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Northwestern ties Indiana, needs help to repeat as Big Ten champs

by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

Player of the game: NU goalkeeper Tyler Miller gave up a goal early in the game, but he came back to save the match for the Wildcats on several occasions, preserving a 1-1 tie in two overtimes against No. 22 Indiana on Thursday night. The sophomore finished the night with six saves, including a huge one in the waning seconds of the second overtime period, when Indiana forward Eriq Zavaleta had a shot less than a yard from the goal. Miller got in front of the shot, then got some help from defender Scott Lakin to clear the rebound off the goal line and preserve the tie. “I thought (Miller) was phenomenal tonight, just the way he managed that game,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “Plus tonight he was forced to make a couple big saves and he did that. It’s good to have the best goalie in the conference on our side. He’s played well all year but tonight I thought he was exceptional.”

Game-changer: Forward Joey Calistri took a glancing pass off of Eric Weberman’s head, trapped it with his back facing the goal, turned away from goalie and shot to the upper left corner of the open net, tying the game at 1-1 seven minutes into the second half. “That’s a big moment for him,” Lenahan said. “That’s his first Big Ten goal, and for it to come when it did was great for us.” Calistri’s seventh goal of the season, the game-tier was only NU’s second shot of the game after being shut out of the shot column in the first half. “It’s a huge field, (and) they have a ton of future professional players so it took us a little bit to figure out their scheme,” Lenahan said. “So we had to change some things from the way we do things to negate them and put them on their heels a little bit.”

Stat of the game: The Cats played their fourth straight overtime game and their ninth overtime game of the season, setting a new school record. NU is 3-2-4 in overtime games this season. “It takes a lot out of you,” Lenahan said. “We have six days to recover and everybody else plays this weekend so that’s the one good side is that the other teams play Saturday and Sunday so we’ll have two days additional rest. I’d prefer to win in regulation if we could do that.”

What it means: As of Thursday night, NU (10-4-4, 3-1-2 Big Ten) is tied with Penn State (9-4-3, 3-1-2) for the Big Ten title, with 11 points apiece. The Cats need Michigan State (8-8-1, 3-2-0), who has nine points, to lose to Michigan (7-8-1, 2-2-1) on Saturday to keep their share of the title.

What’s next: The Big Ten Tournament kicks off in Evanston next Wednesday. The Cats will have to wait until Sunday to find out who they will play, which will depend on the results of this weekend’s final Big Ten regular season games. “The next two days, our focal points are getting everybody recharged and rejuvenated from the very grueling 18-game schedule,” Lenahan said. “If you count all of our overtime games, we’ve played really two extra games in there, so that’s the first thing. Then we’ll see who we match up with and try and work on some things so we can try to be a good tournament team.”