‘Cats earn four points in South Bend


The Wildcat hockey team took on No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish last weekend and came away with four of the series’ six points.

Saturday’s matchup was a close-fought 3-2 game, in which the Wildcats never trailed.
NMU also led Sunday’s game for most of regulation until the Irish tied it at 2-2 and forced a shootout. The ‘Cats lost the shootout 2-1, but still took a point away.

NMU improves to 3-5-2 overall this season and 2-3-1 in Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) league play. The Irish fall to 5-5-2 overall, 2-2-2-1 CCHA.

“I was real happy with it,” said NMU head coach Walt Kyle. “It’s easy to judge yourself on wins and losses. We have to judge ourselves on our quality of play, and I think that our quality of play has been pretty good recently.”

One of the best things for Kyle to see was that the team spread the scoring throughout the lineup. Nine different Wildcat skaters had points on Saturday.

“We had some balanced scoring,” Kyle said. “And some of the guys that we need to contribute offensively, like Jared Brown and Matt Butcher, were able to do that.” Brown and Butcher each had a goal on Saturday.

Another highlight of the weekend was the return of senior goaltender Brian Stewart. After taking a week off and struggling to begin the year, he played solidly in net against the Irish, stopping 61 of 65 shots.

“Right now, I think he’s just playing and enjoying it,” said Kyle. “We could see all week in practice that he was much, much better, and he was much, much better in the game as well.”

Stewart admitted that it was a confidence boost to perform well against Notre Dame.

“It was good, especially for me to get back into the thick of things and start playing and playing good,” Stewart said. “I’ve played in games like that before, but it was just good for me to hopefully get in the flow of things and just keep going. I’ve got to build off that weekend and see how things go.”

After a 1-4-1 start to the season, the Wildcats are beginning to pull themselves back into the conference race. They are now tied for seventh place.

Sophomore Justin Florek believes that improving their record early in the season is crucial.

“I think that’s huge, so we don’t dig ourselves a hole,” he said. “First couple games, we struggled, but we’re starting to get on track now, and I think that’s really important if we want to make it far past the [conference tournament] and start thinking about the NCAA tournament.

Florek tallied an assist on Sunday to bring his season points total to seven, and is a player Kyle has been impressed with so far this season.

“He’s been a big part of our hockey team ever since Christmas of last year, and he’s a guy that keeps getting better and better and better,” Kyle said. “He’s a solid guy that does a lot of subtle things really well, and has the ability to make the people that he plays with better.”

Up next for the Wildcats is a home series against CCHA opponent University of Nebraska-Omaha (5-2-3 overall, 2-2-2-1 CCHA), currently ranked 12th in the nation.

“They’re legitimately a top ten, [or] 15 team right now, the way they’ve played with the record they have. I’ve watched them on tape, and I was really impressed with their speed and their energy. We know we’re going to have our hands full,” said Kyle.

The series will open on Friday, Nov. 20 at 7:35 p.m.