BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Two special teams’ goals in the third period helped lift the Northern Michigan Wildcats to a shootout win over Ferris State in their series opener.
“We hit a couple posts on the power play in the third period,” said Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle. “But we’ve scored a lot of goals with the man advantage this year.”
With Ferris State ahead 2-1 to start the third period, Northern Michigan knew they had their work cut out for them and were able to rise to the occasion. Ray Kaunisto tied the game three minutes into the final stanza with a slap shot from the left circle that found its way past Ferris State goalie Taylor Nelson
Then, the Wildcats took a short-lived lead with a short-handed goal from Mark Olver at the 12:17 mark of the third. A Ferris State turnover left Olver breaking in on Nelson alone. Olver’s head fake left Nelson’s five-hole wide open for his backhand shot.
“The turnover came from someone else; I think (Billins) was playing catch-up the entire time,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels about Olver’s breakaway.
Casey Haines tied the game four minutes later with a wrist shot from the slot that hit Northern Michigan goalie Brian Stewart high on the shoulder before trickling across the goal line. Haines’ goal was redemption after he shot over the net during a breakaway attempt as he left the penalty box with 10 minutes to play in regulation.
With 1:22 to play in the third period, Northern Michigan thought they had the go-ahead goal after captain Erik Gustafsson poked a rebound past Nelson, but the goal was waived off after video replay showed Gustafsson’s teammates were in the crease as they crashed the net.
The game’s first three goals all came on bad bounces. Ferris State scored first off a Stewart rebound that went right to the stick of Matthew Kirzinger, who hammered the shot home with five minutes remaining in the first period.
Northern Michigan tied the game with less than a minute left in the period following a turnover by Nelson behind the net. Mike Maltese easily put the wraparound attempt into an empty net.
Ferris State carried much of the play in the first stanza, outshooting Northern Michigan by an 18-4 margin that was 10-1 at one point.
“We knew they were going to come at us hard,” said Kyle. “They’re a very good team and it was a great college hockey game.”
Daniels took a very different look at the period, “Really, for us to come out of the first at 1-1 was a crime.”
Ferris State’s Nate Hennig scored the second period’s only goal when he got to a Stewart rebound in the corner and threw a centering pass to the front of the net that bounced off Stewart and into the net to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
“I thought Nate Hennig had a really nice play when he scored that goal; I know it was weird bounce, but he made the right play and threw the puck at the goal,” said Daniels.
Gustafsson scored the only goal of the shootout. He beat Nelson with a quick move to his forehand before lifting the puck up high. Olver and Greger Hanson were Northern Michigan’s other two shooters with Olver shooting over the net and Nelson making the save on Hanson. Blair Riley, Zach Redmond and Cody Chupp shot for Ferris State. Chupp and Riley both shot over the net while Stewart made the save on Riley’s attempt.
Northern Michigan (11-10-8, 7-8-6-3 CCHA) and Ferris State (17-8-4, 11-6-4-3 CCHA) will wrap up their season series tomorrow night at 7:35 in a game that will be televised on FSN Detroit.