MARQUETTE, Mich. — It may have taken a visit from Bowling Green to do it, but the Northern Michigan Wildcats picked up their first sweep of the season on Saturday as they downed the Falcons, 4-1, for the second straight night.
“We’d like to be a tough defensive team that is capable of scoring and finishing and we haven’t been all year,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “We were able to do it tonight.”
On the weekend, Northern (11-14-2 overall, 8-11-1 CCHA) out-paced the Falcons (5-21-1, 3-16-0), 8-2, and credited their defense.
“(The sweep) is a good feeling and we haven’t felt it in a while,” NMU defenseman Zach Tarkir said. “We worked hard this weekend. The penalty kill was going and we got a couple of power-play goals. We had good goaltending and we improved off of last night.”
Tarkir picked up a goal and an assist on the evening.
Tarkir and the NMU defenders limited Bowling Green to very few scoring opportunities and goaltender Bill Zaniboni stopped 22 of 23 saves. After entering the contest with a .908 SV%, Zaniboni allowed only one goal for the third consecutive contest.
“He has exhibited a great, great quality of play and I just can’t say enough about the guy,” Tarkir said. “He’s playing the puck very well, he’s seeing everything and stopping everything.”
Also producing on the night was Wildcat forward Mike Santorelli, who helped to open the scoring when he assisted on a Rob Lehtinen shot. The puck was fired from straight to the right of the net, but was re-directed into the mesh by the skates of the Bowling Green defenders.
“I saw (Lehtinen) open on the side and he just shot it. I guess it deflected off of the skates and went in the net and I think we’ll take that.” Santorelli said.
Less than two minutes later Santorelli got on the board again with his 22nd goal of the season. After picking up an assist in the final period, Santorelli now has 11 points in his last five games.
Tomas Petruska did his best to help the Falcons when he cut the lead to 3-1 on a power-play goal in the final frame, but it proved to be the only Bowling Green goal of the evening. On the weekend, the Falcon power-play converted on only one of 17 opportunities.
“I know our power-play was a touch better and we did score a goal,” BGSU head coach Scott Paluch said. “But ultimately we’re going to need to score more goals on the power-play. We’re putting way too much pressure on ourselves scoring one goal. Ultimately falling behind isn’t a good recipe to be successful in this league.”
Up by a pair, the Wildcats posted another goal in the closing minutes of the game.
The Falcons had pulled netminder Eddie Neville and turned the puck over in the offensive zone. Santorelli battled through two defenders and kicked the puck down ice, where Pat Bateman and Darin Olver were all alone. Bateman skated the puck to the net, stopped, and passed it to Olver for the easy goal.
“We saw a great play at the end when Bateman dished that puck to Olver,” Kyle said. “That is a totally unselfish play. (Bateman) is a great teammate and that is the kind of character and leadership that we want in this program.”
After wrapping up the series in Marquette, Bowling Green will return home and next weekend they will receive a visit from the Alaska Nanooks (7-12-14, 5-9-3).
Following a non-conference game against Minnesota-Duluth (8-16-3) on Wednesday, the Wildcats dive back into CCHA play with a series in Nebraska-Omaha (11-11-6, 8-4-1) just two days later.