Hockey ‘Cats get swept by Redhawks

trevor.pellerite

The NMU hockey team gave the visiting No. 1 Miami University Redhawks all they could handle last weekend, but were unable to come away with a win, losing by scores of 4-3 and 2-1. The two one-goal games drop the Wildcats to 1-4-1 overall and 0-2 CCHA.

Despite the losses, NMU head coach Walt Kyle was encouraged and pleased by what his team showed.

“I thought we played really well,” he said. “I was real happy with the weekend. Not happy with the result, but I really believe that if your quality of play is where it needs to be, your effort and your execution, then at some point you wind up getting a win.”

Friday’s game was scoreless until the second period, when the Redhawks tallied four goals past NMU netminder Brian Stewart. The ‘Cats put Reid Ellingson in goal for the third period and came roaring back into the game, but their comeback fell just short at three scores.

Kyle was pleased to see his team still going hard after falling behind 4-0.

“There was no sign of any quit,” he said. “They put the hammer down [and] were able to come back into that game.”

Junior forward Mark Olver said something clicked in the locker room after the second period.

“We were in a little desperation mode, [the] previous weekend we didn’t have a very good second or third period,” Olver said. “Things just clicked in the third period, we knew we had to get a couple goals or it’d start to get embarrassing for us. We just found a way to get pucks in the back of the net.”

NMU used their momentum to open up the scoring on Saturday, taking a one-goal lead into the first intermission. Again, the second period proved to be their undoing, as they allowed two powerplay goals and surrendered a 2-1 defeat.

Ellingson got the start Saturday and made 24 saves in the game. Kyle was encouraged by the performance of his sophomore goaltender.

“I don’t know yet how much Reid’s grown. What he’s shown is that he’s taken a considerable step,” said Kyle. “The key is, can he repeat those performances night after night after night. If Reid’s taken the kind of steps it looks like he’s taken and continues to perform the way that he has, that’s another real positive for us.”

Ellingson believes that a year of junior hockey has really helped him.

“It’s just a year of maturity and development that really helped me out,” he said. “I have more confidence out there because I’ve had that year of maturity, and that’s helped to keep a little more even keeled and focused out there.”

Kyle didn’t feel that the team’s defensive mistakes last weekend stemmed from any whole-team problems.

“Second period on Friday, we had about three really bad individual breakdowns that cost us,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily a team letdown. Those weren’t good things.”

Kyle was glad to see his team was able to keep pace with the notoriously quick Redhawks, especially on the bigger Olympic ice sheet at the Berry Events Center.

“That was one of the most encouraging things for me,” he said. “[Miami] is a very fast team with a lot of dynamic offense; the more room you give them the worse it can get. We were with them.”

The Wildcats got most of their offense from Olver, who had three goals and an assist on the weekend. His play earned him CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Kyle believes that one of the team’s problems right now is that most of their offensive production is coming from one or two sources.

“Our secondary scoring, the people that we felt would be contributing offensively behind Mark [Olver], hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

Olver, who has nine points so far this season, isn’t feeling any extra burden to carry the team.

“It affects the way I play, but it definitely does not put any pressure on me,” he said. “It’s a team game.”
Up next for the ‘Cats is a road trip for a series against CCHA foe Ohio State University. Like NMU, the Buckeyes had a strong finish to last season but have struggled out of the gate this year. Kyle knows, however, that if NMU is going to win, they will need to bring their top game.

“They’re a very good team,” Kyle said. “They had success in the NCAAs a year ago, they were picked ahead of us in the league, and they were for a reason.”

Following their series with Ohio State, the ‘Cats will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind.