MARQUETTE, Mich. — The last time Northern Michigan and Miami met, the Wildcats topped the RedHawks and went into the next round of the CCHA playoffs.
The Wildcats were hoping for a similar story against No. 1 Miami and through tonight’s roller coaster of a game, they almost had it, but fell short, as the RedHawks skated away with a 4-3 win.
The first period was evenly matched, with a penalty each and shots on goal 12-11 in Miami’s favor.
Though the score sheet was similar, the game on the ice did give the edge to the Wildcats, who were given more opportunities.
Miami scored first at 3:06 in the second with a power-play goal from Justin Vaive.
Just 41 seconds later, Vaive came back again and off a pass from Andy Miele, shot the puck from inside the left faceoff circle. It went behind Wildcats’ goaltender Brian Stewart and rang off the back post, giving the RedHawks a two-goal lead.
“After the first we realized we weren’t playing our best game and we came out in the second looking for something more,” Vaive said. “Northern is always a physical team. I’ve played them for three years now and last year in the playoffs and we knew coming into it that they were going to battle hard and that they were a physical team. So it was a good feeling to get the goals and they came at a good time.”
After the Wildcats’ Andrew Cherniwchan took a five-minute major for grabbing a face mask and took his second game disqualification in three games, the RedHawks took their tally to three. Cameron Schilling had the puck and passed it to Joe Hartman, who shot it glove side. The puck went in and out of Stewart’s glove before finding its place behind the goal line.
The RedHawks took a four-goal lead at 18:15 when Alden Hirschfeld took control of the puck on a four-on-four and then, on a breakaway, put it glove side on Stewart. The RedHawks were leading shots on goal 30-16 at the end of the period, the Wildcats only getting five for the period. This was the third time the RedHawks scored four goals in one period this season.
“Our first goal was a power-play goal, a great shot by Justin Vaive on the second one,” RedHawks’ coach Enrico Blasi said. “Then we had the five-on-four and were able to score there and a great play by Herschfeld on the last one. It was a huge second period for us and obviously we needed four.”
To start off the third period with new game face, the Wildcats switched in Reid Ellingson for Stewart.
The change helped, and 41 seconds in the Wildcats made their scoreboard debut. Kyle Follmer had the goal with a great pass from Mark Olver.
At 7:12, they took their first power-play goal of the night when Olver shot the puck from outside the left faceoff circle.
“Stewart was not an issue at all tonight, but I thought at 4-0 we had to do something,” Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle said. “We changed goaltenders and I can’t tell you that’s what did it, but Reid looked good and it gives Stewart some rest for tomorrow.”
Olver closed the gap to one goal with the help of Eric Spady at 14:16 when he shot the puck backhanded toward the net. Though they came close to scoring a few more times, the clock ran out and the RedHawks won with Hirschfeld’s breakaway beauty.
“I can take losing, but I can’t take losing if it’s sloppy execution and poor effort,” Kyle said. “I was really happy with our team. I wasn’t happy with the second but it was less of a team breakdown than individual breakdowns. A week ago in this situation, we rolled over and gave up. Tonight we didn’t, against a really good hockey team.”
The teams have a rematch Saturday night.
“We’re going to forget about tonight’s game and focus on tomorrow night,” Blasi said. “They’re going to come out hard and we’re going to see what happens.”