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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Megan Poe
Opinion Editor

My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan Poe April 12, 2024

Wildcat superstar skates toward national accolades during ’07 season

On the frosty and secluded shores of Lake Superior, Marquette annually experiences long winters and even longer hockey seasons. But this season, in the quiet town where college hockey never truly stops, one player is flying high and staying just below the radar.

Meet Mike Santorelli. From Burnaby, British Columbia, he is a 6-foot, 190 pound forward who came to Northern more than two seasons ago, fresh out of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). He was raw and unmolded, looking to mature and searching for his identity.

If you ask anyone connected with NMU hockey about Mike today, they will all tell you the same thing. He is a hard worker that leads by example and cares about everyone in the locker room. He is a modest guy who keeps to himself, a team player that is all smiles.

They will go on to tell you how it has all finally come together for the junior and how, as of late, Mike has quietly become one of the top players in college hockey.

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“I just wanted to come out here this year and I wanted to work hard,” Mike says after stepping off the ice, nearly an hour after the end of a team practice. “After last year, I talked with the coaches about what I needed to work on. I’m starting to pick it up now and I’m starting to produce some more offense.”

In his third season at Northern, Mike has certainly had more than enough offensive production. In just 34 games, he has amassed 26 goals and 16 assists. His 42 points are a personal best for his time at NMU and his goal total is good for first place in the CCHA and second in the nation.

The 26 markers also account for 33 percent of NMU’s season total.

“He’s our MVP,” NMU captain Pat Bateman says of Mike. “He always scores timely goals and he takes the burden off of everyone else. We need Mike going every night or we could be in trouble.”

Mike established his scoring prowess early in his career as a youngster in the BCHL. In 120 games with the Langley Hornets and Vernon Vipers, he gathered 67 goals and 81 assists.

His presence as an offensive force didn’t skip a beat when he arrived at NMU the next season. In his first two seasons, Mike started all 80 games while racking up 31 goals and 63 total points.

Despite his history, no one expected him to progress to the point that he has this year.

“You can never project success to this extent, but Mike’s first couple of years here showed that he can score goals,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle says. “Usually by the time a guy is a junior in college he shows what he is going to do offensively and we felt that Mike was going to come in and be a potential 25 goal-scorer this year. It looks like he [has] certainly exceeded that.”

The 21-year-old spent the off-season conditioning and says there is at least one aspect of his game that has vastly improved.

“My speed has gone way up since last year and that’s the main thing that I focused on this past summer,” he says. “I worked on it a lot and I think that has helped me out the most.”

According to his teammates, however, the biggest reason for the spike in Mike’s game may be due less to raw talent than to his uncompromising work ethic.

“Santorelli has always been a special player on the ice, and he is one of the hardest working guys that I’ve ever played with,” Bateman says after a mid-week practice. “Right now, he’s out on the ice shooting pucks. After that he’ll leave the ice and ride the bike. Then he’ll go lift weights. This was only a matter of time for him.”

It was only a matter of time for a player who is constantly working to improve himself, his game and his team. After assessing his play at the end of last season, Mike and his coaches decided that it would be to his benefit to work on the defensive aspect of his game.

Since that time, Mike has played numerous penalty killing shifts for the Wildcats, picking up an NCAA-best four short-handed goals in the process. He continues to hone his skills regularly in practice.

“I want to become a more all-around player and I haven’t really played any penalty kill until this year,” Mike says. “It’s a definite adjustment and there’s a lot to learn, but I’m glad I’m doing it. Ultimately, I have to play defense, too, and I’m starting to take pride in that.”

It seems that the only problem for a player like Mike may be that his quiet town and small school serve to prevent him from receiving recognition on a larger stage.

“Players get looked over all the time,” Bateman says. “We’re a small school here at Northern and it will just take a while before Mike starts to get the recognition that he deserves. He s a modest guy, though, and he doesn’t want that attention. Mike will deflect it.”

Mike hasn’t been swarmed by national media attention just yet, though.

The ‘Vote For Hobey’ list has now been released and allows fans to vote in order to select 10 Hobey Baker award finalists from a list of 40 candidates. The Hobey Baker is awarded to the top college hockey player at the conclusion of each season. Ten of the nation’s 13 most prolific goal-scorers are on the list. Mike is not.

The poll doesn’t mean much in the Wildcat locker room though.

“He’s my Hobey Baker candidate,” Bateman says. “I’m not even being biased. He is honestly the best player that I have seen this year.”

The coaching staff feels nearly the same about the subject.

“Mike is absolutely an all-league player and, in my opinion, he should be a strong consideration as an All-American and as a Hobey Baker candidate,” Kyle says. “He is having that kind of year and he is proving, night-in and night-out, that he is one of the best players in college hockey.”

While his teammates’ and coaches’ opinions may be strong, Mike just shrugs lightly and blows the whole subject of the award off with a content grin.

“I don’t know if I should be a candidate or not,” he says. “There are a lot of great players around college hockey and I just want to keep going out there and working hard. If people think I am, then they think I am.”

While he distances himself from any and all Hobey controversy, there is one question that Mike can’t seem to avoid: Will he return for his senior year?

After his breakout season, Mike, a 2004 draft pick of the Nashville Predators, may be looking at an opportunity to sign a pro-contract when all is said and done for the 06-07 season. But for now, the Wildcats have to worry about their current campaign.

“When the year is over that will all be determined, but Mike is going to, in my opinion, have an opportunity to sign if he wants,” Kyle says of Mike’s prospects. “The truth of the matter is that he can’t control that and he shouldn’t be thinking about that right now. What he can control is what kind of finish he has and what kind of finish our team has and that’s where Mike’s head is right now.”

After a mediocre year, the only way for the Wildcats (12-20-2 overall, 9-16-1 CCHA) to make the NCAA Tournament at this late stage is by winning the upcoming conference tournament, something that NMU hasn’t done since 1992, when they were a WCHA team.

The players know that it’s possible, but they must fire on all cylinders and come together as a team.

“Mike has definitely been our leader this year and he’s our main offensive player,” junior NMU forward Andrew Sarauer says. “We’d love to have him back [next year], but we’ve just got to look forward to the playoffs now and do what we can.”

When the first weekend of March rolls around, NMU will be in the first round of the CCHA Playoffs. They don’t yet know who they will face off against or where they will play, but they do know one thing for sure. They will need the assitance of Mike Santorelli. And he will be ready.

Editor’s note: This article initially ran in the February 15 issue under the headline “Keeping focused, despite success.”

Soon after, the tenth-seeded Wildcats fell to the Michigan Wolverines in the second round of the CCHA Tournament.

Mike finished the 2006-2007 hockey campaign with 30 goals in 41 games, a number that was good for third in the country.

He was a first team all-CCHA selection, as well as a second team all-American selection. Mike was also named to the 2006-2007 RBK Hockey West Team as a second team selection.

He is currently deciding whether he will return to NMU for his senior season or begin playing pro hockey next year.

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