DETROIT, Mich. – For the seventh time in the eight-year tenure of Walt Kyle the Northern Michigan University hockey team was playing a game at Joe Louis Arena in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Championship. It was also the third consecutive year that the NMU hockey team had a date in Detroit. Friday in the first semifinal game of the day the Wildcats faced Ferris State. The Bulldogs struck first, but in the end the two teams needed more than the 60 minutes to settle the game.
Greger Hanson proved to be the hero as he scored the game-winning goal, for his 16th of the season, in overtime at 1:07 to send the ‘Cats to the CCHA Championship Game, with the 5-4 overtime win over Ferris State, for the first time since 1999 when the team lost to Michigan (5-1). The last time NMU won a CCHA playoff title was in 1981. Fellow Swede Erik Gustafsson assisted on the game-winning goal.
NMU will play Michigan at 7:35 p.m. in the championship game Saturday, March 20. The ‘Cats improve to 20-11-6 overall while Ferris State falls to 21-12-6.
NMU scored three goals in the middle frame in the span of a little over a minute to take the lead after 40 minutes of play. The Bulldogs got on the board with a goal by Todd Pococke 17:31 of the first period for the 1-0 score. Ray Kaunisto tied the game with his 16th goal of the season at 11:00 of the second period. Kaunisto’s goal was unassisted. Forty-one seconds (11:41) later Andrew Cherniwchan struck for his 11th marker of the season for a 2-1 NMU lead. Mark Olver and Justin Florek assisted on the goal. Kaunisto capped off the scoring in the second period for the ‘Cats with his 17th goal of the season at12:02 Tyler Gron and Kyle Follmer picked up the helpers.
Cody Chupp scored his ninth goal of the season 17:29 of the second period for a 3-2 game. Gron made the count 4-2 with his 10th goal of the season 8:04 into the third period. Kaunisto and Hanson assisted. Ferris struck for two goals in about a minute in the third period to tie it up in regulation. Mike Embach made the score 4-3 with his goal at 13:06. Matthew Kirzinger scored the fourth goal for Ferris State at 14:07.
Each side had one shot on-goal in the overtime period. For the game the ‘Cats ended up with 30 shots to 39 for the Bulldogs. NMU was 0-3 on the power play while Ferris State was 0-2.
Brian Stewart had 35 saves for the ‘Cats between the pipes. Pat Nagle, from Ferris State, turned away 25 NMU shots.