The NMU hockey team will look to extend its recent hot streak as the Bowling Green Falcons head to Marquette this weekend for a two-game series.
The Wildcats are coming off of last weekend’s road sweep of the Western Michigan Broncos. The ‘Cats beat the Broncos 6-5 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday.
Head coach Walt Kyle said it was good for his team to pick up the road wins.
“It felt good – good to get the points and good to get the wins on the road,” Kyle said. “But now we’ve got to come back and keep taking care of business.”
Kyle said despite scoring six goals, his team did not perform as well as they could have in Friday night’s contest. The group turned in a better performance on Saturday.
“We didn’t feel we generally played as well as we could have. We wanted to turn the game into one we felt comfortable with, and I think we did that on Saturday,” Kyle said. “I thought it was much more our type of game the second night.”
Sophomore Mark Olver picked up four points on one goal and three assists in Friday’s game. He added another goal in Saturday’s game. Afterward, Olver was modest about his weekend.
“I did all right,” Olver said. “We had a good power play with (Erik) Gustafsson, myself and (Gregor) Hanson, and when you get a good powerplay clicking, it’s easy to get points.”
Olver now has nine goals and 12 assists on the year. Olver also was named the CCHA player of the month for January.
One area where Kyle said the team made progress this weekend was its performance in the power play. After struggling for much of the year on the power play, the team converted on three of its eight chances Friday night, and had one goal just after another power play had ended.
With last weekend’s sweep the team has gone 6-1-1 in the last eight games to improve to 9-13-4 for the season. Kyle attributed the turn around to better offensive play.
“We really struggled to score generally in the first half,” he said. “We’ve picked it up offensively and now we just need to continue to grow and mature on defense as well.”
Phil Fox said he felt the team had readjusted its attitude in the second half of the season, and this was the reason for the turnaround.
“I’d say our attitude (is the biggest change). In the first half we weren’t scoring nearly as much and we were losing games by one or two goals,” he said. “This half we’ve got our minds set that no matter how many goals we are down we’re going to come back and play as hard as we can.”
Fox said if the team can stay focused on these things, he thinks they can continue having successful weekends.
“We just have to keep focused and keep doing the little things right. Right now we have momentum and are playing good hockey, we’ve got to work on some little things and just tighten up and get ready for the playoffs,” Fox added.
This coming Friday and Saturday Northern will host a home series against CCHA foe Bowling Green. Currently Northern sits in ninth place in the CCHA, while Bowling Green is in 11th.
When the two teams met earlier this season, Bowling Green swept Northern. Kyle said this would give him a chance to evaluate his own team.
“They’re a team that beat us twice earlier in the year,” he said. “So, we are going to have a real measuring stick for ourselves and how far we’ve come.”
Kyle also spoke of the Falcons’ athletic play.
“They’re really fast; they play hard; they are solid in goal. They’re a very similar team to Western Michigan, so we are going to have our hands full,” he said.
Olver said he thought momentum would help the ‘Cats out this weekend.
“We’ve got the momentum and are on a roll right now,” Olver said. “They did sweep us earlier in the year, so maybe we’re looking for a little revenge, but we’ll see how the weekend goes.”