BOWLING GREEN, Oh. The Northern Michigan Wildcats (10-7-2, 8-5-0-0 WCHA) defeated No. 11 Bowling Green State University (12-8-1, 7-5-1-1 WCHA), 5-2, Friday night at the Slater Family Ice Arena to post their second consecutive victory over a ranked opponent.
The first period proved rather back-and-forth with the teams nearly even in shots, 10-9, BGSU and skating to a 1-1 tie through 20 minutes.
Senior Darien Craighead posted the first goal of the calendar year with a tic-tac-toe series of passes into a virtually wide open net. The Falcons would even the tally with a power play goal late in the period for the 1-1 tie heading into the second period.
Three minutes into the middle frame, Hank Sorensen scored his second of the year to put the Wildcats back on top, 2-1. The Falcons would once again tie it up, this time picking up the loose puck on Nolan Kent's glove side to beat him for the 2-2 score. Although firing 13 shots on net in the period, the Falcons were unable to break Kent again who posted 12 in the second stanza. Philip Beaulieu gave the Wildcats the 3-2 lead through 40 minutes when he walked down the wall and tucked it above Dop's glove for his second goal of the season.
As time wound down in the final period, Griffin Loughran gave the Wildcats a 4-2 lead when he found the back of the net off a pass from Andre Ghantous. Loughran would again score, this time on the empty net at 18:25 of the third to give the Wildcats the 5-2 final over No. 11 Bowling Green.
Darien Craighead opened the scoring with a tap in from the crease at 5:15 of period one for the first Wildcat tally of the new year. AJ Vanderbeck carried the puck into the offensive zone and fired the puck over to Ty Readman who faked out Falcons' net minder Eric Dop glove side to leave the near side of the net wide open for Craighead to send it home. The secondary assist to Vanderbeck is his first as a Wildcat.
Hank Sorensen broke the tie at 3:29 of the second period to put the Wildcats back up by one. After a Falcon coach's challenge and brief review the goal was ruled fair and NMU found themselves up one partway through the frame. Vanderbeck and Ben Newhouse were both credited with assists on the play.
On the power play, senior Philip Beaulieu scored his second of the year to put the Wildcats up 3-2 heading into the final period of play. Ty Readman picked up his second assist of the evening while Griffin Loughran was also credited with an apple on the third goal.
With a feed out front, Griffin Loughran scored from the doorstep to give NMU the 4-2 lead at 13:35 of the third period. Andre Ghantous picked up a pass from Joseph Nardi shortly after the power play expired.
With 1:35 remaining in the game, Nardi's face off win found its way back to Loughran behind his own goal line where he fired the puck across ice. With a ping off the goal post, the puck redirected just across the line for the fifth Wildcat goal of the night and Loughran's nation-leading 15th of the season. Beaulieu also picked up the primary assist on the goal for his second point of the night.
In his Wildcat debut, redshirt-freshman AJ Vanderbeck recorded a multi-point game with two assists.
With two goals in the third period, Griffin Loughran now sits along atop the national standings in goals with 15 and now boasts 24 points on the season (15-9-24). Averaging 1.26 points per game, Loughran currently ranks 14th in the nation while his 0.79 goals per game sits just two-tenths of a point back from first.
Nolan Kent came just one save shy of his career-high in the 5-2 victory Friday night. Facing 40 shots, the Falcons were only allowed two goals by the sophomore goaltender. His .750 win percentage ranks sixth in the nation (6-2-0)
With three points off two goals and an assist, Griffin Loughran tied his career-high single-game point total with three.
Tallying a goal and an assist on the night, defenseman Philip Beaulieu ranks eighth in points among all defenders and is ninth in total assists (15).
The Wildcats offense, averaging 3.32 goals per game, ranks 11th overall while their 19 power play goals for a 24.1 percent success rate is ninth.
NMU posted 16 blocked shots in the victory, led by freshman Mike Van Unen who boasted three on the night.
Loughran led the team in shots on net, finding the back of the net on half his attempts (four).
The Wildcats and Falcons return to action Saturday evening in Bowling Green, Ohio to conclude their regular season series.
NMU will then home to the Berry Events Center on January 10-11 when they host Alaska Anchorage before consecutive road trips to round out the month of January.