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CCHA playoff notebook: Third, fourth lines step up; Coreau wins first playoff game; Hometown finale approaches for Florek

March 3, 2012 - Matt Wellens

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University head hockey coach Walt Kyle had a hard time Friday night calling his third and fourth lines the third and fourth lines following Game 1 of a best-of-three CCHA first-round playoff series against Bowling Green State.

That’s because while his top two lines — Justin Florek-Stephan Vigier-Andrew Chernwichan and Reed Seckel-Matt Thurber-Tyler Gron — were stuck on the defensive end, the third and fourth lines were providing some much-needed pressure in the Falcons’ zone.

“The third and fourth lines tonight weren’t the third and fourth lines tonight,” Kyle said. “Later in the game I thought (Erik) Higby’s line spent a couple too many shifts in their end, but early in the game they provided us with a lot of energy and shift time in (BGSU’s) end, which the other lines didn’t do.”

The Wildcats’ fell behind 1-0 in the opening minute and were outshot 5-0 in the opening five minutes by BGSU, but the pressure sustained by the Wildcats’ third and fourth lines allowed the team to stay alive in an eventual 4-2 victory.

The first goal of the night came via a combination of the first and second lines with first-liner Florek stuck on the ice during a change with Thurber and Gron of the second line.

Cherniwchan’s game-winner in the third was with the first power-play unit — Cherniwchan, Florek, Gron, Vigier and Jones — while the No. 1 penalty kill — Florek, Vigier, Epp and Ludwig — aided Gron with an insurance goal that made the score 4-2.

The second goal of the night for NMU again came during a change as third-liner Ryan Daugherty made it 2-1 playing with linemate DJ Vandercook and fourth-liner Brian Nugent.

Kaunisto was the third member of Daugherty’s third line Friday while Nugent was partnered with Higby and Ryan Kesti.

“I think everyone is starting to pull their weight,” Florek said. “We’re starting to get scoring from all different lines. It just seems like different guys are scoring every night which is great for us. I think if we can balance that attack like we’ve been doing, it will be very beneficial for us.”

In its last three games — all victories — NMU has picked up 16 goals from nine different players.

While names like Florek, Gron and Vigier have been common on the score sheet all year, a new name has emerged as of late — Daugherty.

The freshman from Sachse, Texas, had only a single assist in his first 23 games as a Wildcat, but now has goals in back-to-back games.

In his last five games, Daugherty has three goals and an assist for four points.

“He’s playing like a man,” Kyle said about Daugherty. “He’s grown. He’s getting better every night. I think he’s one of our best players clearly.”

Coreau gets first playoff start

NMU sophomore goaltender Jared Coreau could not have asked for a worse start to his first collegiate playoff game Friday night.

With only 53 seconds having ticked off the Berry Events Center clock, Coreau was beaten by Falcons’ freshman Dan DeSalvo, putting NMU down 1-0.

“It’s something that no goalie wants to have happen to them, but you just have to forget,” Coreau said. “That’s not really easy to do, but I thought I did a pretty good job. I remember when it happened, I just threw it out and moved on. I wanted the next shot. After that it was OK.”

Coreau only allowed one more goal the rest of the night — a tipped puck by BGSU freshman Adam Berkle — en route to making 31 saves and improving to 12-6-2 on the year.

Coreau had to 12 saves in the first period compared to BGSU’s Andrew Hammond, who made six. From there, Coreau and the ’Cats were able to settle in.

“We came out a little flat and I think some of the guys might agree with me,” Coreau said. “They took it to us at the start. They are a hard working team. We kind of expected that. We found a way. Good teams always find a way.”

Last season Coreau could only sit and watch as the Wildcats were upset by BGSU since then junior Reid Ellingson had beaten him out as the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.

While Ellingson has performed just as well, if not better than last year in his two previous starts, Coreau has been even more stellar, specifically at home.

Coreau went 6-1-1 this year at the Berry Events Center during the regular season, though he knows the playoffs are a much different animal, especially in the college ranks.

“Today I kind of realized its my first playoff game,” Coreau said. “In college, it’s a best of three. In juniors, you have a little more leniency. It’s best of seven so if you have a bad game, it’s OK because you can make it up. In college, every game is very important. So I was definitely a little nervous, but I just treated it like a normal game and did what I needed to do to help the team win.”

Florek set to possibly play last game in Marquette

Florek will appear in his 154th collegiate game Saturday night at the Berry Events Center and if the NMU forward, senior, captain and Marquette native has it his way, it will be his last in a green and gold sweater in his hometown.

“It’s been a great run,” said Florek, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins. “I’ve had so much fun playing in front of my home town here in the U.P. It’s been a great time with the best fans in the world. I hope we can go out on a good note.”

A victory moves Florek and the Wildcats one step closer to the captain’s preseason goals of returning to the CCHA Championships at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and the NCAA tournament.

NMU would still need to get through Western Michigan in the second round to secure a spot in both, even though the Wildcats were able to move into a tie for 10th in the PairWise rankings with Michigan State and Maine.

Florek, a former Marquette Sentinel and Electrician, spent a few minutes prior to warmups Friday alone on the Wildcat bench, looking out at the BEC before returning to the locker room to suit up for what could have been his second-to-last game playing college hockey in his home town.

Kyle said he’s had a feeling for weeks now that Florek was not going to let the Wildcats collapse down the stretch.

There’s also little chance Florek allows his final game at home to be a loss, as well.

“I’ve had that sense with him in a lot of games lately that he’s not going to be denied,” Kyle said earlier in the week.

“I think he’s the best player to come out of Marquette and part of the reason is because he is one of the better people. He’s a great person too.”



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