Wildcat hockey earns exhibition win

John Becker

The NMU hockey team opened up the regular season with an exhibition match at home last weekend, where the team earned a landslide shutout victory. The team prepares for the Superior Cup this weekend.

The exhibition took place on Oct. 3 against the Nipissing University Lakers, a team from North Bay, Ontario, Canada. The Wildcats (1-0 overall) spared no time warming up their offense, with junior forward Andrew Cherniwchan (CJ Ludwig, Greger Hanson) scoring nine seconds into the game. The team would end the first period leading 4-0. The ’Cats sealed their victory early but kept the offensive drive going, winning 11-0.

Head coach Walt Kyle said he saw the Wildcats improve overall from one period to the next.

Freshman defenseman CJ Ludwig goes toe-to-toe with an opponent as they chase down a runaway puck. Ludwig earned two assists against the Nipissing Lakers. // Mark Flemming/NW

“I don’t necessarily mean from an offensive perspective, I mean from checking schemes to defensive zone cover, to some of the execution on faceoffs, I thought we did a better job as the night went on,” he said.

Freshman forward Erik Higby earned a hat trick in the game and had one assist. Junior forward Justin Florek earned two goals and had two assists.  The offensive unit was on fire with 43 shots on goal.

The defense only allowed 18 shots on goal the entire game and Kyle said the actual scoring opportunities were much lower.

“(The Lakers) had very few shots that were scoring chances, I think that they had four or five chances of the night that were legit,” Kyle said.

Each of the goaltenders had an opportunity to show their skill for one period. Reid Ellingson earned five saves, Jared Coreau had six, and Devan Hartigan finished the game with seven saves.

Kyle said that while Ellingson is now the starting goaltender, it was important to give all the goalies a chance on the ice.

“It may have benefited Reid more to play the entire night, but the truth is the other two guys have played well enough to deserve that ice time,” Kyle said. “With Jared Coreau, he’s a young freshman who’s never played a college game and needed to get a taste of it.”

Sophomore defenseman Scott Macaulay had two assists and the highest plus/minus (+6), meaning he was on the ice for six of the Wildcat’s goals. If the opponent had scored any goals when he was on the ice, the plus/minus would drop respectively.

Macaulay said he wants to take on a bigger role this season to keep the team solid defensively, and help them be aggressive offensively.

“I take pride in making the first pass out of the zone,” Macaulay said. “I like to think of myself as and offensive defenseman who can contribute to getting goals on the board.”

The Wildcats will be hosting the Michigan Tech Huskies on Friday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Berry Events Center.

Senior right winger Phil Fox said the Wildcats need to get past the tough play of the Huskies to win.

“We’re expecting them to play how they always play: hard, physical, always taking the body, doing little things, blocking shots,” said Fox, the team’s captain.

Fox also said he’s honored to have been named captain and it means a lot to him.

“I just want to do the best I can and help lead the boys,” Fox said. “I want us to be the best team we can and compete for not only a league championship but also a national championship.”

Kyle agreed that games against Tech are always a battle, and this time the Huskies have the experience advantage.

“They’re a veteran team, they’re more experienced than we are,” Kyle said. “I think it’s going to be a very difficult game for us.”

The following game won’t be any easier. On Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m., the ’Cats will face off against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the Berry.

Kyle said the team is expecting their opponents to be a challenge. The Bulldogs are ninth in the nation according to the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine men’s college hockey preseason poll.

“We’re going to get a real introduction into what it takes to play against a nationally ranked team and a real quality opponent,” Kyle said.