MARQUETTE, Mich. -- In a defensive game for the ages, the Northern Michigan University hockey team skated to a 0-0 tie with their conference foe, Bowling Green State University.
Throughout the contest, the Wildcats held the advantage in shots, concluding the 65 minute game with a 38-36 edge. Rookie netminder Rico DiMatteo recorded his first career shutout between the pipes while posting a career-high 36 saves.
The two teams battled hard in the first as both squads looked to open the scoring but were denied every chance they got by the netminders on either end. NMU held a narrow shots on goal edge through the first 20 minutes, outshooting the Falcons 15-14 while DiMatteo stifled every shot he faced in the first.
The Wildcats continued to pepper the Bowling Green defense with shots through the second period of play as the Falcons blocked shot after shot, only allowing three NMU shots on net halfway through the period.
Despite being held to three shots, the Wildcat offense continued to control the puck in the BGSU zone as the Falcons saw just two looks at the Wildcat net nearly halfway through the period.
With NMU headed to the penalty kill at 12:43 of the middle frame, the Wildcats allowed just one shot on goal in the two minute span with the man-down as they continued to hold the shots on goal margin, 23-18, with both teams looking to light the lamp first.
After two periods of play and snake eyes still on the board, the Wildcats led shots on goal, 25-24, including two individuals with a team-best four shots in AJ Vanderbeck and Hank Sorensen.
Vanderbeck had one of the best looks of the night for NMU with just under eight minutes to play in the third as his shot, set up out front by Griffin Loughran, was denied by BGSU netminder Eric Dop.
With 3:30 left in the third period, DiMatteo continued to keep the Falcons out of the net, stopping a point-blank shot in the chest for his 31st save of the night. As the teams headed to the faceoff circle following the save, NMU held the advantage in shots, 32-31.
As a minute ticked off the scoreboard in overtime, DiMatteo made a huge pad save on a Falcons' breakaway opportunity to keep the game alive.
The Wildcats posted three shots on net following the save by DiMatteo but could not find twine with two minutes gone in the extra period of hockey.
Following another stellar save at the Wildcat end of the ice, Andre Ghantous looked to have a prime opportunity in the slot, picking up a pass from Mike Van Unen on the rush, but was tripped up by a BGSU defender and drew the penalty.
The Wildcats looked to have scored the game-winner at 3:19 of the overtime session but Loughran's tally was waved off due to a penalty called behind the net and the two teams continued to skate on, four a side.
The score remained tied, 0-0, through the end of overtime for the official NCAA recognized final. A shootout ensued as both sides looked to secure the extra point and take hold of second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
It took 10 skaters before anyone found twine as the goaltenders on both sides of the ice stood tall in net, proving nearly impossible to break.
Brandon Schultz broke the drought in the sixth round of the shootout as he skated the puck in front center ice, drawing the BGSU netminder off before sending the puck back between his legs for the backhand shot into the wide open net.
With the Wildcats shooting first, the Falcons had one more opportunity to extend the shootout but DiMatteo didn't take Collin's bait and made the pad save to secure the shootout win for his Wildcats.
The Wildcats and Falcons conclude their regular season series tomorrow afternoon with puck drop set for 4 p.m. ET inside the Berry Events Center.