MARQUETTE - For the second night in a row, the Northern Michigan University hockey team watched the University of Michigan carve away at it's 4-1 third period lead.
Only this time, the Wolverines were unable to bury the game-tying goal.
The No. 8 Wolverines had the game tying goal sitting on their stick, but couldn't get the puck past the masses that protected NMU junior Jared Coreau, allowing No. 20 Northern to hold on for a 4-3 CCHA victory over Michigan on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 4,260 at the Berry Events Center.
"You can't let them breath," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said about the Wolverines. "We let them crawl back into it with a bad penalty and then a tough break along the wall. I thought we played much better tonight than we did last night, certainly better five on five."
NMU sophomore Reed Seckel made a surprise return to the NMU (4-3-1 overall, 1-2-1 in CCHA) lineup less than 24 hours after taking a shot to the head from Michigan's Jacob Trouba. Seckel was knocked out of the game - though he would return to the bench to watch NMU lose the shootout - while Trouba was tossed and suspended for Saturday's series finale, leaving Michigan (3-3-1 overall, 1-2-1 in CCHA) with only five defenders to rotate in front of freshman goaltender Steve Racine.
"That was an incredible hit," Kyle said. "Doc told me last night that he thought (Seckel) was OK last night right after the injury. We wanted to give him a little bit of time right after the injury to re-evaluate it.
"(Seckel) was adamant he wanted to play. I told him today he was adamant if he had his throat slit."
Seckel was the first one circling the BEC concourse in a pregame run and the first one to find the back of the net, unassisted, giving NMU a 1-0 lead 4:04 into the game after forcing a Michigan turnover in the neutral zone and putting away his own rebound against Racine.
He then backhanded another goal past Racine in the second period for a 4-1 NMU advantage with assists from sophomore forward Ryan Duagherty and junior forward Stephan Vigier.
"I was just happy to be able to play," Seckel said. "I don't like sitting here and watching the game at home, especially versus Michigan. I was just excited to be out there and playing tonight."
NMU senior defenseman Scott Macaulay triple deked Racine at close range to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead 16:29 into the first period with assists from freshman forward Justin Rose and senior forward Matt Thurber.
Rose and Thurber assisted on the Wildcats third goal as well when freshman forward Cohen Adair banked in his team-high fifth goal of the season before the Michigan net was dislodged 5:54 into the second period to put NMU up 3-0.
That margin was cut to two with a goal by Michigan senior forward Kevin Lynch at 7:37 of the second, before Seckel struck again.
"We gave up two goals in the first period too easily," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "And then I thought in the third period, when the game was on the line, (Racine) gave us a chance. They had some better chances in the third than they did in the first, so good for him."
The Wolverines, who rallied from three goals down in the third period on Friday to tie, picked up two goals from senior forward A.J. Treais and junior defenseman Mac Bennett within 46 seconds of each other in the third to pull within one with just over eight minutes to play.
Just like Friday, Michigan was able to crash the Wildcat net in the closing seconds, but the wide open look Treais had the night before never presented itself.
The officials even threw an extra 1.8 seconds on the clock after ruling the horn sounded prematurely during a scuffle between Northern's Macaulay and Wade Epp, plus Michigan's Alex Guptill and Lindsay Sparks.
"We were definitely nervous last night and fell apart," said NMU senior Matt Thurber, who had two assists. "The leadership on our team is pretty good. We brought everyone together and made sure nothing else happened. We stopped it when it started and kept pressing on."
Coreau finished with 26 saves for Northern, which will be in Ohio the next two weekends playing at Miami Nov. 9-10 and Ohio State on Nov. 16-17 before returning home Thanksgiving weekend to host the Alaska Nanooks.