MARQUETTE, Mich. — Though the Northern Michigan Wildcats outshot the Ferris State Bulldogs 34-12, the Bulldogs prevailed with a 2-1 win. The score wasn’t nearly as indicative of the game as the shots on goal were, but both teams left the arena with positive thoughts.
“We had character this weekend,” Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle said. “We only gave up 30 shots the entire series. We did a good job. The fact that we’re getting chances is a big deal. The saying goes ‘You are your record.’ We’ve earned who we are, but the reality is the last five games we’ve been playing our best hockey, very good hockey. We’ve just been coming up short-handed. As a coach you evaluate quality of play and effort.”
The first period was a flash of skates as the teams struggled for possession. At 13:15, Wildcat Andrew Cherniwchan took a five-minute major for kneeing as Bulldog Brendan Connolly, who had two goals and an assist last night, was helped off the ice. Four seconds later, Ferris State’s Justin Menke took an interference call. Despite their advantage, for three minutes of the major penalty, the Bulldogs were not only unable to score, but were unable to get a shot on goal. The first period ended scoreless, the Wildcats out-shooting the Bulldogs 11-0.
Ferris State finally made their way to the net at 1:40 in the second period. The game turned in their favor at 9:32 when Wildcat Alan Dorich took a holding call. At 11:21, TJ Miller took a contact to the head, high-sticking call to give the Bulldogs 1:11 of five-on-three. At 11:24, classic power play passes from Zach Redmond and Chad Billens allowed Blair Riley to shoot the puck right of Wildcats’ goalie Devan Hartigan, taking a one goal lead.
The Wildcats evened the score at 17:29. Erik Gustafsson gave the puck to Blake Cosgrove, who shot it from outside the left faceoff circle. The puck was redirected into the net by Nicholas Kosinski and went in left of Bulldogs’ goalie Pat Nagle.
“It was all hard work; Mike Maltese entered the corner forechecking and got the puck loose and Ray Kaunisto gave it to the point and when I saw him at the point I went in front of the net,” Kosinski said. “Gustafsson went D-to-D with Cosgrove and when I saw Cosgrove looking at me, he shot it. I tipped it off the ice and it went in.”
Nine seconds later, the Bulldogs took back the momentum when Casey Haines shot the puck to the net. It went off the skate of Jordie Johnston and into the net. The goal went under review on a kicking motion and was allowed, giving the Bulldogs their game winner with a 2-1 lead.
“It was huge to get that goal,” Bulldogs’ coach Bob Daniels said. “It was our fourth line and I had considered not putting them out there because they had just scored, but they were up and I figured ‘what the heck’ and put them out. It was Johnston’s first career goal. That was a pivotal moment because we weren’t getting opportunities at their end of the rink.”
“It was a great effort by Casey Haines taking it wide like that,” Redmond said. “He’s just an energy player and that’s what he does. He took the puck to the net, we got a lucky bounce but it was a great way to respond and that’s what ended up winning the game.”
A few plays later, the Wildcats came close to tying the score. Freshman Tyler Gron carried the puck up the ice and passed to Cherniwchan, who gave it back. The hesitation to shoot cost them the goal as Nagle squared himself to the puck, saving it without effort. The second period ended with the Wildcats outshooting the Bulldogs 22-9.
“We had quality shots, just not enough of them,” Kosinski said. “Our power play didn’t capitalize on them but we worked harder and tried getting the puck to the net, tried winning the game, but came up short.”
The third period was a battle for possession. Both teams checked hard and skated fast, but the period remained scoreless. The final shots on goal were 34-12, giving Nagle 33 saves on the night.
“It was great to get the win,” Nagle said. “Our team struggled a bit, but we were able to come through. I thought our defense did a great job helping me out. Any time there was a rebound or anything they cleared it out. They were moving guys out of the way and they didn’t get too many tips or screens and I just stayed focused on the rebounds. We faced a lot of power plays tonight but were able to battle through and get the ‘W.’ It was a big weekend and it feels great to walk away with four points.”
Overall, both sides agree that even though Ferris State left the series with four points, it was the Wildcats who walked away the better team.
“I don’t know how a team could play much better than the Wildcats played tonight,” Daniels said. “I’ve been around long enough to know when a team’s on a mission and they were. I don’t think we played poorly, I just think they played that well. They dictated the pace of the game, they dictated the play in all three zones and we just held on for the ride. They were for sure the better team. They played with more energy and we held on for dear life. They deserve a better fate than what they got.”
“I was really proud of the team,” Kyle said. “It’s becoming an old song losing like this, but our fans have been great hanging with us. We’ve just got to keep going. It’s a hard place to be in but I’m proud of their effort. The truth is, there’s still a lot of hockey left and we’ve got to build off this.”