MARQUETTE - Four times Northern Michigan University senior forward Matt Thurber skated in on Ferris State University sophomore goaltender CJ Motte on Friday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
Four times Thurber came up empty, often squaring the Bulldogs' goaltender right in the eyes from the sophomore's doorstep.
"I couldn't buy a goal tonight," Thurber said. "I had the chances. I just couldn't capitalize on them."
All Thurber needed was to convert once to make a difference, but he didn't and the Wildcats fell further behind in the race for home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, losing 3-1 with the Bulldogs final goal finding an empty net.
Thurber leads NMU in scoring with 23 points off of 20 assists, but only three goals. He finished Friday with five unsuccessful shots on the FSU net while his linemates, sophomore Reed Seckel and junior Kory Kaunisto, failed to register a single shot on goal.
According to NMU head coach Walt Kyle, that's not good enough.
Northern Michigan University’s Jake Baker (23) and Jake Johnson (16) battle Ferris State's Justin Buzzeo for the puck during the first period at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Friday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"(Thurber) had those great chances and they didn't go in, but he also let his guy go on the game-winning goal," Kyle said. "He's got to be better there. He knows it.
"Thurber's line has got to produce."
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead via a power play goal by Brandon Anselmini 10:42 into the first period and an even-strength goal by Kyle Bonis 7:54 into the second.
Ferris State 3, NMU 1
Ferris State1 1 1 - 3
Northern Michigan0 0 1 - 1
First period - 1, FSU, Brandon Anselmini/4 (Eric Alexander/4, Simon Denis/12) 10:42 (pp). Penalties - Ryan Aynsley, NMU (cross-checking) 8:54.
Second period - 2, FSU, Kyle Bonis/15 (Simon Denis/13, Travis Ouellette/12) 7:54. Penalties - Travis White, FSU (cross-checking) 12:49; Nate Milam, FSU (tripping) 16:25; Darren Nowick, NMU (slashing) 19:00.
Third period - 3, NMU, Ryan Aynsley/3 (Ryan Daugherty/5, Stephan Vigier/12) 8:18. 4, FSU, Travis Ouellette/9 19:49 (empty net). Penalties - Reed Seckel, NMU (roughing atw) 4:55; Zach Dorer, FSU (roughing atw) 4:55.
Shots on goal: FSU 11-5-2 18; NMU 9-7-8 24.
Power plays: FSU 1 of 2; NMU 0 of 2.
Penalties: FSU 3 (6 min); NMU 3 (6 min).
Goalies: FSU, CJ Motte 13-10-4 (59:55 minutes, 24 shots-23 saves); NMU, Jared Coreau 11-13-4 (59:08, 17-15).
NMU freshman forward Ryan Aynsley cut the Bulldogs' lead in half 8:18 into the third period with assists from linemates Ryan Daugherty, a sophomore, and Stephan Vigier, a junior.
"(Ferris) missed the net wide, we came up the ice and I moved it to Vigier," Daugherty said, breaking down the score. "We tried to get a shot, Aynsley was driving the net hard. I slid it across to him.
"That's where you score the goals, right in front of the crease."
The Wildcats outshot the Bulldogs 24-18 with Coreau only making 15 saves on 17 shots faced.
Motte finished with 23 saves on 24 shots, with three saves coming against Thurber. The FSU netminder was assisted by a post on the senior Wildcats' fourth attempt in the third.
An official review verified Thurber's shot didn't cross the goal line despite having Motte caught on the opposite side of the net.
"The first one he got a stick on me so that was tough luck right there," Thurber said. "The one in the third, it hit the post, went between his legs right on the goal line.
"He made a nice save on me in the second period when they turned the puck over and went in. He made a nice glove save. Unlucky bounces tonight. Hopefully tomorrow they'll go in."
The Wildcats (11-13-4 overall, 5-12-4 in CCHA) with 20 points will remain in 10th place in the CCHA no matter what happens against the Bulldogs (14-11-4, 13-9-2) during tonight's Pink Wave at 7:35 p.m. at the Berry Events Center.
Last-place Michigan State, which hosts NMU next weekend, is unable to catch NMU on Saturday following a 2-1 loss at Bowling Green. The Falcons, who host Northern in two weeks, moved into seventh place with 28 points.
Michigan remains five points up on Northern in ninth place with 25 points. Lake Superior State, which is off this weekend, fell from seventh to eighth with 26 points.
"I thought it was a good effort," Kyle said. "It's easy to sit in here and get mad when you lose. You are never happy doing that, but I try to judge guys on our quality of play.
"We had some great Grade As. We had Thurber in two or three times all alone; Vigier with a one-time in the slot; Seckel missed one late on a tip-in in front of an empty net. We had some opportunities we didn't capitalize on."
NOTES: NMU junior forward and traditional linemate of Thurber and Seckel, Erik Higby, missed Friday night's game due to injury and tonight, Kyle said NMU could be without freshman forward Cohen Adair, who got injured on Friday. ... Both teams had two power play opportunities with Ferris scoring once on the advantage. NMU only mustered one shot on the power play. ... Each team was called for three penalties for six minutes. ... FSU senior Travis Ouellette scored the empty net goal with 11 seconds to play from nearly 150 feet away.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens