The Falcon hockey team fell to the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the WCHA semifinals, losing on Sunday night 3-2 in overtime, but winning 1-0 on Saturday night after falling 6-1 on Friday night.
“I’m really proud of our group,” Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron said. “We didn’t play well on Friday, we gave ourselves no chance to win but the way we responded both Saturday and Sunday, I was really proud of our guys. Our effort was great, our never quit attitude was there all the way to the end.”
Sunday’s game saw a mostly scoreless first period, until Northern Michigan grabbed the early lead with just over a minute remaining in the first to give them a 1-0 advantage. In the second, however, the Falcons responded just 52 seconds in as freshman forward Max Johnson capitalized on a power play opportunity to tie the game back up, as the game remained tied throughout the rest of the period.
Exactly midway through the third period at the 10:00 mark, Northern Michigan regained the lead, which they were able to hold onto, forcing the Falcons to pull their goaltender for the extra attacker with roughly a minute and a half remaining. With 16 seconds to go and Northern Michigan unable to hit the empty net, the Falcons appeared briefly to tie it up, but the goal was waved off. With just 8.9 seconds remaining in the game, however, the Falcons were able to tie it up as freshman forward Cameron Wright scored, sending the game into overtime.
“It was either that or go home, so our guys kept pushing,” Bergeron said. “We made a good play on the forecheck and Stephen (Baylis) got the puck to Alec Rauhauser and he shot it on net and good things happen when you shoot pucks on net.”
In overtime, the teams were nearly even in shots as Northern Michigan held a slight 7-6 edge, however Northern Michigan had a couple of scoring chances late, which they capitalized on with just over four more minutes remaining in the first overtime period as they won 3-2 to move onto the WCHA championship game and eliminate the Falcons.
“We were both two teams that defended really well,” Bergeron said. “Both teams were wanting to play their best and wanting to defend and it just made it difficult. There wasn’t a whole lot of room on the ice, we didn’t score a five on five goal really all weekend. We had a couple of power play goals and a six on five goal, but it was a tight checking series, especially Saturday and Sunday.”
On Saturday, both teams went scoreless through the first two periods, as Northern Michigan held off 15 shots while the Falcons stopped 16 chances, however the Falcons were the first to get on the board as freshman forward Connor Ford took advantage of a power play opportunity at the 3:05 mark of the third period. Despite doubling the Falcons’ shots on goal in the third, 8-4, Northern Michigan was unable to get the equalizer as the Falcons held on to take the 1-0 victory and keep their hopes of moving onto the WCHA championship game alive.
On Friday, the team got off to a strong start with a power play goal courtesy of freshman forward Max Johnson at the 1:49 mark of the first period, however the team believes that they could have taken more momentum from the goal. Northern Michigan came back to tie it later on in the period at 14:30, taking advantage of a power play chance of their own, making it a 1-1 game going into the second period. In the second, however, it was all Northern Michigan as they started with another power play goal at 2:20, then had two goals just 27 seconds apart near the midway point of the period, giving them a 4-1 lead heading into the third. The third saw Northern Michigan add two more goals at 10:28 and 16:55, as they took the 6-1 victory to take the first game of the semifinal round.
“We didn’t kill penalties very well,” Bergeron said. “We gave them really good opportunities to score on the second and third opportunities to score on the power play and on two occasions they did, so I think their power play goals led to way more momentum than ours did.”
The team will next play in the 2018-19 season, likely beginning around October.