DETROIT, Mich. – The skate did not fit for the Northern Michigan University hockey team on Friday night in the second semifinal game of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Championship against the University of Michigan. The Wildcats who upset Michigan State last weekend to reach The Joe held a 3-2 lead entering the third period, but the clock struck midnight for the ‘Cats. NMU scored a goal in the final frame, but the Maize and Blue struck for four goals in the final 20 minutes to pick up the 6-4 win.
UM will now face Miami in the championship game tomorrow (March 22) while the ‘Cats will face Notre Dame in the third-place contest at 3:30 p.m. The RedHawks reached the championship game by defeating the Fighting Irish, 2-1, in overtime in the first semifinal game of the day. “Pride. We want to win. The goal is to come out every day and win,” said Mark Olver. “It would be nice to play in the championship game but Notre Dame is a good team and we are going to come out tomorrow and give it our all.”
The ‘Cats enter the final game of the 2007-08 season one game below .500 at 19-20-4 while UM improves to 30-5-4.
Chad Kolarik struck first for UM with a goal at 7:19 of the first period. About eight minutes later, Matt Butcher, who scored the game-winner in overtime against the Spartans on Sunday, tied the game with his eighth goal of the season at 15:05. Gregor Hanson and Ray Kaunisto assisted. NMU killed off a five-minute penalty towards the end of the period when Billy Smith was called for checking from behind and was also given a game misconduct.
UM took the lead back, 2-1, at 9:31 of the second period when Travis Turnbull turned the red light on. NMU would score the next two goals in the period to take the lead back. Olver scored his 21st goal of the season unassisted at 14:54 to tie the game. Matt Siddall gave the ‘Cats the lead once again, 3-2, about two minutes later with his 17th goal of the season at 16:47. Nick Sirota picked up the helper. “You want to get pucks in their zone for a few minutes to slow them down. They come at you in waves,” said Siddall. “They are an amazing team to go up against. As the night went on we had some shifts that established ourselves.”
The Wolverines opened the third period by scoring two goals within the first six-and-a-half minutes of the period. A little over a minute into the final frame (1:11) Tim Miller scored the tie the game again at three-all. UM then took the 4-3 lead on a power-play goal by Turnbull for his second of the night at 6:30. “I was happy with where we were but I knew we were going to have to win the third period if we wanted to win the game,” said Walt Kyle.
The ‘Cats did not fold to the top team in the country. Jared Brown gave the team new life with his ninth goal of the season at 12:44 for a new game at four-all. Tim Miller scored the game-winner (5-4) for UM at 16:00. Ben Winnett added an empty-net insurance goal at 19:48 for the final score (6-4).
NMU was outshot by 20 shots on the night at 42-22. The ‘Cats skated on two power plays on the night with no goals while the Wolverines were 1-7 with the extra skater. Brian Stewart turned away 36 shots for the 'Cats. Billy Sauer had 18 saves for the Wolverines. “We have done it all year. I credit the leadership and all the guys. They really hung in there. We did a good job. I’ve been at Northern for six years and maybe this and one other team that I’m this proud of,” said Kyle.
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