MARQUETTE - As Northern Michigan University head hockey coach Walt Kyle walked from the ice to his office following a sweep of Lake Superior State to close the regular season, he asked the gathered media who the Wildcats would host in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Bowling Green State was not the response he was looking for, especially after the debacle that was 2011.
"I didn't want these guys," Kyle said Sunday. "It is what it is. At that point, it doesn't matter. Really, the truth is, you have to give them credit. They came in here and beat us and they did it two years in a row.
"I always say at the end of a playoff series, the best team wins it and that's what happened."
Kyle and the 'Cats worst nightmare repeated itself on Sunday as last-place BGSU pulled an upset in the first round of the CCHA playoffs at the Berry Event Center, this time cruising to a 4-1 victory in Game 3 over NMU.
Northern led the series 1-0 following a 4-2 win on Friday, but the Falcons scored three unanswered goals in the second periods on Saturday and Sunday to advance to Big Rapids for a best-of-three second-round series with the regular season champions of Ferris State.
From left, Northern Michigan University’s Reed Seckel, Jared Coreau, Andrew Cherniwchan and Devan Hartigan react following the Wildcats being upset by Bowling Green State on Sunday for the second straight season in Game 3 a best-of-three, first-round CCHA playoff series. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Northern Michigan University’s Kory Kaunisto (19) and Erik Higby (26) try to clear the puck through traffic Sunday in Game 3 a best-of-three, first-round CCHA playoff series at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Last season, Northern opened its first round series with BGSU with a 6-3 victory before falling 2-0 and 2-1 with the Game 3 loss coming in double overtime.
Only 60 minutes were needed in 2012 for the No. 11 Falcons to pull the upset of No. 6 NMU and in the end, it was never even close.
"This is the worst feeling ever. What can I say?" NMU redshirt freshman Reed Seckel said. "I watched it from the stands last year. I came down here (the locker room) a year ago and I talked to everyone and said, 'I'm not going to let this happen again.' And it happened again."
BGSU took advantage of seven-straight penalties on Saturday to turn a 3-1 NMU lead into a 4-3 advantage of its own with an empty net goal in the third period creating the final score.
On Sunday, BGSU took advantage of Wildcat turnovers, trips and rebounds to rally from a 1-0 deficit for a 3-1 lead heading into the third, where the Falcons added another score.
"We said it last year. We thought we prepared this summer," NMU junior defenseman and co-captain Scott Macaulay said. "We worked hard. We had a good year. We had a good run. We let it slide away from us when it counted and we have to make sure this never happens again."
Freshman defenseman Mitch Jones scored the lone Wildcat goal at 4:48 of the second period by beating BGSU goaltender Andrew Hammond top shelf with assists from sophomore forward Stephan Vigier and senior captain Justin Florek - who played his final game in his hometown of Marquette on Sunday.
The Falcons responded less than four minutes later with freshman forward Dan DeSalvo taking advantage of three Wildcat turnovers in their own defensive zone to tie the game at 1-1.
DeSalvo put BGSU ahead 2-1 by putting away a rebound created off the initial shot of linemate and fellow freshman forward Adam Berkle on a rush that was fueled by two NMU defensemen - sophomores C.J. Ludwig and Wade Epp - tripping near the NMU blue line.
Berkle was able to put away his own rebound against NMU sophomore goaltender Jared Coreau at the 14:30 mark of the second period while sophomore Ryan Viselli added some extra insurance in the third period to ensure three periods was enough in 2012.
"I'm really disappointed," Kyle said. "We knew as coaches it was going to be a tough match. The series really changed last night in the second period. I thought we played hard tonight. The first period was very even. We came out in the second and just on one shift we turned the puck over three times and they wind up scoring. We come back a few shifts later and both defensemen fall down on the same rush. We didn't play very well for a stretch there and it cost us."
After making 44 saves in a double overtime victory last season at the Berry, Hammond only needed 34 on Sunday to lead his team to victory.
In the opposite net, Coreau - who missed Saturday's game due to an illness - made 19 saves in his first loss in four games against the Falcons and only second loss this season at the BEC.
"I'm extremely proud of our guys. They deserve it," BGSU head coach Chris Bergeron said. "It's been a very trying season for us, especially the first half, which seems like ancient history right now.
"It's hard to put into words when it's been a struggle for the year because you want to give the guys some positive things. This playoff win is definitely a thing and they deserve it."
While the Falcons move on to the second round of the CCHA playoffs, the Wildcats will keep an eye on the PairWise rankings, even though their chances of making the NCAA tournament will be slim.
If the field was announced today, NMU would be the last team left out as No. 16 in the PairWise. With Notre Dame, Lake Superior State, Western Michigan and Colorado College right on the Wildcats' tails, and Merrimack, Cornell and North Dakota still playing ahead in the rankings, chances are NMU will be watching the rest of the college hockey season from its couch.
"We're going to sit here for the next month and a half, two months, and watch on TV the NCAA championship," Seckel said. "We're going to see 'The Joe,' see all that and all it does is piss you off.
"We just have to be ready to go next season."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org