Last series on the road ends in split: ’Cats travel to Ohio to win and lose against No. 7 Bowling Green

Cody Boyer

Following last weekend’s split against the Spartans, the Wildcats experienced another split series on the road against Bowling Green State University, falling in the standings as they enter their last weekend of regular season play.

The Wildcats travelled to Ohio last weekend to take on the No. 7 Bowling Green Falcons, clinching a 5-2 victory on Friday, Feb. 22 and taking a 5-3 loss on Saturday, Feb. 23. Following Saturday’s game, the ’Cats fell to 10th in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association with 8-14-4-1 and 14-16-4, overall.

NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the gameplay that the team put forth into the weekend was strong as they gear up for their final regular season series.

“I thought we played really well,” Kyle said. “I was really happy with our quality of play. We really improved in some areas of play that we needed to improve in, and I thought our power play was much better. We also found several different line combinations that we liked, and we’ve been a much better team over the last couple of weekends on the road then we were earlier in the year.”

Friday night’s NMU victory started with a Wildcat lead early going into the second period with a score of 2-0. At 6:29 into the first, junior forward Stephan Vigier shot the puck past Bowling Green goalie Tommy Burke. Vigier’s sixth-of-the-season goal was assisted by senior defenseman Scott Macaulay.

Sophomore defenseman Mitch Jones scored the second goal for the Wildcats, marking his third of the season on the powerplay. Senior forward Matt Thurber and junior forward Erik Higby assisted the goal, bringing the score to 2-0 with only 24 seconds left in the first.

The Wildcats scored again with a goal by sophomore forward Ryan Daugherty during an on the man advantage, bringing the score to 3-0. Daugherty’s goal occurred 6:07 into the second period and was assisted by Vigier and junior defenseman CJ Ludwig.

Daugherty said the ’Cats treated the games against the Falcons as they would after the regular season.

“These were two important games,” Daugherty said. “We had a good atmosphere to work with down there, and both teams went into the weekend with something to prove and a bit of a rivalry. Both games felt like playoff games, and we’d do whatever it takes to win while aiming to get the little things right.”

The Falcons closed out the second period with two goals of their own, with sophomore defenseman Connor Kucera scoring the first and sophomore forward Ryan Carpenter scored the second passed NMU. The goals brought the score to 4-2 going into the third period.

In the last period, the Wildcats scored one more goal to finish the game, 5-2. Higby earned his seventh goal of the season with the shot, and was assisted by Thurber.

Between the posts, junior goalie Jared Coreau stopped 37 shots, including 18 saves in the second and 11 in the third. In the Falcons’ crease, Burke tallied 16 saves.

On Saturday night, the Wildcats returned to the BGSU Ice Arena, exiting the weekend with a 5-3 loss. The Falcons clinched the game with two goals during the final five minutes of the third period.

“It was a really heart-fought, tough physical series,” Kyle said. “We don’t like losing, but I actually think we played better Saturday then we did on Friday. I liked the way we played from behind. We were able to tie them late, and we were right there with a number of great opportunities.”

The Wildcats started the game in the lead after Bowling Green took a five-minute penalty during the first minute of gameplay. Higby earned his eighth goal of the season, assisted by Jones and senior defenseman Kyle Follmer.

The Falcons jumped ahead of the ’Cats with three goals of their own, the first goal scored by junior forward Andrew Wallace at 17:13. Freshman forward  Ben Murphy scored the second goal, while Carpenter scored the third to lead the Falcons into the second with a lead of 3-1. The ’Cats tallied another goal past Burke when freshman forward Darren Nowick scored his fifth of the season during a second period power play. Nowick’s goal was assisted by Daugherty and Ludwig.

Nowick said the team is looking forward to playing back on home-ice to finish off the regular season.

“We are hoping to come out like we did against Bowling Green on Friday,” Nowick said. “We played the Lakers in the last game before Christmas, and we weren’t really into the game. We were pretty beat up and tired. Now, though, we are starting to roll as a team. We are going to give them a good game.”

Senior forward Brian Nugent brought the score within one point when he tallied his fourth of the season. Senior forward Kory Kaunisto and Daugherty assisted the shot.

The Falcons scored one more goal to close the night’s scoring when senior defenseman Robert Shea shot the puck past Coreau with 4:20 left in the third.

The Wildcats are closing out their regular season at home this weekend as they take on the Lake Superior State University Lakers. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2.

Fans planning on attending the games can bring new socks to Saturday night’s game. During the second intermission, fans can throw the socks to donate them to the Room at the Inn.