By Tom Morelli/Ferris State Beat Writer
It wasn’t a sweep, but Northern Michigan came awfully close with a shootout win on Friday, followed by 4-0 thumping the next night to grab five of a possible six CCHA points over No. 11 ranked Ferris State.
The Bulldogs used their home-crowd advantage to take the lead late in the first period, when freshman winger Matt Kirzinger knocked-in a rebound on Wildcats’ netminder Brian Stewart. Gaining helpers on the play were juniors Justin Menke and Zach Redmond.
With 52 seconds remaining in the frame, Mike Maltese circled with the puck from behind the Ferris State net to score an equalizer for the Wildcats on Taylor Nelson.
Forward Nate Hennig put the Bulldogs back on the scoreboard at the 6:32 mark of the second to tally his first goal of the season. Hennig used a bit of trickery on the play, blasting a shot from behind the net, where it hit the back leg of Stewart before trickling in past the goal line.
Special teams were a crucial part of the final stanza for Northern, as they scored goals on both the power-play and penalty kill to take their first lead of the game. Ray Kaunisto’s lighter on the man-advantage came from a powerful shot atop the left circle, while Mark Olver recorded his on a breakaway.
Senior Casey Haines breathed life back into Ferris State with just under four minutes in regulation by finishing off a pass from linemate Derek Graham.
Following an uneventful overtime, it came down to a three-round shootout to determine a winner. After some unsuccessful tries on both sides, the Wildcats’ Erik Gustaffson converted in the final round to give Northern the nod.
Stewart held the advantage in saves over Nelson, 43-30.
Despite their 51 shots on net, Ferris State was unable to get any of them to fall in their loss to the Wildcats on Saturday.
Momentum was on the side of Northern from the get-go, as they sprinted out of the gates to take a 2-0 lead just before the midway point of the first period. Once again, the Wildcats managed to convert on special teams, with Justin Florek scoring on both the power-play and penalty kill.
Olver increased the margin on the scoreboard at 10:04 in the second with a back-handed shot that ricocheted off the pads of off Ferris State goaltender Pat Nagle.
Northern padded their score early in the third, as Kaunisto finished off a pass from Tyler Gron and Greger Hanson.
With a 51-save performance in the shutout, Stewart was named first-star of the game.
In a losing effort, Nagle racked-up 17 saves.
Up next for the Wildcats (12-10-8 overall, 8-8-6 CCHA) is a weekend series at home against second-to-last-place Western Michigan.
The Bulldogs (17-9-4 overall, 11-7-4-3 CCHA) look to improve their standing when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie this weekend for a two-game set against Lake Superior State.