Strike early and strike often.
The Northern Michigan Wildcats employed that advice on Friday and came up with a 3-1 win against the Western Michigan Broncos. The 'Cats tried the same strategy on Saturday hoping for a repeat performance, but the Broncos charged back with a two-goal third period and forced the 'Cats into a 4-4 stalemate.
On Friday, the Wildcats effectively took care of business in the first five minute of the game. Andrew Fernandez and Erik Higby set up captain Phil Fox to score the first goal 29 seconds into the game. Fox then returned the favor and, along with Tyler Gron, set up Higby for his third goal of the season.
Taking a cue from Higby, Gron followed his assist with a goal of his own at 4:08 of the first period. Wade Epp and Greger Hanson were credited with assists on the play.
After that, it was all up to Northern goalie Reid Ellingson, and he delivered. Western outshot Northern 20-13 over the next two periods, but could only sneak one puck--a power play shot by Greg Squires--into the net. Trevor Elias and Luke Witkowski earned assists.
Ellingson finished with 27 saves for the win, and Western goalie Jerry Kuhn, who replaced Nick Pisellini after the first two goals, recorded 22 stops.
On Saturday, Northern again jumped out to the early lead. Midway through the first, Hanson banged in his third goal of the season with some help from Spady and Mike Maltese.
A few minutes later, a scuffle between the 'Cats Fernandez and Western's Ian Slater resulted in a slew of penalties for both teams. In the aftermath, Gron put Northern up 2-0, with Kyle Follmer and Andrew Cherniwchan assisting. Dane Walters then cut the 'Cats lead to 2-1 on a shorthanded goal.
Gron struck again, with help from Higby and Epp, to put Northern up 3-1 heading into the first intermission.
Less than a minute into the second period, Northern's Justin Florek scored to give the 'Cats a seeming lock on the game. But once again, Western dominated Northern in shots, and Max Campbell, Kyle O'Kane, and Matt Tennyson scored three unanswered goals to tie up the game 4-4 at the end of regulation. It was a true team effort for the Broncos, as six different players earned assists on those three goals.
Neither team scored in overtime, but Dennis Brown of Western converted the only goal in the shootout.
Ellingson had 28 saves in the evening's game. And in this game, it was Pisellini who relieved Kuhn, who was pulled from the game after allowing four goals on ten shots. Pisenelli finished with nine saves.
As a result of this series, Northern (7-7-3, 6-4-2-0 CCHA) moves into a three-way tie for fourth place in the CCHA. They hit the road next weekend to take on 12th-ranked Notre Dame. Western (7-5-4, 3-4-3-2 CCHA) is now tied for seventh place in the conference with Lake Superior State, a team they'll face next weekend in the Soo.