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Northern Michigan retains scoring binge as most top teams prevail in CCHA quarterfinal openers

Michigan Tech's Blake Pietila slams door for 10th time this season while Minnesota State comes out firing in Friday night's matchups

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Ferris State sophomore forward Bradley Marek (10) and Bowling Green junior forward Seth Fyten (21) lock up during the game Friday, March 3, 2023 at Slater Family Ice Arena in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Contributed / Daniel Carlson / BGSU Athletics

Three of the top four seeded teams in the CCHA won Friday night, including last year’s NCAA runner-up Minnesota State and red-hot Northern Michigan. Michigan Tech and St. Thomas battled to the finish while Ferris State got back on track with a win over Bowling Green in these Mason Cup best-of-three playoff series.

All series continue Saturday night with the if-necessary games on Sunday.

Getting offensive

Freshman Joey Larson had a pair of goals, including the eventual game-winner on the power play, and Michael Conella also scored twice as Northern Michigan erupted with a four-goal third period to put away Bemidji State 7-3 on Friday night.

For Larson, he notched his 12th and 13th goals of the season and is just one goal behind senior David Keefer for the team lead. Larson now has seven points in his last six games.

The Wildcats are on an offensive tear like no other team in the conference, scoring four or more goals in its five-game winning streak.


Rylan Van Unen scored his third of the season and has three goals in his last five contests for the Wildcats and twin Michael Van Unen added an empty-netter for his second goal in the last three games.

Nardecchia spoils Bowling Green’s comeback

Sophomore forward Nick Nardecchia’s overtime goal carried Ferris State past Bowling Green in the night’s only win for lower-seeded teams. The 4-3 win erased a late comeback when Falcons senior forward Taylor Schneider scored with the extra attacker at the 18:38 mark of the third period.

But first, Ferris State had to launch a comeback of its own.

Freshman Dalton Norris scored his second of the season on the power play and sophomore Austen Swankler, the team leader in goals, scored four minutes later to put Bowling Green up 2-0 before the midway point of the first period.

"We knew we had to get the next goal and we did," Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said in postgame comments. "And then from there, the game settled down for us."

Freshman forward Jacob Badal's first goal of the season late in the first period helped spark a three-goal surge by Ferris State before Schneider's game-tying goal.

The win put a stop to the Bulldogs’ five-game skid and kept Bowling Green on its own slide, as the Falcons have won just one game in regulation in their past eight contests.

Bowling Green has the third slot in the conference tournament and Ferris was sixth.


Strong start for Mavericks

The defending Mason Cup champion got off to a quick start as top-seeded Minnesota State wasted no time getting out front of Lake Superior State. Junior forward David Silye scored just over three minutes into the game and after the Lakers pulled within 2-1 early in the second period, junior defenseman Akito Hirose padded the Mavericks’ lead 44 seconds later.

Minnesota State’s 6-1 victory improved its overall mark against the Lakers to 29-4-1.

Sophomore goaltender Keenan Rancier, who is second in the nation in goals against average at 1.83, stopped 18 shots. The Mavericks had a 32-19 edge in shots on goal.

Goaltender battle

With a 1-0 victory over St. Thomas, Michigan Tech goaltender Blake Pietila notched his nation-leading 10th shutout of the season. The senior stopped 30 shots, including 18 in the final period.

"I can't see anybody in the country being more valuable to the team," Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan told reporters after the game.

St. Thomas’ Aaron Trotter was equally impressive, finishing with 31 saves. Junior defenseman Brett Thorne’s backdoor tap-in off a pass from Jed Pietila midway through the third period was the only puck to get past the freshman netminder.

Shawhan said some momentum swung the Tigers' way when the Tommies lost time on the power-play when they got called for goaltender interference and it went to 4-on-4 hockey, leading to Thorne's goal.

"I thought Jed made a great play," Shawhan said.


For Thorne, it was his third goal of the season and first since Dec. 28 when the game-tying goal late in the third period in an eventual 3-2 overtime win over Michigan State.

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The finish conjured memories of the 2019 WCHA title game in which MSU came back against Bowling Green, scoring two extra-attacker goals in the final 1:44 before winning 97 seconds into overtime.
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Wildcats will play for playoff championship and an automatic berth into NCAA tournament next weekend.

Rob Beer is the digital content manager for Forum Communications. A journalist with Forum Communications since 1991, he is the editor of The Rink Live and helps cover the CCHA. He also assists with other content produced by Forum Communications.
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