power play with only producing five shots, and killed nine Bronco power play opportunities. The Wildcats are currently fifth in the CCHA in penalty killing percentage at .847 percent.
“I’m such a good coach, that I was smart enough when our special teams were struggling to assign the teams to my assistant coach John Olver, and he has done a great job improving our special teams,” Kyle said.
The Wildcat offense got started quickly in the first period at the 6:52 mark when senior center Darin Olver punched in the first Wildcat power play goal of the night. Right-winger Rob Lehtinen and defenseman Zach Tarkir were given the assists on the goal.
With what seemed to be a slow start to the game, the Wildcat junior center, Santorelli, changed that quickly in the second period, notching two goals in the period and completing his first hat trick on the season in the final period.
“Santorelli has been the key offensive player for us this year with 11 goals now on the year and 20 points in the early season,” Kyle said. “His line [Santorelli’s} has been able to gel very nicely as a unit and have been able to be productive all season long.”
The first goal by Santorelli put the Wildcats up 2-0 and they never looked back from there quickly into the second period. Senior Bobby Selden was given the assist on the goal.
Cutting into the 2-0 lead junior winger Brian Bicek took the pass at the blue line from Jeff Pierce and was able to skate past the defense, and beat Wildcat senior net minder Bill Zaniboni for the first Bronco goal of the net.
“I thought we played really well in spurts tonight, but when you play an opponent such as Northern, you have to have a real consistent effort,” said Jim Culhane, WMU Head Coach.
Up 2-1 in the second period, the Wildcats answered quickly after the Bronco goal, scoring on a 5 on 3 advantage, as Santorelli knocked in his second of three goals on the night at the 5:49 mark. D. Olver and Nick Sirota had the assists on the third Wildcat goal.
A little over a minute later, left-winger Andrew Sarauer was able bang in his second goal of the season, and what was the third Wildcat power play goal in the game, putting his team up 4-1.
The fourth NMU goal of the second period was awarded to the Olver, the senior center from the British Columbia notching the fifth Wildcat goal of the night, giving Lehtinen his second assist in the game.
Keeping his Bronco team within reasonable striking distance of a possible third period comeback, freshman winger Chris Clackson pushed in his second goal of his career under the right leg of a diving Zaniboni, who made 28 saves on 30 Bronco shots.
Clackson’s goal proved to be the final goal of the night for his WMU squad who fell to a record of 3-5-1, CCHA and 4-5-1, Overall.
Giving NMU the credit they deserve on their effort in the game, Culhane said his Bronco team missed some open scoring chances, and just weren’t able to bounce the puck into the net tonight.
“We scored two five on five goals, the scored three,” the eight-year coach, Culhane said. “If you take out the special teams issue, it’s a one goal game and we were right back in the game.”
Santorelli concluded his hat trick on the night with a third period goal at the 6:21 point, with the assists to Sarauer and sophomore Spencer Dillon. The final goal of the night was added shortly after at the 7:30 mark into the final period by Dusty Collins, giving the assist to defenseman Alan Dorich.
Both WMU and NMU will breakdown the game film of tonight’s matchup and look to make some adjustments for Saturday night’s game right back at Lawson Ice Arena. The teams will take center ice with a 7:35 faceoff time.