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College Hockey:
Wildcats End Losing Streak With Special Teams

— The Northern Michigan Wildcats broke their longest losing streak in 10 years in convincing fashion on Friday as they downed the Ferris State Bulldogs, 4-1.

“It’s a pretty big weight to get off our backs,” Wildcat captain Pat Bateman said. “It’s a sense of relief, but we knew that we could compete and this was a long time coming.”

After dropping seven straight games, Wildcat coach Walt Kyle talked before the game about the importance of special teams. Coming into the series, the team had been converting on an anemic 16 percent of their power-play opportunities for the season.

Against the Bulldogs, NMU was 3-of-6 with the man advantage while skating off all four Bulldog power-plays.

“We really emphasized getting guys to the front of the net to get some screens and tips in there and it worked out well tonight,” NMU defenseman Matt Maunu said of the power play.

Maunu had three assists on the night.

With the score tied at 1 late in the second, NMU forward Andrew Sarauer fired a shot that deflected out to the blue dot at netminder Mitch O’Keefe’s right side. Nick Sirota corralled the rebound and fired the go-ahead goal into an open net. The goal was his seventh of the season and set the tone for the final period.

In the third frame, Northern tacked on goals from Bateman and Zach Tarkir to finalize the score and take home the win.

“I’m just happy we broke the losing streak,” Kyle said. “Wins have been few and far between and we’re certainly happy to get one.”

The credit for the victory, according to the Bulldogs, rested solely with the Wildcats.

“Northern gets the credit because we played on an Olympic-sized ice sheet last week and did just fine,” FSU coach Bob Daniels said. “I think they get the credit for how they played tonight.”

Northern hopes that its success will breed more of the same as the Wildcats prepare to attack the rest of their schedule.

“Hockey is 90 percent mental and once we get some confidence we’re going to be a good team,” Bateman said.

The two teams will finish out the series on Saturday night in the Berry Events Center, where the puck will drop at 8:05. The game will be broadcast on CSTV.

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