ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On Friday night, Michigan and Northern Michigan played to a 3-3 overtime tie at Yost Arena. Michigan held a 3-2 lead in the third period, only to see the Wildcats tie it mid-period. In the chippy game, even a furious Michigan offensive blitz couldn’t solve Northern Michigan goaltender Brian Stewart during the overtime period.
On Saturday night, Michigan and Northern Michigan played to a 3-3 overtime tie at Yost Arena. Michigan held a 3-2 lead in the third period, only to see the Wildcats tie it mid-period. In the chippy game, even a furious Michigan offensive blitz couldn’t solve Northern Michigan goaltender Brian Stewart during the overtime period.
Is it only a coincidence that Saturday was Groundhog Day?
Was that actor Bill Murray lurking in the upper reaches of Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena?
Nick Sirota’s game-tying goal at 7:01 of the third period, a one-timer from the left circle while the teams were playing four-on-four, was enough to allow the Wildcats to hang on in a game that so closely followed the previous night’s script.
“I thought it was a very even game until we started taking penalties,” said Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle. “When we started taking penalties, they started to get chances and we really started to fatigue, but I thought it was a pretty even game for the most part. I’m proud of the effort.
“For us, it’s not a matter of it being Michigan that we’re playing, it’s a matter of taking two points out of the weekend. We’re in a battle for home ice advantage in the playoffs and every point matters.”
“The penalties disrupted the flow of the game,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “But, I liked the team’s effort. We got our chances. Northern Michigan is a good team. They don’t give you much.”
The tie pulled the second-ranked Wolverines to within one point of Miami in their battle for the top spot in the CCHA standings.
Even though Stewart held Michigan off the scoresheet during the Wolverines’ heavy late game offensive pressure, neither he nor his Michigan counterpart, Bryan Hogan, produced stellar performances.
After a disappointing tie the previous night against the Wildcats, Michigan jumped to a quick first period lead. At 3:51, with a delayed penalty coming to Northern Michigan, Aaron Palushaj’s cross ice blue line to blue line pass found Carl Hagelin streaking down the left wing. Hagelin angled in on Stewart and picked the upper corner of the net to open the scoring.
Ray Kaunisto’s flip shot from just outside the blue line took an odd bounce and hopped over the shoulder of a butterflying Hogan at 8:36, equaling the score for the Wildcats.
Michigan’s power play clicked late in the period to send the Wolverines ahead 2-1 at the first intermission. Mark Mitera’s pass from the left point found Louis Caporusso in the right circle. Instead of one-timing a shot at Stewart, Caporusso paused and then slung the puck past a surprised Stewart at18:38.
The chippiness of the contest produced 10 first period penalties and the trend continued through the first half of the second period, as referee Craig Lisko tried to maintain control of the game.
Chad Kolarik extended Michigan’s lead to 3-1 at 10:18 when he skated out of the left corner and fired a shot that Stewart partially blocked. Kolarik’s drive had enough momentum to trickle across the line into the opposite corner of the goal.
Northern Michigan struck right back. A mishandled puck by Michigan at their offensive blue line sent the Wildcats’ Matt Butcher down ice two-on-one. Butcher opted for the shot instead of the pass and beat Hogan at 10:55 to place the Wildcats right back within striking distance of the Wolverines, 3-2, at the end of the second period.
Sirota’s third period goal capped the Wildcats’ comeback.
“The CCHA is pretty competitive,” said Michigan defenseman Mitera. “The bottom four teams can easily come out and beat a top four team. You saw it this weekend. We might have looked a little bit past Northern Michigan. We have a big weekend coming up, so we cannot do that down the road.”
Michigan (22-3-3, 15-2-3 CCHA) will try to get their season back on track when they travel to Miami next weekend to face the RedHawks in two-game faceoff between the CCHA’s top two teams.
Northern Michigan (10-15-3, 7-11-2 CCHA) will continue their battle to move up the CCHA conference standing next weekend when they host Michigan State for a pair of contests.