Well we got the split! This was kind of a weird hockey game. Michigan outplayed the Wildcats in the first period but found themselves tied 0-0 after one. Then they hit NMU with 2 quick goals at the start of the second before the Wildcats started to come on. NMU got back within one on a goal that was apparently very similar to the one that we had last night that got waived off. We hit them with two more quick goals in the middle of the third to go up 4-1, but after a softie, NMU got some life and we had to hold on for the win.
Hogan was pretty fantastic for most of the game. He made some HUGE stops right out of the gate and absolutely robbed Sirota after we got up 2-0. The second Wildcat goal was terrible* and it gave them life in a game that was pretty much over. Then we started scrambling around and they were able to knock in another one that I don't think was his fault. He had a lot of help from the iron tonight. NMU hit at least 3 goal posts, including one with about 45 seconds left that would have tied the game, but total of bars could have been as many as 5-6. Still, he kept us in the game in the early going. If NMU jumped out by a goal or two, it could have been a different game.
*At least I think it was terrible. The B2TV camera was to the left of center ice a little bit and that goal went in on the far net. If it went 5 hole like I think it did, it was a terrible goal. If they guy put it up under the bar, it's hard to blame Hogan for it.
I didn't see the 2nd or 4th goals--I kept looking up at the Wings game at the exact wrong time--and there weren't replays, but it sounded like all our goals tonight were the result of some really hard work down low. The first one was Rust knocking one in at the front of the net, Fardig scored after we cycled for a little bit, the third goal was Rust jabbing in a rebound and the announcer said Palushaj's goal was a carbon-copy of the third one, so I assume he was at the front of the net as well.
The power play is doing everything but putting the puck in the net. The goals are going to come. They weren't always great tonight, but they had a couple of really good power play opportunities. Missed open nets, posts, beautiful tips that go just wide. They're going to be ok, just a little snakebit right now. They're sitting at 1 for 33 on the season now. You gotta believe that's going to turn around sooner rather than later.
On the other side of the special teams, however, our penalty killing has been stellar. NMU was 0 for 9 on the PP tonight and the penalty killers were great. There were quite a few times where it was getting late in the PP and the Wildcats still hadn't had a shot on goal. The final stats aren't up yet, but I'm curious to see what their final PP shot total was.
Caporusso had some jump tonight. He had a pair of breakaways, one that he was stoned on and another where he drew a penalty shot. He also did a nice job when I saw him out there on the PK. He had our empty-netter about 15 seconds after the Wildcats nearly tied it, but rung one off the bar.
We won this game because our best players were our best players. Rust had a pair of goals, an assist, and was +4 on the night. Palushaj had the game winner, a trio of assists, and was +3. Hagelin had a playmaker as well and was +3. We're going to have to start getting a little more from the second and third lines moving forward.
All in all, not a bad weekend. We lost a game where nothing went right, and once the PP gets going that's a game we probably win. Then the offense broke out the next night and we salvaged the weekend. NMU is a good hockey team. To go up there on the big ice and come away with two points with all the adversity we've seen on the blueline is a successful weekend as far as I'm concerned. The Cats are one of the top 3-4 teams in the CCHA (since Miami sure as hell isn't right now). Road sweeps aren't easy when you're facing good hockey teams.
We probably aren't the second-best team in the country at this point (though #1 BC lost at Northeastern tonight), but I have to believe the goalies are going to raise each other's games, and once our power play gets going, we're going to be just fine. And the power play will get going.
Next week we have a rematch against our first-round opponent from the tournament last year, Niagara (on Thursday) and a road game Saturday against BU, who is off to a 3-0 start with wins over NoDak, MSU, and Merrimack. Should be a fun one.