Northview rode a sharp sibling connection and an opportunistic offense to blank Bowling Green in a district semifinal contest on Saturday night.
Senior Jacob Koback scored two first-period goals with both coming on assists from his junior brother Josh in the 3-0 shutout of the Bobcats.
The Wildcats advanced to the district championship game and avenged two regular-season losses to Bowling Green.
Senior Cody Estrel added a shorthanded goal in the second period at Tam-O-Shanter. Northview senior goalie David Marsh stopped 17 shots to get the shutout.
PHOTO GALLERY: Northview vs. Bowling Green hockey
Jacob Koback opened the scoring with a one timer on a pass from the side of the net by his brother just 2:12 into the game. He intercepted a pass near the BG blue line, skated in and blasted the puck by Bobcats goalie Tanner Fausnaugh (19 saves).
“He is my bro,” Jacob said. “We've been playing on the same line this year and that's a great feeling. He's a good player and he can set me up with some great goals.”
Estrel picked off a pass right in front of the Bowling Green net and got a quick shot off. Fausnaugh stopped it but could not find the rebound and Estrel scored the shorthanded goal for a 3-0 lead with 4:22 left in the second period.
The Wildcats converted two Bobcats turnovers into instant goals.
“You have to be opportunistic in playoff hockey,” Northview coach Mike Jones said. “It's finding a hole and capitalizing on the hole and we did a good job of that.”
Northview (17-14-1) advances to face St. John's Jesuit in the district final.
Bowling Green (19-10-1), which was ranked No. 9 in the final coaches poll, had defeated the Wildcats twice during the regular season.
“The difference is that we executed the game plan,” Jones said. “The first two opportunities we had against Bowling Green, it was their way. We told the kids … to follow the plan. And if you don't the two losses is the result.”
The Wildcats also killed off five BG power plays.
Marsh made seven saves in the first period, six in the second, and four in the third.
“We came out hard from the very beginning and we got that early one-goal lead and that helped me relax a bit,” Marsh said. “It's absolutely phenomenal to play with my boys. And to get a shutout on top of that is pretty cool. We battled and I was confident in our abilities. Our defense has been played well for me all year. I'm very proud of them.”
Estrel had an assist on the second goal and Troy Greer had an assist on the first.
“I read the pass and just took it and shot it,” Koback said of his second goal. “The two times we played them before we weren't playing the way we should be playing.”
The Bobcats had beaten the Wildcats twice this month. BG defeated Northview 2-1 in overtime on Feb. 1 and took a 3-2 win on Feb. 8.
Jones said to beat the same team three times in one season is “an incredibly tough road to climb.”
“When we popped in an early one, their hearts sunk a little bit. And then we popped another one … and fortunately we got the shorthanded goal,” he said.
Jones said BG coach Dan DeWitt was voted the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division coach of the year for a reason.
“He has put together a heck of a product and has done a great job,” Jones said.
Northview is looking to make a third straight trip to the state finals. The Wildcats take on No. 2 ranked St. John's (22-7-5) next Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We're incredibly excited,” Jones said. “I'm proud of these kids. We've battled through a .500 year and we've had plenty of peaks and valleys and probably more valleys than peaks. They are working and buying in and all we can do is to come out next Saturday night and be good enough to compete.”
Northview won the first state title in school history in 2012 and made it back to the finals last season.
“Our team's goal has been to go to the district final and we want to play St. John's so bad,” Koback said.