By Susannah Nichols/ Northern Michigan Beat Writer
Northern Michigan, after spending 2008 in the CCHA cellar, started 2009 with a bang and a thus-far perfect record after sweeping Wisconsin on the road with a 3-2 win on Friday and a 6-5 overtime victory on Saturday.
Mark Olver (pictured) was a major factor in Friday's game, netting two goals and picking up an assist. The Wildcats took some time getting started and found themselves behind 1-0 at the end of the first period. But it only took 38 seconds of the second period before the tide started to turn. Olver and Erik Gustafsson set up Gregor Hanson on the power play. Not a minute later, Olver put NMU ahead with some help from Mike Maltese.
Midway through the second period, Wisconsin knotted up the game on a shorthanded marker. But Olver and Maltese connected again early in the third to put the 'Cats ahead for good.
Justin Florek also earned an assist on Olver's second goal and Wildcats netminder Derek Janzen finished with 33 saves.
Saturday's game was a true test of mettle for the Wildcats, particularly when they found themselves down 5-2 entering the final period of play. Special teams had been both a blessing and a curse for NMU as they gave up three Wisconsin power-play goals early on, but also scored on their own power play thanks to Nick Sirota (assists by Hanson and Gustafsson). Hanson and Gustafsson also set up Tim Hartung for a 'Cats goal early in the game, but it was Florek who would lead the comeback charge for his team in the final third of the game.
Midway through the third period, Florek scored twice, his goals less than five minutes apart, to draw his team within one. With less than two minutes remaining, the Wilcats went on the power play. Tyler Gron and Ben Lindemulder set up Jared Brown, who lit the lamp to tie the game and send the 'Cats to overtime.
Fox's energy didn't waver in the extra period. Two minutes in, he set up Phil Fox, who banged in the goal to cap NMU's inspired comeback.
Janzen finished with 28 saves in Saturday's game.
NMU (5-12-3, 2-9-3 CCHA) remains on the road next weekend when they take on Nebraska-Omaha.