MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University hockey team had chance after chance on Saturday to sweep Bowling Green, take a leap in the league standings and stay in the hunt for a WCHA first-round, home-ice quarterfinal series even though it spotted the Falcons a three-goal lead.
The Wildcats were unable to get the equalizer, however, despite outshooting the Falcons 23-9 in the second and third periods of a 3-2 loss on Senior Night at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
"Getting so close and just needing that little bit more to get that puck in the net, it's so frustrating," NMU freshman defenseman Brock Maschmeyer said. "We got another two games next weekend. We got to make them count."
Northern, which played its final games of the season in Marquette because of the loss, will now go into the final weekend of the regular season on the outside looking in on the WCHA playoffs in ninth place.
Only the top eight teams in the WCHA make the postseason.
NMU sits just a point back of Lake Superior State and Bemidji State, which are tied for seventh. The Wildcats travel to last-place Alabama-Huntsville next weekend, the Lakers play at first-place Ferris State and BGSU hosts the Beavers.
Northern Michigan University sophomore Darren Nowick (20) battles for the puck with Bowling Green State University junior Marcus Perrier (15) during the second period Saturday, March 1, 2014 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
The Falcons only lead NMU by three points, meaning a sweep for Northern in Huntsville gets the 'Cats into the league playoffs because BSU and BGSU both cannot finish higher than NMU if the Wildcats sweep the Chargers.
"You can't wait for help," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "We've had two opportunities here the past two weekends against (Michigan) Tech and Bowling Green and I could go back further than that to take care of business and we haven't been able to do it. We have to find a way to do it."
After giving up a power play goal 1:33 into the second period, NMU scored two goals within 15 seconds of each other in the fourth minute of the second to pull within one.
Freshman forwards John Siemer and Gerard Hanson, both late arrivals this season, combined to get NMU on the board at 3:21 of the second via a give-and-go that ended with Siemer's seventh goal of the season in 17 games. Junior defenseman Mitch Jones was also credited with an assist.
As Siemer's score was being announced over the public address, NMU senior forward Erik Higby recorded his 11th goal of the season with an assist going to junior forward Ryan Daugherty and senior forward Stephan Vigier to make it a 3-2 game at the 3:36 mark of the second.
"As soon as (BGSU) got their third one, we just turned it on," Kyle said. "From that point on, it was pretty one sided."
The Falcons scored a pair of even-strength goals in the first period to go up 2-0, then received a power play at the end of the first that led to the third score.
BGSU sophomore defenseman Ralfs Freibergs - who played for Latvia in the Olympics but is now being accused by media in his home country of testing positive for a banned substance in Sochi - scored first for the Falcons on a face off 13:07 into the game.
Falcons junior forward Ryan Carpenter made it a 2-0 game by trickling a puck past NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom and a last-gasp save attempt by NMU senior defenseman Austin Handley.
NMU junior forward Reed Seckel was called for boarding as the buzzer sounded to end the first period, and that led to the second goal of the season by Falcons junior defenseman Mike Sullivan, putting NMU down 3-0.
"I wouldn't tell you we played badly in the first, I would tell you we just didn't play with the same energy," Kyle said. "Sometimes - and I've said this before about this team - we're a team that when good things happen, we an roll. But we wait sometimes for good things to happen and once we got that first goal, you could sense it.
"That chances that we had from that point on that we couldn't score on were big. Their goalie did a great job."
Dahlstrom finished with 23 saves, having to make 15 in the first period and eight the rest of the night. It was the opposite of his 4-1 win on Friday where he stopped two in the first period and 22 over the next two periods.
BGSU sophomore goaltender Tommy Burke finished with 37 saves, including 15 in the third period. Dahlstrom only faced three shots in the third period on the opposite end.
"I thought we had the best opportunities to put some pucks away and take the lead and take over the game, but it's how hockey is I guess," Siemer said. "The hockey gods didn't want us (to win) today."