The Northern Michigan Wildcats picked up their third sweep of the season in thrilling fashion on Saturday with a 4-3 overtime victory over the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
Just one night after a 6-4 drubbing of the Mavericks, the ‘Cats came back from a 3-1 deficit to get the win.
“On Saturday, the good news was that we were able to be resilient,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said.
“We continued to work and to grind and to play from behind and I think that was really, really important for us and I was very pleased.”
The win locked up a home series for NMU in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Playoffs. On the weekend, NMU also tied their overall win total from last season and scored 10 goals for the first time since November 2005. Six different Wildcats scored goals during the series.
“You don’t really think about it much, but, looking back on the weekend, it’s good to get goals and to get guys feeling good,” senior NMU forward Matt Siddall said. “We have three or four spread out, really strong lines and every night someone new is contributing. That’s what we need.”
Siddall had three goals and two assists against the Mavericks, was the first star each night and was honored as the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Offensive Player of the Week. Freshman forwards Mark Olver and Jared Brown also stepped up offensively, as each scored two goals during the weekend.
“[The offense] was good, but we can’t expect that all the time,” Kyle said. “We were able to convert on some of our scoring chances, but I don’t predict that we’re going to score six goals or four goals on a ton of nights.”
Saturday night was also Senior Night in the Berry Events Center and the evening belonged to Siddall and his fellow seniors, forward Andrew Sarauer and defenseman Blake Cosgrove. All three were on the ice for the start of the game.
Siddall said that he recalls past Senior Nights, but that it was strange to be honored on Saturday.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” he said. “You just remember every other year, sitting on the bench and watching the guys skate out and you don’t really think, ‘Man, that’s going to be me one day.’ The time definitely flew and it was pretty amazing.”
According to Kyle, the hockey program has a saying: Tradition never graduates. And while the trio of seniors will be leaving the Berry Events center ice for the last time in just a couple of weeks, the coach said that those players will always be a part of NMU hockey history.
“When we recruit guys, we always put an emphasis on character and the kind of people that we bring in,” Kyle said. “These guys certainly all have contributed to the program in some fashion and they all continue to be a part of what we’re doing, but they all are the kind of people that we want to come out of the program.”
As the Wildcats prepare for the final series of the regular season-a home-and-home matchup with the Lake Superior State Lakers-they are one of the hottest teams in the conference.
NMU had a tough schedule to open the season and by Nov. 10 the ‘Cats had accumulated a 0-7 record in the CCHA. Since that day, the Wildcats are 12-5-2 in the conference and are just one of four CCHA teams-including Michigan, Michigan State and Miami-to win more than 10 conference games in that span.
“That is impressive to me,” said Kyle, who added that the early part of the year was spent trying to give valuable ice time to the younger players.
“When you’re 0-7 in the league, guys are hearing some things around campus and around town that they don’t like to hear,” he said. “I give these guys a ton of credit for hanging in there and growing and developing. They’ve had an exceptionally strong finish since that point and we hope that we can continue to go with it.”