MARQUETTE, Mich. — The Northern Michigan Wildcats swept the Bowling Green Falcons for the fourth straight time in Marquette this weekend. The only thing hindering the Wildcats’ great-looking box score was the fact that in both games, the Falcons outshot them by a large margin and managed to win more faceoffs too.
“I’m not happy with the game we played,” Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle said. “We have some guys that are capable of making big plays and tonight they were able to make those plays to score some goals at the right time. We did have some good individual performances this weekend, but we did not play solid hockey tonight. We did not stay above our checks and we certainly turned the puck over all weekend.”
The first period should have gone to the Falcons, who, after 20 minutes, outshot the Wildcats 11-4. However, some miraculous plays and lucky bounces gave Northern Michigan and early two-goal lead.
The first goal came unassisted at 16:57 from Jared Brown, who picked up the puck in the neutral zone when a Falcons’ player tripped on his own skates. Brown skated into a breakaway, where he had a clean shot that hit the net top shelf glove side.
Their game-winner came just moments later at 18:50, another unassisted beauty that went to Wildcats’ winger Gregor Hanson. Hanson poke-checked the puck away from a Falcons’ player and proceeded to deke and weave through two more before sending the puck through the five-hole.
The Wildcats’ penalty kill had been strong all weekend, not allowing a single goal. During the second period, they showed their strength even more when Alan Dorich passed the puck to Nick Sirota. Sirota sent the puck cross ice to a waiting Mark Olver, who sent it across the crease and straight into the net.
The Falcons came out with more power in the third, outshooting and out-skating the Wildcats. Despite their best effort, the Wildcats scored again at 3:06 when Ray Kaunisto shot the puck stick side after it banked off the boards, a wide shot from Phil Fox. Hanson took the other assist to put the Wildcats up 4-0.
Ruining Wildcats’ goalie Brian Stewart’s hopes of a perfect weekend and destroying what would have been a flawless PK, Kai Kantola nestled the puck high glove side for the Falcons. Nick Bailen and James Perkin took the assists to give the game a final score of 4-1.
Wildcats’ goaltender Brian Stewart had 43 saves in tonight’s game, 71 saves on the series.
“He’s getting his confidence back, even how he moves, he’s so much smoother now,” Hanson said. “He looks like the Stewart we saw last year.”
“I felt calm in net tonight, coming in off a shutout yesterday,” Stewart said. “I just tried to keep things like I did yesterday, to the basics. I wasn’t moving too much in the net and let the shots come at me. It’s great because if I make the first save the boys in front of me will clear the rebounds.”
“Stewart won the game for us,” Kyle said. “He had a very good night. We were fortunate to win these games. We got hammered in the faceoff circle. I wasn’t happy with the games. Individuals have to be able to step up and win those games, but going forward we need to elevate our level of play and hopefully tonight was a great lesson.”
Despite discrepancies between the scoreboard and ice, both teams are coming out of the series with to-do lists for the upcoming week’s practices. The number one thing on both lists: mindset.
“There were some good things, some bright spots,” Kyle said. “I’m very proud of the way this team has been able to string some wins together but like I told them, I’m hoping to move to a higher standard of play. They’ve earned enough of my respect for me to hold them to a high standard.”
“It’s frustrating, especially tonight coming out really hard with our backs against the wall,” Bowling Green goaltender Jimmy Spratt said. (Spratt played in Friday’s match while Nick Eno played Saturday’s). “Coming out after a loss we needed to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net and we couldn’t do it. We just have to stay positive and realize we played two good games and realize that the points weren’t everything.”