Wildcats split with top-ranked Bulldogs

Delaney Lovett

After tying 5-5 on Friday and losing 3-1 on Saturday at the Berry Events Center, the Wildcat effort was not enough to knock Ferris State University out of first place in the CCHA conference standings.

“It’s another weekend where you play 120 minutes and one goal really separates the two teams,” said head coach Walt Kyle. “Unfortunately we weren’t the team who came out with that goal.”

Kyle said he gives No. 6 Ferris (12-6-4-1 CCHA, 18-8-4 overall) a lot of credit and that they’re a very good team. However, Northern’s pace of play has slowed over the season, he said.

With a couple key players no longer on the team or out with injuries, Kyle said the ’Cats (7-9-6-3 CCHA, 12-10-6 overall) don’t have the same depth.

“What happens is our guys that are a little bit higher in the lineup are trying to stay out a little bit longer and with that comes a little more fatigue,” Kyle said.

Senior goaltender Reid Ellingson, who had his first start on Friday since Jan. 13 against Michigan State, said the Wildcats are practicing taking shorter shifts and regaining their fast paced, high-energy game.

“Kind of the overall consensus was our tempo dropped a bit this weekend,” Ellingson said. “We’re trying to get back to our true identity, which was when we were clicking.”

The Wildcats and Bulldogs traded the lead several times on Friday before Ferris State tied the game at 5-5, which was stagnant through a five-minute overtime.

“Friday night, we certainly scored enough goals to win,” Kyle said. “Nights when we get five, we have to be a lot tighter defensively … In my opinion, we should have come out of there with another point.”

Northern did, however, come out of the night with an extra conference point by earning the shootout win in three rounds with a goal from junior center Matt Thurber.

“The extra point is big,” Ellingson said. “The league is so close right now, we’re scratching for any point we can. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to pull off the win Friday night considering we had some leads.”

Saturday night proved to be another close game, but the Bulldogs were too much for the ’Cats, maintaining a 2-0 lead until an unassisted third-period goal by redshirt freshman left wing Reed Seckel.

Ferris State sealed the win with an empty-net goal, with 40 seconds remaining in regulation.

“Saturday night, we played a pretty good defensive game,” Kyle said. “Both of their goals were special situations – a power play and a lost faceoff. We just didn’t get any breaks.”

Although penalties stayed under control over the weekend, NMU’s penalty kill hit a season low, allowing the Bulldogs to score on 3-5 Friday and 1-4 Saturday.

“One of the holes in our game right now is our special teams,” Kyle said. “We haven’t changed anything tactically from what we were doing early in the year when we were really efficient, we’ve just been making some mistakes.”

The Wildcats travel to Ohio this weekend to face the Bowling Green State Falcons (4-14-4-3 CCHA, 9-16-5 overall) for the first time this season.

“You just have to look at it one game at a time,” Ellingson said. “We know they’re tough; last year, they knocked us out of the playoffs.”

Kyle said each of the remaining 18 points available to the ’Cats is critical to move into the top half of the conference.

“There are points out there and we have to get points,” Kyle said. “That was the message we told our guys going into last weekend and we were only able to get two of the six; we have to make up those points somewhere along the line.”

Northern faces CCHA opponent BGSU at 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday in Bowling Green, Ohio.