‘Cats take three to advance in playoffs


The Northern Michigan University hockey team advanced to the quarterfinals of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Playoffs on Sunday night after downing the Ohio State Buckeyes 6-1 in game three of a best-of-three first-round matchup in Marquette.

“What can you say? We came out with a game plan and wanted to play 60 hard minutes of hockey and that’s what we did,” senior forward Matt Siddall said after Sunday’s contest. “Everybody throughout the lineup brought everything they had and that’s all you can ask.”

Northern lost game one by a score of 4-3, but evened the series after a 4-2 victory on Saturday night.

In the game that mattered most-Sunday’s elimination gamethe ‘Cats (17-18-4 overall, 12-13-3 CCHA) took control and sent the Ohio State team (12-25-4, 7-18-3) packing.

“Early on Sunday, we had to weather the storm a little bit when they came at us with some hard forechecking,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “(Sophomore goalie Brian) Stewart was very good and Ohio State was pressing so hard that they created a number of really good opportunities that we were able to take advantage of. I was real happy with the effort, but our team has been like that all year. There is not a lot of quit in those guys.”

The series marked the second time in as many years that the Wildcats played Ohio State in the first round of CCHA play, dropped the first game and fought back to win the series.

A major contributing factor to the Wildcats’ series victory was the play in Sunday’s third period, when they outscored the Buckeyes 4-1.

“We’ve talked all year about winning games in the third period and winning playoff series late,” Kyle said. “We lost the first game and a lot of times, a young team would fold under that. These guys didn’t.”

One of those young players, freshman forward Mark Olver, stepped up in a big way. After struggling a bit on Friday night, Olver had a solid weekend and finished with three goals and an assist in the three game series against Ohio State.

“In my opinion, Mark has certainly developed into one of the top players in the league right now,” Kyle said of his star freshman. “And when we get involved in a three-game playoff series, I expect Mark to be good every night. Friday may have been a down game for him, but it certainly wasn’t a bad game and in the next two games, he rose up and played well.”

NMU’s goaltender, Stewart, may have been a bit off during Friday night’s loss, allowing four goals on just 18 shots. The netminder bounced back, however, and allowed just three goals in the next two games, despite facing 63 Buckeye shots.

“We know that we can trust our goalie,” Olver said. “He did have a shaky first game and we knew that wasn’t Brian Stewart. He’s a really good goalie and he proved it throughout the season and I’m pretty sure he is our most valuable player. He is just a great person and a great goaltender and we’re going to follow him as far we can.”

While the Buckeyes finished the season in the bottom third of the CCHA, Kyle viewed OSU as one of the most challenging possible first round opponents and was pleased with his team’s efforts.

“I thought we needed to play a good opponent in this round to get better and to get more playoff ready,” he said. “We know that as we go deeper in the playoffs, we’re going to play better opponents. Coming out of that series, I was happy with not only the win, but with our team’s growth through the series.”