Northern Michigan University Wildcats sweep Bowling Green State Falcons, but miss home ice to open CCHA Tournament

Northern Michigan University goalie Beni Halasz, center, keeps the puck in front of him, level with his left skate blocker, during a game against Bowling Green State played Saturday night at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Photo courtesy NMU)

MARQUETTE — Even if things didn’t go perfectly well over the weekend for the Northern Michigan University hockey team, the Wildcats were just about perfect for the weekend.

NMU held up its end of the bargain by sweeping Bowling Green State in regulation on Friday and Saturday nights, 4-1 and 1-0, respectively, guaranteeing that Northern would jump at least from seventh place to fifth as the regular season ended.

But the one more spot the Wildcats wanted, the fourth and final position for home ice in this weekend’s first-round quarterfinals of the CCHA Tournament, was out of their hands as they needed St. Thomas to sweep Michigan Tech in Houghton.

Alas, the Tommies pulled off the trick on Friday night, beating the Huskies 2-0, but MTU came back to win Saturday 6-0 to keep their own home ice berth by finishing in third place.

Actually those two teams tied for second place with 39 points, St. Thomas winning the tiebreaker, and each was a point ahead of Minnesota State-Mankato, the team NMU will visit this weekend to open the playoffs.

Northern, with 36 points on 12-14-6 overall and 10-10-4 league records, finished just two points behind the Mavericks for that final home ice position after Mankato was swept 6-0 and 2-0 by regular-season champion Bemidji State.

The Wildcats also finished one point ahead of Bowling Green’s 35 and two ahead of Lake Superior State’s 34 after the Lakers won their single game against last-place Ferris State, 4-1, on Friday.

This weekend’s best-of-three series in Mankato, Minnesota, will be played at 8:07 p.m. EST Friday, 7:07 p.m. EST Saturday, and if necessary, 6:07 p.m. EST Sunday.

The winner of that series advances to the single-game CCHA semifinals the folllowing Saturday, March 16, with the single-game CCHA championship set for Friday, March 22.

Here is a rundown of the series vs. Bowling Green:


NMU 4, Bowling Green 1

On Friday, with four players scoring Northern’s goals, two Wildcats had multipoint games — leading scorer Andre Ghantous with two assists on the game’s first two goals, and Isack Bandu, who scored the second goal and assisted on the third.

Kristof Papp’s goal not quite five minutes into the game for Northern was the only score until the final six minutes of the second period, when NMU added two more in less than a minute and a half by Bandu and Grant Slukynsky to take a stranglehold on the scoreboard.

While the Falcons got one back in the first six minutes of the final period, Northern’s Connor Eddy signed up for insurance with 3:59 left for the final score.

Wildcats goalie Beni Halasz made those goals stand up by making 27 saves, including 11 in the second period and 10 more in the third. BGSU’s Cole Moore stopped 20 pucks, nine coming in the opening period.

With Papp’s goal coming on a power play, and a total of three power play chances on the night, NMU improved to nine power play goals in their past seven games with a 39.1% conversion rate (9 of 23).

Josh Zinger started out that scoring play by dropping the puck to Ghantous, who carried it over the blue line before pulling up in the high slot and sliding the puck over to Papp, who was all alone and beat a sliding Moore to his stick side, according to a game account provided by NMU Sports Information.

It was Papp’s sixth goal of the season.

Bandu notched his first collegiate goal with exactly six minutes left in the second on a breakaway with an assist going to Ghantous, then 1:21 later, Bandu set up Slukynsky on an odd-man rush for the latters’ fourth goal in five goal and also his sixth goal of the campaign.

After Bowling Green ended Halasz’s shutout bid with a power play tally with 14:15 left by Dalton Norris, Eddy answered with an unassisted goal as he corralled the puck just inside the defensive blueline and fired it the length of the ice into an empty net with just under four minutes to go.

Ghantous recorded his seventh multipoint game of the season as he has seven points in his last six games, while Zinger’s assist was his 17th of the season as he has two points in his past three games.


NMU 1, Bowling Green 0

On Saturday, it was all defense, defense, defense as the game’s only goal came late in the second period off the stick of Eddy.

Halasz made 20 saves, including 11 in the final period, for his fifth career shutout and second of this season, while the Falcons’ Christian Stoever had 25 stops, 10 in both the first and third. Halasz’s other shutout came when the Wildcats played at Bowling Green earlier in the season in a 2-0 victory.

NMU SI called this a tight checking game through and through as BGSU fell to 13-20-1 overall and 11-12-1 in the CCHA.

On the scoring play, with 2:35 left in the second, Ghantous streaked up the left sidewall and over the blueline, swatting the puck to a streaking Eddy down the middle as he walked in all alone on Stoever. He made a quick move to his forehand and fired it past Stoever’s stick side, according to NMU SI.

This marked Eddy’s seventh goal of the season, while Ghantous now has eight points in seven games and 23 assists for the season.

Papp got the other assist, giving his three points in three games, as Northern is 26-16-3 on Senior Night since 1979-80 and 2-1 on this theme night vs. the Falcons.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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