MARQUETTE, Mich. — Northern Michigan broke a five game losing streak with a 3-1 win over Ohio State on Friday, ending the Buckeyes run of three consecutive wins.
Our game wasnt very good, Buckeye coach John Markell said. We left our goalie out to hang again, our power play was awful. We were flat and they beat us in every phase of the game. We didnt compete hard. We werent ready to play a team as desperate as Northern was. They outhit us, outshot us and outcompeted us and we were reacting instead of making them react to us.
It feels good to break our losing streak, Wildcat coach Walt Kyle said. It felt like forever before, but were happy with tonights win. Weve had good chances all season but werent able to score and tonight we capitalized on those chances. Whenever youre home you want to dictate the pace of the game and we did that tonight.
The Wildcats dominated the first period. They kept the puck out of their own zone, only took one penalty and managed a power-play goal, going 1 for 4 in the period with the man advantage.
At 14:56 and on the power play, Northern Michigan scored their first goal of the night. Nick Sirota and Erik Gustafsson gave the puck to Mark Olver who waited outside the left faceoff circle to one time it into the top right corner of the net.
Both teams took three penalties each in the second. At 6:53, during Northern Michigans first penalty kill, Wildcat goaltender Brian Stewart left the ice due to a right knee injury. Rookie netminder Devan Hartigan took his place and killed off the rest of that power play and the two penalty kills that followed.
Stewart wasnt even supposed to play tonight, Olver said. His knee has been bothering him and he had an MRI this morning. We came out later and he was playing and no matter what we had a solid goalie in the net so I wasnt worried. Stewart played a great game and when Devon came in it didnt change my mind set at all because I know hes a great goalie and just needed a chance to show it.
Obviously I didnt want my first game to happen like this with Stewart getting hurt, but I was glad for the chance and happy we played well tonight, Hartigan said. The first period was intense to watch and the defense was great. Stewart blocked a lot before I came in and that helped me and having the 2-0 lead relieved some pressure. I really think it was support all the way around that gave us our win. The first shot happened within five seconds right off the draw and it really got things rolling.
Hartigan was unbelievable, Gustafsson said. He was the player of the game. All credit to him back in the net. He really helped us out tonight.
A five-on-three in the Wildcats favor propelled them to a 2-0 lead with another goal from Olver who put the puck low on the left side on a rebound. The assists went to TJ Miller and Gustafsson.
We hit a couple pipes and great opportunities and then Mark scored on the power play and that go him going to help him score again later, Kyle said.
Olver was expected to do be a top scorer for the Wildcats this season and before this game had only tallied three assists to place him eighth on the Wildcats points record. Tonights game shifted the rankings around a bit.
Its always fun when guys on our team have personal success, Gustafsson said. Marks a good player and can hopefully keep going from now on. Its a great lift off your shoulders when you score your first goal and he can definitely build off this.
The third period was a battle the moment the teams stepped on the ice. The Wildcats took a three goal lead at 1:53 when Phil Fox and Gustafsson gave the puck to forward Gregor Hanson. Hanson had a clear shot into the left half of the net that had fans on their feet before the puck crossed the goal line.
The goal gave Gustafsson his third assist for the night.
Gustafsson was our best player for long stretches last year and we love all the things he does, Kyle said. He earns everything and hes a great player and competitor and Im thankful to have him.
The Buckeyes stepped up their game and started breaking down the Wildcat defense. In an excellent display of passing and deking, Ohio State ruined Hartigans dreams of a shutout. Zach Dalpe received passes from Hunter Bishop and Mathieu Picard across the crease and put the puck left of Hartigan to make the game 3-1.
The losing streak was going to break eventually, Olver said. Ohio State is a great team and we never thought itd be tonight. Maybe tomorrow night, maybe next weekend, but to come out and get the win after 5 games without getting a point was great for us.
You go on the road to pick up points, our job is to come out of here with points and its going to take more of an effort than what we gave tonight, Markell said.