BOWLING GREEN, Oh. A three-goal third period, including two in the final 1:04 of regulation helped boost Northern Michigan University hockey (11-7-2, 9-5-0-0 WCHA) to a 4-3 overtime victory over No. 11 Bowling Green State University (10-8-2, 8-6-0-0 WCHA) for the weekend sweep.
The two teams entered the first intermission knotted at zero, both looking to jump out ahead. Even on the scoreboard, the Wildcats and Falcons were also tied in shots on goal with 10 a piece heading into the second frame.
The Wildcats garnered a few chances in the second period, including a shorthanded breakaway chance from Ben Newhouse but were unable to break Falcon goaltender Eric Dop through 40 minutes of action. The Falcons scored a late power play goal in the period to break the stalemate and enter the second intermission up a goal.
With 6:19 gone in the final period of regulation, the nation's goal leader, Griffin Loughran, tallied his 16th of the year to tie the game at one. Two quick goals from the Falcons saw the WCHA rival from Ohio up 3-1 as the final minutes ticked off the clock.
The Wildcats pulled goaltender Nolan Kent in favor of the extra attacker with less than two minutes to play. Joseph Nardi took full advantage of the opportunity as he pulled the Wildcats within a goal with 1:04 left before Grant Loven found the equalizer less than 30 seconds later, also with the extra man, to force the overtime period.
Senior Darien Craighead finished off the historic comeback when he found the game-winner at 4:13 of the extra period. Racing across the ice, Craighead shot the puck through the five-hole to give the Wildcats the 4-3 final and complete the sweep of the Falcons.
Nolan Kent stopped a career-high tying 39 shots and boasted a .929 save percentage in Saturday night's win. He improves to a 7-2-0 season record and a 2.59 goals against average.
Griffin Loughran put the Wildcats on the board at 6:19 of the third period to knot the game at one goal each. Loughran picked up the loose puck off after Vincent de Mey's shot was stopped by Dop to tuck it home for the 1-1 score. Philip Beaulieu extended his three-game point streak on the play with the secondary assist.
Skating out in front, Joseph Nardi netted the puck with 1:04 remaining in regulation to cut the Falcons' lead to one (3-2). He lifted the puck over Dop's stick for the second Wildcat goal of the evening with assists to Andre Ghantous and AJ Vanderbeck.
Just 24 seconds later, Grant Loven tied the game at three as he danced in front of the net, tipping the puck passed the Falcons' netminder with 40 seconds remaining in regulation. Nardi picked up the puck along the boards to center it towards Loven to post his second point of the night.
Darien Craighead was the Wildcats' hero Saturday night as he charged down the ice with 4:13 elapsed in the extra period, sending the puck between the pads of Dop for the game-winner. Garrett Klee, who fed the puck to Craighead in the Wildcats' defensive zone, picked up the lone assist on the play.
Nolan Kent posted a career-high single period save count, stopping 19 of 20 shots in the second stanza.
Penalties seemed to be the story of the game early, as the two teams combined for 24 total penalties.
With a goal and an assist in Saturday's victory, Joseph Nardi totaled four points on the weekend (1-3-4) and was joined by Griffin Loughran (3-1-4) for the series-high points.
Loughran's goal to get the Wildcats on the board was his 16th of the season and keeps him first in the national standings in the category while ranking second in goals per game (0.80), just one-tenth shy of the nation's best.
Averaging 0.80 assists per game, Philip Beaulieu sits 15th in the national standings with 16 through 20 games played. His 18 points (2-16-18) also puts him in the national standings, ranking ninth among defensemen with an average of 0.90 points per game.
With a tally on the man advantage Saturday night, Loughran now sits tied with classmate Vincent de Mey in power play goals (five) and eighth in the country.
Improving to 7-2-0 on the season, Nolan Kent ranks fifth in the country in win percentage at 0.778.
The Wildcat offense continues to flourish with 67 goals in 20 games, including nine in the weekend sweep of the Falcons, they boast a 3.35 average for 11th nationally.
With Loughran's power play goal in the third period, the Wildcats have converted on 20 chances thus far for 12th overall, or 23 percent.
The Wildcats, led by Ben Newhouse and Joseph Nardi with three blocks each, blocked 15 shots in the win.
Nolan Kent recorded 39 saves and faced a career-high 42 shots Saturday night.
The Wildcats will host the University of Alaska Anchorage next weekend, January 10-11.