MARQUETTE, Mich. — The Ferris State Bulldogs and the Northern Michigan Wildcats faced off tonight hoping to score a few goals. Little did they know, with the help of a great power play, a few goals turned to 10 as the Bulldogs won 6-4.
“We had a lot of puck luck tonight,” Bulldogs’ coach Bob Daniels said. “I give the Wildcats the edge to the overall play of the game. They were the better of the two teams, but we were fortuitous at times and the power play looked like a million bucks because the puck kept going into the net.
“It just seemed like if the puck was lying around tonight, it went right on our stick and the puck bounced our way. I think we played well, but Northern outplayed us.”
The first period picked up at 2:06 when Bulldog Michael Trebish took a charging call. Just 37 seconds later, Brendan Connolly took a cross-checking call to give the Wildcats 1:24 minutes of five-on-three. The Wildcats took charge when Nick Sirota passed the puck to Erik Gustafsson who shot the puck. Bulldogs’ goalie Taylor Nelson had the save, but when he went down, he gave the puck right to Gregor Hanson, who had a wide open net. After a moment’s hesitation, he put the puck into the net with a swift wrist shot.
Ferris State couldn’t get a shot on goal until the Wildcats’ Jared Brown took a kneeing call at 13:50. Nearly 40 seconds later, the Bulldogs made Wildcats’ goalie Devan Hartigan make his first save of the night. At 15:30, they evened the score with a backhand shot from Connolly.
“We squeaked out of the first period tied at one, but we knew if we played our game we could get one up on them,” Connolly said, “We came out in the second period a little harder.”
Northern Michigan’s Erik Gustafsson took a contact to the head, high-sticking call at 19:38 to give the Bulldogs a one-man advantage going into the second period. They used the opportunity to raise their tally to two after a shot from Matt Case hit Hartigan’s right leg and came back out into play. Hartigan thought the puck was behind him and when he turned to look over his shoulder, Lewandowski put it past him at 0:20.
The Bulldogs took a two-goal lead at 6:45 when Aaron Lewicki passed the puck to Chad Billins. Billins sent the puck across the ice to Case, who settled it and sent it into the empty left side of the net, giving them their third power-play goal of the night.
“The Lewicki line has done the main share of our scoring,” Daniels said. “I’d like to see that spread out more, because I think we’re becoming one-dimensional. We need to work on getting goals from other lines.”
Opposite of the first period, the Wildcats didn’t get a shot on goal until 13:36 and wracked in seven more the rest of the period.
“The second period has been our weakest period all season and today we really played poorly there as well,” Gustafsson said. “That’s where we really lost the game. We need to play for 60 minutes if we’re going to win games, and that includes the second period. It’s up to every player on the team to go out every shift and do their job. We’re not doing that right now and we’re not winning games.”
At 1:28 in the third, Wildcat Phil Axtell took a charging call. A mere 11 seconds later, the Bulldogs took their fourth power-play goal of the night when Evan Case gave the puck to Connolly, who shot it from the left faceoff circle and into the net.
The Wildcats retaliated at 3:04 when Justin Florek gave the puck to Mike Maltese, who shot the puck. Off the rebound, Gustafsson put the puck into the net where it was quickly recovered by Nelson, though the goal was indisputable.
“It’s nice to finally get a goal, but it’s hard because we still lost the game,” Gustafsson said. I’ve been waiting for that goal for a while but I don’t like the way it came. I’d much rather win a game and not score any goals than score and lose.”
During a five-on-four for the Wildcats, they decided to give themselves an extra man and played six for nearly 30 seconds to no one’s knowledge. Despite the extra boost, the Bulldogs’ defense kept them out of their zone.
At 11:58, the Wildcats scored their first power-play goal of the night. Gustafsson waited outside the left faceoff circle, passed the puck across the ice to Mark Olver, who sent the puck towards the net where Phil Fox waited to bury the puck in the net.
The Bulldogs came back less than a minute later to take back their two goal lead when Derek Graham sent the puck to Corey Couturier who pushed the puck slowly across the goal line.
The Wildcats didn’t give up and at 14:07, Florek backhanded the puck from the slot to close up the gap. TJ Miller and Derek May took the assists to make the game 5-4.
“Northern was a completely different team in the third compared to the second,” Connolly said. “They were harder hitting, they had more speed, their passes were crisper and it showed.”
At 18:36 Hanson took a goaltender interference call to give the Bulldogs their fifth power-play goal of the night. Scott Wietecha gave the puck to Zach Richmond, who sent the puck across the ice to Lewandowski, who eased the puck into the net to give the game a 6-4 final score.
“We gave up six goals on 18 shots,” Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle said. “We have to do better. Obviously, their power play did a great job. They had a lot of goals that went under guys and around. We made some mistakes and they scored.”
“It feels good to come into someone else’s rink and win on the road,” Connolly said. “It’s just one of those nights where everything clicked and we were reading off each other really well and we got a few good bounces. We hope to be able to do the same thing in tomorrows game.”