Over the weekend, the Western Michigan Broncos and the Northern Michigan Wildcats split a pair of contests in Marquette.
After leaping out to a 4-0 lead, the Broncos glided to a victory on Friday. One night later, the Broncos looked to have another win in hand, before a pair of NMU underclassmen stole the show - and the win.
On Friday night, Northern Michigan (2-8-0 overall, 1-7-0 CCHA) dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Broncos (3-5-0, 1-3-0).
“They beat tonight. They gave it to us,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “I thought we did a lot of things really well and had a lot of horrible breakdowns.”
Northern fell behind early, as freshman netminder Reid Ellingson allowed three goals on four Bronco shots in the first nine minutes of his second career start.
“You can’t spot anybody in college hockey three goals and expect to win a game,” Kyle said.
After falling behind 3-0, sophomore netminder Brian Stewart relieved Ellingson in the crease.
Kyle said that, in his opinion, none of the goals were Ellingson’s fault and that he didn’t have much of a chance on any of them. Nonetheless, he felt that switching goaltenders might help to swing the momentum in the contest.
“We had to try to do something to change our mentality a little bit and we did that,” Kyle said.
As the second period opened, the Broncos went up 4-0 on Cam Watson’s second goal of the evening.
Northern cut the deficit to 4-2 on second-period goals by freshman Phil Fox and junior Nick Sirota.
Despite picking up the momentum and getting numerous offensive opportunities in the final stanza, the Wildcats were unable to score again.
On Saturday night the Wildcats won their first conference game of the year in dramatic fashion, topping the Broncos, 4-3, in overtime.
After the two teams skated off the majority of the overtime period, the Wildcats had the puck behind their own cage and headed down-ice with 20 seconds remaining.
Sophomore forward Matt Butcher took the puck across the blue line and fought through a crowd in the offensive zone before flipping the game-winning goal past Bronco netminder Riley Gill with just 3.3 seconds remaining in the overtime period.
Butcher’s goal was the first of his career.
“It’s obviously been a long time waiting,” Butcher said. “They don’t come any bigger than that.”
The win came just minutes after another dramatic Wildcat goal launched the two teams into overtime.
Trailing 3-2 in the closing seconds of regulation, Northern pulled Stewart from the net and utilized an extra attacker.
Just when it looked as though the game was over, NMU freshman forward Mark Olver grabbed a fluttering puck in front of the net, dropped it to the ice and knocked it in to square the game.
The clock read 00:00.7.
The goal was also the first of Olver’s career.
“It’s an unreal feeling right now,” Olver said after the game.
The Broncos will now prepare to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-4-0, 5-2-0) in a home-and-home series, while Northern Michigan will head to Bowling Green (5-2-0, 4-1-0) for the weekend series.