Northern Michigan hockey team salvages tie with No. 6 Miami

MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University head coach Walt Kyle said he received a much stronger defensive effort on Saturday against No. 6 Miami at the Berry Events Center, limiting the RedHawks to 32 shots on goal after giving up 44 the night before.

What Kyle didn’t receive, however, was a victory, like he did on Friday.

The Wildcats fell behind late in the third period after marching out to a 2-0 lead on Miami, but picked up a shorthanded goal with 2:25 to play for a 3-3 tie.

The RedHawks won the shootout 1-0 in five rounds for the extra point in the CCHA standings.

“We were way better,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “We didn’t have nearly as many turnovers. Their Grade As were way down from last night. I thought the guys did a really good job.”

Northern (9-10-4 overall, 3-9-4 in CCHA) built its 2-0 lead on the RedHawks (12-5-5 overall, 8-4-4 in CCHA) by putting away a pair of rebounds.

Senior forward Matt Thurber capped a successful first period penalty kill in style by setting up senior forward Kory Kaunisto for the first NMU goal 15:13 into the game.

Another Thurber shot set up the second Wildcat goal, this time by junior forward Erik Higby, after sophomore forward Reed Seckel forced a turnover at the Miami blue line and dished to Thurber.

“We got off to a two-goal lead and you knew that wasn’t going to last,” Kyle said. “I didn’t know if they were going to tie us or what was going to happen, but you knew they were going to score at one point.”

Miami tied the Wildcats up at 2-2 in a span of 2:18 late in the second period.

On the power play, RedHawk freshman defenseman Matthew Caito buried a long rebound from beyond the faceoff circle 15:43 into the second period.

With 1:59 remaining to go before the second intermission, Miami sophomore forward Austin Czarnik forced an NMU turnover by a pair of NMU senior defensemen – Scott Macaulay and Kyle Follmer – behind the Wildcat goal with the RedHawks on the penalty kill. Czarnik created an empty net for freshman linemate Riley Barber to score the shorthanded goal and tie the game heading into the third period.

“I gave it up to Follmer and he tried giving it back,” Macaulay said. “It got picked off and they came out in front and got the shot off on the rebound. Anytime you give up a shorthanded goal, it’s not a good thing. Especially us being senior guys, we have to step up and control that puck better.”

Added Kyle: “That was a real bad play by Follmer. It was a real bad play. It was kind of a sleepy play. They had almost picked off a couple earlier. He knows it was a bad play.”

Miami took a 3-2 lead on Northern 15:23 into the third period on a fluke goal when Caito’s shot deflected off of NMU goaltender Jared Coreau, off the body of an unaware Czarnik and into an open NMU net.

The Wildcats tied the game back up shorthanded just over two minutes later when sophomore forward Ryan Daugherty forced a Miami turnover at the NMU blue line. He walked in alone on RedHawk goaltender Ryan McKay to force overtime.

“I was just playing a little more aggressive,” said Daugherty, who tied sophomore forward Reed Seckel with a tea-high of eight goals. “Three minutes left in the game, down by a goal on the kill, you can’t really sit back.

“I just reached with my stick and he was kind of tired. I was kind of tired. I got a step on him and put it in.”

Coreau finished with 29 saves for NMU after making a season-high 43 saves on Friday. McKay, who got the start in place of freshman Jay Williams, stopped 22 shots for the RedHawks.

Northern generated 11 of its 25 shots on the power play, but failed to convert on any of the man advantages.

The Wildcats failed to score during a 3:33 stretch early in the first period with a man advantage after a pair of Miami penalties overlapped.

Miami was handed a five-minute major early in the second period, though the advantage for NMU was broken up by a Ryan Aynsley tripping penalty.

Northern’s best advantage came at the end of the second period and start of the third – four Wildcats versus three RedHawks – but nothing got past McKay.

“We had our chance to win it with a 4-on-3 there,” Kyle said. “We had about three Grade As we weren’t able to score on and probably felt similar to how they did last night.

“We had out chances to win it. We had the 4-on-3. Thurber hit the post. We had two more one times. They did a great job.”

NOTES: The Wildcats nearly won in OT when a shot by Thurber hit the inside of the post, but video review verified the puck did not cross the goal line. … The Wildcats broke free from Bowling Green at the bottom of the league standings with the tie, however, Michigan State was able to jump both teams and move into a tie for eighth in the CCHA with Michigan via a win over Notre Dame on Saturday. … NMU and Miami finish their regular season series with identical 1-1-2 records against each other, however, Miami won both shootouts following the ties. … The Wildcats remain home next weekend to host Ohio State at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens