Lopsided affair: Northern Michigan University Wildcats play best game of year in series opener vs. Bowling Green on Friday
“All the things that we’ve been working and talking (about) on defense, you saw a lot of them (Friday).”
MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University hockey team continued building its recent hot streak with its sixth win in seven games with a 6-3 victory over Bowling Green State on Friday night.
Despite a smaller than usual crowd due to the Thanksgiving break inside the Berry Events Center, Northern came out of the gates early with energy and effort. The Falcons struck first, but as the Wildcats did the rest of the game, NMU countered any momentum the Falcons started out with. The Wildcats put up two goals in each period and it was the third game in the row they scored at least six goals.
“I think it was the best game we’ve played this year,” Northern coach Grant Potulny said. “The starts are something we’ve talked quite a bit about, even though they (Bowling Green) scored first, I thought we were playing really well and there was energy on the bench.
“It’s hard when it’s Thanksgiving break, because there’s going to be some empty seats and the students aren’t here and some of that stuff, so you have to create your own energy a little bit, and when you give the first one up, it can kind of sting you a little bit.
“To come back and take the lead in the second period I thought was really important. All the things that we’ve been working and talking (about) on defense, you saw a lot of them tonight. I was really impressed with our effort.”
NMU didn’t want to give much room for BGSU to operate in after giving up nine goals over two games at Ferris State last weekend. Though senior forward Taylor Schneider scored on the rush off of his own rebound to put the Falcons up 1-0, those were two of only four shots that Bowling Green was able to get in the first period.
“Definitely not a lot of pressure against (us),” NMU goalie Rico DiMatteo said. “I know from a goalie’s perspective and I’m looking at the sheet here, four shots in the first period, that’s pretty impressive.”
DiMatteo only faced 23 shots all night, saving 20 of them. The other two goals for BGSU came on the power play. Other than garnering five penalties, really nothing else in the statistics went against the ‘Cats.
“It felt like we were dominating from the start of the game until the end,” NMU forward David Keefer said. “I mean, obviously, we want to stay out of the box more, but like I said, we were dominating, we outshot them, Rico (DiMatteo) played unreal and we came out on top.”
Keefer scored Northern’s first goal with 2:51 left in the first period to tie it 1-1. The Wildcats scored again 36 seconds later, and it was freshman forward Oscar Geschwind scoring his second collegiate goal off of an assist from forward Vincent de Mey to make it 2-1 at the first break.
NMU held that lead until just past the halfway point of the second period when Schneider scored his second goal of the night on a power play with an assist going to forward Alex Barber to knot the game 2-2 at 10:37.
The Wildcats again struck twice in less than a minute. Forward Mikey Colella gave NMU the lead back with a dish from forward Joseph Nardi at 17:50, and 48 seconds later, forward Mack Byers scoring his second career goal off passes from Keefer and defenseman Bo Hanson to extend the lead to 4-2 at the second intermission.
NMU controlled the third period for almost its entirety, bolstering the lead to 6-2. Forward Andre Ghantous scored an unassisted goal at 4:37, and forward AJ Vanderbeck ended things for good at 16:20 with forward Hampus Eriksson on the assist. Bowling Green added a late goal on a power play with 1:06 left by Austen Swankler.
Depth in scoring has been a concern for the Wildcats this season, according to Potulny. But with all four lines scoring Friday, it’s an issue that appears to be an issue that is working it way out.
“It’s been good, it’s been important,” Potulny said about the variety of scorers. “I do think there were a couple of the top guys that were just not feeling it early in the game, and to get some depth scoring with two goals from your fourth line, one from your third line, and a couple goals from your top line and one from your second line.
“And the way we scored them was good, it was things that we’ve been trying to work on.”
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.