NMU scores early, often for win

MARQUETTE — After Friday’s loss to Bowling Green State, Northern Michigan University hockey coach Grant Potulny talked about how his team needs to start off well if it wanted to keep up with the Falcons on Saturday night.

The Wildcats apparently listened as they scored three first-period goals and killed off key penalties to win 3-2 and snap a three-game losing streak.

“I thought it was a great start to the game,” Potulny said. “It just changes the complexion of the game when you can get into it and start feeling good about yourself. Especially at home and get the crowd into it.

“I thought it was a great response and there were some players today that had some tough love given to them this afternoon. As a coach, I just hate doing that. It’s the least enjoyable part of my job.”

Northern (14-13, 13-7 WCHA) put pressure on Falcons goalie Ryan Bednard from the opening whistle. With 15:48 remaining, Wildcats center Luke Voltin’s shot was deflected in the crease and Mitch Slattery tried to backhand the rebound under Bednard, but he covered in time for his second tough save.

About halfway through the period, Northern got on the board. Wildcats defenseman James Vermeulen sent a shot originally saved by the Falcons netminder, but he coughed up a juicy rebound to Grant Loven, who sent the puck in. Two minutes later, NMU struck again, again on a rebound as Vincent de Mey’s shot was bobbled by Bednard and Voltin backhanded it in.

The Falcons got one back at 14:25. BGSU forward Lukas Craggs collected a loose puck during a power play and sent a cross-ice pass to Connor Ford, who one-timed it past NMU goalie Atte Tolvanen.

Northern wasn’t shaken. With just under four minutes left, Adam Rockwood fed the puck to Troy Loggins, who then sent it to the slot for Darien Craighead, who then slid it through Bednard’s five-hole as the Wildcats took a 3-1 advantage into the second period.

“We talked about getting down by the net and making sure you find some rebounds and being hard to play against,” Potulny said. “Those two (Loven and Voltin) got their goals by the net and just a beautiful goal by the Rockwood line.”

The Falcons came out strong in the second, controlling the pace and keeping the puck in the Wildcats defensive zone for most of the period. But Northern kept BGSU from getting many good scoring chances.

On the Falcons’ third power play of the third period, Tolvanen came up big. BGSU’s Max Johnson sent a cross-ice pass over to Cameron Wright, but the senior netminder made a sprawling kick save by the far post.

With 2:20 remaining, Bednard was pulled for the extra attacker and the Falcons made it interesting in the final seconds as John Schilling, who scored the overtime winner Friday night, was left open in front of the NMU net. He collected a loose puck with his hand, dropped it and beat Tolvanen top shelf. However, the Wildcats survived the final 23 seconds to close it out.

Northern now travels to Alabama-Huntsville, which fought the Wildcats to a decisive third game in the WCHA quarterfinals last season. The Chargers tend to give NMU fits when it has to head down south and Potulny said the game times will be something the Wildcats will have to overcome.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.