MARQUETTE - Despite getting outshot 44-24 on Friday night in front of 2,268 fans at the Berry Events Center, the Northern Michigan University hockey team saw its best scoring opportunities repeatedly denied by Miami goaltender Jay Williams.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats' improbable chances - those that had no business reaching the scoreboard - seemed to somehow find the back of the net while NMU junior goaltender Jared Coreau stopped almost everything thrown his way.
Coreau stopped a season-high 43 shots and his forwards scored a pair of head-scratching goals for a 2-1 CCHA victory over No. 6 Miami.
Game 4 of the regular season series - the RedHawks (12-5-4 overall, 8-4-3 in CCHA) beat the Wildcats (9-10-3 overall, 3-9-3 in CCHA) in regulation and in a shootout back in November at Miami - is set for tonight at 7:35 p.m. at the Berry Events Center.
"We were opportunistic in our scoring," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "Jared was really good and we caught some breaks.
"We had some chances, but they had more and they had some better ones."
Northern Michigan's Erik Higby (26) pushes the puck up ice pursued closely by Miami's Alex Wideman and Sean Kuraly during the first period at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Friday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Freshman forward Darren Nowick scored his third career goal with an assist from Coreau to give Northern a 2-1 lead 3:06 into the third period, and it wasn't even his best scoring chance of the night.
Nowick's best opportunity came in the first period on the doorstep of Williams, but he came up up empty.
In the third period, Nowick passed up a chance to dish to trailing sophomore forward DJ Vandercook and instead, chucked the puck top shelf over the shoulder of Williams, finding the inside of the far post's twine from the end line.
NMU 2, No. 6 Miami 1
Miami 0 1 0 - 1
NMU 0 1 1 - 2
1, MIA, Austin Czarnik/8 (Curtis McKenzie/8, Taylor Richart/3) 4:44. 2, NMU, Stephan Vigier/4 (Justin Rose/5, Ryan Daugherty/4) 7:55 (pp).
3, NMU, Darren Nowick/3 (Jared Coreau/1) 3:06.
Shots on goal - MIA 12-12-20 44; NMU 7-9-8 24.
Power plays - MIA 0 of 5; NMU 1 of 2.
Penalties - MIA 3 (6 min); NMU 6 (12 min).
Goalies - MIA, Jay Williams 9-3-3 (59:19 minutes, 24 shots-22 saves); NMU, Jared Coreau 9-10-3 (60:00, 44-43).
Nowick knew it was an improbable shot, but took it anyways.
"I saw the goalie cheating pretty bad, so I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Nowick said. "It went in.
"The D was starting to fall down to block the pass. I figured I'd try it out and it worked."
Both teams first got on the board in the second period with Miami scoring a highlight reel goal, and NMU needing a replay to overturn what was originally not a goal.
The RedHawks took a 1-0 lead 4:44 into the second after senior forward Curtis McKenzie fired a quick pass from behind the NMU goal to sophomore forward Austin Czarnik, who bounced a one-timer off the back of the netting.
NMU found the back of the Miami net 7:55 into the second period on the power play when junior Stephan Vigier stuffed a puck past a tackled Williams.
The goal was originally waved off because the puck was out of the net and Williams was on his back, but since the interference penalty by Miami senior defendeman Steven Spinell put Williams on his back, CCHA officials Barry Pochmara and Rodney Tocco reversed the call, tying the game at 1-1.
"I thought that was a really good call for them to look at it," Kyle said. "I haven't seen it yet, but our guys came back and said, 'That was in, that was a goal. They're guy reached in and pulled it out.'
"When you go back and watch the video, you can see the guy kick it out. Now I haven't seen the overhead, but obviously the officials did."
Coreau's new season high for saves came six days after making 37 stops in a 2-1 win at St. Cloud State.
His previous high this season was 38 in 4-2 loss at Ohio State on Nov. 17.
Coreau was forced to withstand a pair of Miami attacks in the final seconds of the first and second periods, then stopped 20 shots in the third period, including a final desperation attempt by Miami at the buzzer.
"I'm thankful for the guys scoring two goals," Coreau said. "That's all we needed and we got the win, so it's good for all the right reasons."
NOTES: Coreau's career-high for saves in a game is 51 at Notre Dame on Dec. 11, 2010, his freshman year. ... His season-high a year ago was 40 at Miami on Jan. 27, 2012. ... Justin Rose and Ryan Daugherty were each credited with assists on Vigier's goal. ... NMU finished 1-2 on the power play with both chances coming back-to-back midway through the season period. ... The 'Cats killed all five of Miami's advantages, though the RedHawks did generate 13 power play shots on goal. ... NMU has moved into a three-way tie for ninth place in the CCHA with Bowling Green and Michigan State, who all have 13 league points.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.