Big Rapids, Mich. – The NMU hockey team got down early and couldn’t bounce back in time, falling to Ferris State by a score of 5-2 in the first game of the weekend series in Big Rapids.

Beni Halasz was pulled six minutes into the game after conceding two goals on four shots, he was replaced by Rico DiMatteo who stopped 24-26 in relief. David Keefer scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season, Kristof Papp had a two-point night, and Andre Ghantous and AJ Vanderbeck both register assists.

The Bulldogs have now won four in a row after sweeping the nationally-ranked Minnesota State Mavericks last weekend. 11 different Bulldogs registered points, including multi-point evenings from Matt Slick and Antonio Venuto. Reigning CCHA goalie of the week Noah Giesbrecht made 27 saves on 29 shots.

How It Happened
The Bulldogs started the game hot. They opened the scoring on a breakaway with their second shot of the game, then minutes later a seeing-eye shot from the point found the back of the net. Starting goalie Beni Halasz was replaced by Rico DiMatteo 6:23 seconds into the game after conceding two goals on four shots.

The ‘Cats responded to the goalie replacement by generating some offense, recording the next five shots in a row and then had a power play opportunity. The team couldn’t get set up and the Bulldogs eventually killed it off.

Immediately after the power play ends, the ‘Cats get tagged for a penalty and shut the Bulldogs down. The Wildcats drew another call against Ferris, and generated much more dangerous chances, but failed to find the back of the net. The ‘Cats would take a penalty under a minute left and would start the second period short-handed.

The Wildcats out shot the Bulldogs 12-9 and had a wide edge in faceoffs and had a wide advantage in faceoffs with 20 to Ferris’ seven (7). Neither team converted on their two power play opportunities.

After killing the remainder of a penalty that carried over from the first period, David Keefer found the back of the net to give him his team-leading 11th goal of the season early into the second period off a slick feed from AJ Vanderbeck.

The Wildcats were then given a power play opportunity, though unable to convert, momentum seemed to be on their side after generating some good chances in the offensive zone. The penalty ended, and a seemingly harmless Ferris State shot from the point got deflected at the hashmarks and found the back of the net.

The ‘Cats would respond a minute later with a deflection of their own, as Andre Ghantous fired a shot from the left circle that Kristof Papp deflected at the far-side post to bring the Wildcats back to within one.

The Wildcats were tagged for a penalty, and the Bulldogs scored the games first power play goal off a one-timer from the right circle. The period would end with the ‘Cats down by two goals heading into the third.

Shots in the period were tied 11-11, faceoffs were 10-13 in favor of the Bulldogs, and NMU failed to convert on three power play attempts.
The Wildcats started the third on a power play that ultimately fell flat, and minutes later it appeared the Wildcats were on their way to another power play until Ferris challenged for a potential major penalty. After official review, NMU was given a 5 minute major for slew-footing.

The teams would skate four on four for two minutes, and the Wildcats generated a couple quality scoring chances with some extra room on the ice, but ultimately no goals to show for it. The ‘Cats would go on to kill the remaining three minutes of the major penalty.

Dimatteo had to stay sharp in efforts to keep his team in the game, making multiple saves from high-danger scoring areas to keep his team down by two. The ‘Cats were awarded a power play with just over two minutes to go and pulled the goalie to skate six-on-four. The Bulldogs would kill the penalty and score on the empty net to seal the deal.

Postgame Notes

  • Kristof Papp registered a goal and an assist for a two point outing, David Keefer scored his team-leading 11th goal.
  • The Bulldogs outshot the Wildcats 31-29.
  • The ‘Cats were dominant in the faceoff circle, going 40-27.
  • Wildcats were 6-7 on the penalty kill and 0-7 on the power play.
  • The Wildcats registered 27 penalty minutes to the Bulldogs 16.

Goal Summary
1st Period
2:56 – Tyler Schleppe (FSU, 0-1), assisted by Drew Cooper and Stepan Pokorny
6:23 – Matt Slick (FSU, 0-2), assisted by Ben Schultheis and Bradley Marek

2nd Period
1:23 – David Keefer (NMU, 1-2), assisted by AJ Vanderbeck and Kristof Papp
4:21 – Cade Kowalski (FSU, 1-3), assisted by Matt Slick and Zach Faremouth
5:30 – Kristof Papp (NMU, 2-3), assisted by Andre Ghantous
7:14 – Andrew Noel (PP FSU, 2-4), assisted by Blake Evennou and Antonio Venuto

3rd Period
19:37 – Antonio Venuto (ENG FSU, 2-5) Unassisted.

Up Next
The Wildcats will face-off against the Bulldogs for game two of the weekend series on December 10 at 6:07 PM.