BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Two special teams goals from Justin Florek in the first period and a shutout from senior goalie Brian Stewart lifted Northern Michigan to a big win over No. 11 Ferris State.
The Wildcats added goals in the second and third periods as well, while Stewart stopped all 51 shots on goal from the Bulldogs. Northern Michigan also killed all nine of Ferris State’s power play attempts.
“I think that was the difference in the game certainly,” said Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle of the Wildcats’ special teams play. “But we have to do a better job. We’re taking way too many penalties.”
Florek got the scoring started with Northern Michigan on the power play six minutes into the game. Greger Hanson hit the post with a shot from the slot and the puck bounced into the crease behind Ferris State goalie Pat Nagle, where Florek poked it home.
Three minutes later, Chad Billins misplayed a puck with Ferris State on the power play, giving Florek a short-handed breakaway. Florek’s quick slap shot from the left circle beat Nagle high and came out fast, prompting a video review as the goal light never came on.
“I thought Florek, [Mark] Olver, Ray Kaunisto and Stewart were all great tonight,” said Kyle.
An early penalty to Ray Kaunisto in the second period put Stewart on the spot when Ferris State came out firing on the power play, but he kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard with some of his best saves of the night. Two big kick saves on attempts from Hobey Baker candidate Blair Riley and Justin Menke set the tone for the rest of the night.
Midway through the frame, Olver increased the Northern Michigan lead to three with a weak shot from the right circle that trickled by Nagle, who didn’t appear ready for the shot. The Wildcats put just four shots on goal in the second frame.
“I know he’s not getting a lot of action, but it’s his job to stay mentally ready out there,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels about Nagle’s play. “Truthfully, we need better play from our goaltenders than we got this weekend.”
The third period saw three Ferris State power plays that all came up short, with the Wildcats’ penalty kill crowding the net and not allowing many good opportunities for the Bulldogs. Ray Kaunisto scored the frame’s lone goal on a wrist shot that sealed the Northern Michigan win.
Despite the outcome, Daniels was extremely pleased with his team’s effort.
“I would take that effort every time, knowing that you probably win eight or nine out of 10 games you play like that,” said Daniels. “This was that 10th game for us. It’s pretty hard to get down on the guys tonight.”
Next week, Northern Michigan (12-10-8, 8-8-6-3 CCHA) hosts a two game series with Western Michigan while Ferris State (17-9-4, 11-7-4-3 CCHA) treks to Sault Ste. Marie for a series with Lake Superior State.