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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.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Wanted: A ton of goals

The members of the Wildcat hockey team don’t have a lot to be happy about with the first half of the season.

And a lot of Northern’s problems have to do with the lack of scoring. Currently, only one team in the CCHA has less scoring on the season (Michigan State with 25) than Northern’s 26 goals, and the leading NMU goal scorer half-way through the season has only four goals. Additionally, they’re now without their starting goaltender, junior Brian Stewart, due to an injury, and in the last 11 games, have but one win.

But, despite all the numbers and statistics, if you ask head coach Walt Kyle, he’ll tell you the team hasn’t played that poorly.

“People probably want to string me up for saying this, but I have not been disappointed with our guys and our play,” Kyle said.

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Sophomore forward Greger Hanson, the team’s leading goal scorer and second-leading point man (4-4-8), agreed with his coach, that the team has been playing well, but added his frustration in not picking up the wins in the process.

“It’s good to know we’re in the games and that we can play good,” Hanson said. “We just need to learn how to execute and win games.”

Last weekend, the ‘Cats fell to Ferris State (7-6-3, 6-4-2 CCHA) twice, 6-4 Friday night and 2-1 on Saturday. Through the weekend, the Wildcats (3-10-1, 2-9-1 CCHA) let up 18 shots on goal Friday and 12 on Saturday, a total of only 30 shots. On average, the Wildcats allow only slightly less shots (28.7) in just one game.

“When you hold a team to 12 shots in a game, obviously you’d like to come out on top,” junior defensemen TJ Miller said. “All year, we’ve had trouble scoring. Once we get over that, we’ll be fine. It’s just finding a way to get the puck in the net, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

But, with 21 games remaining on the schedule, Kyle reiterated that there’s plenty of hockey yet to be played.

“We are really disappointed in where we are, but we are not rolling over,” he said. “It can change, it can change drastically.”

For a change to happen, it’s got to come soon. The end of the season marks the most difficult competition for NMU, with two of the final three series against No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 4 Miami, both on the road.

Sophomore forward Mark Olver, who picked up his first two goals of the year recently, said it’s going to take one big win to bring the Wildcats back.

“One win, and then it turns into three wins, and it turns into five wins. That’s really what we need,” he said. “You can’t just win seven games in a row, you’ve got to build off that first one.”

If there’s any shred of luck for Northern, it’s the fact that seven of the next nine games will be on the road, away from campus, and away from any outside opinions on the season. Kyle said the slate of games over the semester break will give the team a chance to get away from all of that.

“I think the guys feel the disappointment and the hardest thing when teams are going like this, is to keep them positive and to keep them understanding that, our job is to practice every day and get better and better,” Kyle said. “And these guys are doing a great job in that regard.”

On the road, the team hopes to come together and find a way to win.

“It’s always good to bond with the team and hang out and work on the things that we have to do to start winning,” Hanson said. “I think it’s just going to help us a lot.”

But, as of now, there’s only frustration.

“As frustrating as it is for me, it’s more frustrating for them,” Kyle said. “Because everybody has expectations, and obviously at this point, individual expectations aren’t getting met. It’s hard for them, but I give them credit, they’re hanging in there hard.”

According to Olver, it’s even more than frustration at this point.

“I don’t know if it’s frustration or anger, but I think there’s a little bit of sorrow, and then frustration probably comes in, and then pissed off comes in,” Olver said. “Which is a good thing, because I don’t think anyone wants to lose anymore.”

Things won’t be easy without Stewart in net. The junior was the CCHA goaltender of the week just three weeks ago, after their weekend with Bowling Green.

In his place is freshman goaltender Devan Hartigan.

“Stewie’s probably our most valuable player going into the season. To lose him, it’s difficult to replace,” Kyle said. “But Devan’s come in, and he’s worked at it.”

Kyle added that he was unsure on the date that Stewart would return to the lineup.

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