KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Despite being outshot, 45-22, and falling behind 3-1 in the first period, Northern Michigan rallied for a win against Western Michigan. The Wildcats took advantage of breakdowns in the Western transition defense and a 41-save performance from goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom to earn the one-goal win.
Just 1:49 into the game, a shot by Western defenseman Dennis Brown from the top of the circle was deflected wide left of the goal, but came around the back of the net to Nolan LaPorte. With Dahlstrom still out of position, LaPorte shot the puck from behind the goal line and deflected it in off Dahlstrom for his second goal of the season.
Northern answered a little over a minute later. Coming in on a two-on-one, Stephan Vigier’s snipe beat Slubowski high glove side for his eighth of the season.
Midway through the first, Western regained its lead on a power play. After a shot from the point glanced off the outside of the post, Shane Berschbach found Kyle Novak all alone with a cross-ice pass to give Western a 2-1 lead.
Western added to its lead less than a minute later. In a near mirror image of the first goal, Chris Dienes fired a shot wide to the left of the Northern net, and the puck wrapped around behind the goal to a wide open Novak, who beat Dahlstrom.
Northern started its rally early in the second period when Erik Higby had a Western defender draped all over him, but still managed to get a shot away that beat Slubowski five-hole.
At 3:28 of the period, Western’s Mike McKee was called for checking from behind, picking up a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Northern needed just 13 seconds to capitalize. C.J. Ludwig sent in a wrist shot from the point. After hitting some traffic on the way to the net, Vigier found the puck and his shot trickled just over the line for his second of the game and ninth of the season.
Northern’s third straight goal came late in the period. Jones picked up the puck at the left point. With time and space, he skated to the top of the left circle before letting a shot go. The puck hit traffic in the slot and ricocheted to Reed Seckel, who put the puck past Slubowski to give the Wildcats the lead.
Just before time expired in the second period, Northern’s Cohen Adair was given a five-minute major for checking from behind. Despite the nearly five-minute man-advantage, Western was unable to find the game-tying goal.
At 18:44 of the third period, Northern tallied an insurance goal. Dominik Shine found Higby for an open shot from the left circle, which beat Slubowski short side for Northern’s fifth goal of the game.
Western refused to quit, and with the extra attacker, Jordan Oesterle put the puck between Dahlstrom’s pads with 8.2 seconds remaining. Western’s rally ended there, as Northern sent the puck deep into the Western zone on the ensuing faceoff, sealing the win.
After the game, Western coach Andy Murray looked more toward his team’s defense than a lack of offense.
“I think we scored four goals,” Murray said. “To be honest, in this league, if you give up two or more, your chances of winning are not very good, and that’s our goal every night. Our goal is to give up 23 or fewer shots, which I think was the case here tonight, but we cannot be giving up the goals we gave up in the few shots that they generated here tonight.
“They beat us and they beat us in transition because we turned pucks over. We saw a lot of goals were scored basically on transition opportunities where we didn’t take advantage of our chances in the offensive zone and they came down the ice and buried their chance.”