MARQUETTE - Here.
For the second straight season, the No. 6-seeded Northern Michigan University hockey team had a chance to sweep last-place Bowling Green State in a first-round best-of-three CCHA first-round playoff series, only to watch the Falcons force a decisive Game 3 at 7:35 p.m. Sunday at the Berry Events Center.
After doubling up on the Falcons on Friday in a 4-2 victory, Northern fell 5-3 on Saturday via a second period nightmare that included seven-straight Wildcat penalties and three unanswered BGSU goals.
The result leaves players like senior Andrew Cherniwchan thinking back to last season when NMU won Game 1, 6-3, before dropping the next two 2-0 and 2-1 in double overtime to No. 11 Bowling Green.
Stephan Vigier, left, of Northern Michigan University takes an unsuccessful penalty shot against Bowling Green goalie Andrew Hammond late in the second period at the Berry Events Center on Saturday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Erik Higby (26) of Northern Michigan University gains control of the puck as Bowling Green's Jake Sloat (7) and Marc Rodriguez (10) try to stop him during the second period at the Berry Events Center Saturday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"We have to come back hard tomorrow," Cherniwchan said. "Their goalie is playing well right now. What we have to do is play our game. They are a good team and not a last-place team as the standings show.
"We need to do our things right and win the game our way instead of giving them the opportunities to beat us."
The CCHA officiating crew of Stephen McInchak and Kevin Hall only made six calls for 12 penalty minutes in Game 1, but Saturday, the men with the orange bands earned their pay check and made sure their presence was felt.
The Falcons and Wildcats were awarded a total of 16 penalties for 32 minutes, with each team receiving eight calls for 16 minutes.
Kyle said the whistles were a momentum changer, but unlike the 1,557 fans in attendance, he had no vile for the men in the red and white stripes.
"We had some guys make some stupid plays," Kyle said. "(Brian) Nugent takes a penalty for talking. He takes a slash. (Matt) Thurber trips some guy and takes another penalty late. (Wade) Epp runs into a guy. They were legit calls. The guys need to do a better job and be in better control of what they are doing."
NMU led 2-1 heading into the second period via first period goals by sophomore forward Stephan Vigier and senior captain Justin Florek of Marquette.
Thuber, a junior forward, gave NMU a 3-1 lead 1:53 into the second period on the power play and that's when the BGSU rally - and penalty parade for NMU - began.
"We came out in the second period and took a lot of penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot," Cherniwchan said. "We knew they'd come back hard today just like they did last year. Teams facing elimination, they're going to give it their all. That's what Bowling Green did tonight.
"We knew it was coming and we have to come back prepared tomorrow."
The Falcons scored three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead while Northern was whistled for the seven straight penalties.
Nugent, a junior forward, negated an NMU power play by running his mouth too much after the whistle and getting an unsportsmanlike conduct; junior defenseman Kyle Follmer was called for tripping after playing the puck; Thurber went for hooking; sophomore defenseman C.J. Ludwig and Nugent were awarded back-to-back slashing penalties after knocking an opponent's stick to the ice; Epp, a sophomore defenseman, went for boarding; and Thurber received two more minutes late in the period for tripping.
From the time Nugent negated a cross checking penalty to BGSU's Bobby Shea to the time Thurber left the box for his tripping penalty, BGSU picked up goals from Marcus Perrier, Mike Sullivan and Dan DeSalvo - who scored 32 seconds into the game - to silence the Wildcat crowd.
"We have to stay out of the box," Thurber said. "We made mistakes in the second period that cost us the game.
"We had guys on the bench like Tyler Gron who is one of our best players. He couldn't go out on the ice. We were shooting ourselves in the foot the entire second period and it cost us the game."
The BEC only woke up again when DeSalvo was called for holding and Vigier was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down in front of the BGSU net with 4.5 seconds left in the second period.
Vigier missed the net on his attempt with BGSU junior netminder Andrew Hammond not having to make a save attempt. Hammond finished with 30 stops for the Falcons.
Senior Reid Ellingson got the start over sophomore Jared Coreau on Saturday. Ellingson made 24 saves after Coreau stopped 31 on Friday.
BGSU second-year head coach Chris Bergeron said he felt his team was better Friday than it was Saturday and while the penalties in the second period did swing momentum in the Falcons' favor, his team could have done more to close the door on NMU.
"Obviously these games are going to come down to those opportunities," Bergeron said. "I thought the special teams got Northern some momentum at the beginning of the second and then took the momentum away as the second went on. Just based on the number of opportunities we had, we didn't score a whole bunch, but it was taking away from the five-on-five."