MARQUETTE, Mich. — Last season, the Northern Michigan Wildcats and Western Michigan Broncos split their series in mid-November. After a hard-fought victory Friday night, Western had the series lead and was going after a sweep, but the Wildcats defense had other things in mind.
Northern Michigan controlled the puck the moment it hit the ice. Nick Sirota scored a power play goal five minutes in and 10 minutes in the Wildcats’ defense hadn’t given the Broncos a chance to get a single shot on goal.
The Broncos retaliated with two goals over the second half of the period, including an unassisted shot by Brian Bicek and a power play goal of their own by Jeff Pierce.
During the second period, the Wildcats controlled the puck. Their defense was solid, only allowing two shots on goal despite a Broncos five-on-three power play and three consecutive minutes of power play kill for the Wildcats. At 14:41 the Wildcats tied the game up when senior Matt Siddall put the puck past goalie Riley Gill.
“The turning point in our game was our ability to kill the three-on-five,” Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle said.
Tied at two entering the third, both teams skated hard in hopes of a win. Northern’s defense still wouldn’t give up the puck and managed to keep the Broncos’ shots to a minimum until a wrist shot by Cam Watson gave the Broncos’ back their lead.
The clock read 0:07 when Wildcats’ freshman Mark Olver scored his first NCAA goal to send the game 3-3 into overtime.
“It’s unreal for right now. It wouldn’t have happened without the rest of the team,” Olver said. “We had good balance tonight.”
Overtime began with the Wildcats’ fans screaming on their feet. Broncos’ Chris Clackson took a holding penalty 33 seconds in to give the Wildcats a power play. The Wildcats gave their fans their first win of the CCHA season thanks to sophomore Matt Butchers first NCAA goal with 3.3 seconds left in the overtime.
“It’s been a long time coming and it feels great,” Butcher said. “Anything less than this is going to be a let down. We’re not always going to win with .07 or .3 seconds left. We’re going to have to battle every game and we’re going to keep going.”
Sirota had three points and played his first game as an assistant captain.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Sirota said. “My mindset’s not going to change. I’m just going to keep working hard. I’m just going to stay humble and keep the guys humble. The best thing about it is that our fans stuck with us. It’s been a rough stretch. I believe in our team and I believe in our coaches. We all stuck it out and I’m happy to get a win.”
“It feels good to feel good about a game,” Kyle said. “We’re not a team who’s going to blow people out. We’re not going be a team to rip people apart. We’re going to have to win games close and win games late. I’m really proud of these guys and I’m proud to coach this team. The heart and character that they have right now, there’s no quitting out there.”