Men’s club hockey splits home games

Laura Conway

The NMU men’s club hockey team played a close series against the Iowa State University Hawkeyes, last year ranked third in the American Collegiate Hockey Associations (ACHA) D1 leagues.  This was supposed to be a challenging match up against the D2 Wildcats, but the team wasn’t fazed.

They ended up winning the first game 6 – 3.  Right wing junior Kellen Michalak admitted to not really knowing what they were going to see from the Hawkeyes, but he knew the team was going to give them their best game.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We knew that they had a good team.  We ended up dominating when they took penalties.  We played really physical,” Michalak said.

NMU player Jim Morris forward drives to the net to score on University of Iowa’s goalie. Morris scored two goals in the weekend as the Wildcats put up nine goals against the Hawkeyes. NMU and Iowa split the series. // Gil Cohen/NW

After the first period of the first game the Hawkeyes were ahead 2-1 due to the Wildcat’s being short handed for a few plays, junior rookie Nick Cavato said.

“They were big and outsized us, that didn’t worry us though, we were just taking dumb penalties,” Cavato said.

The second period was a little more motivating ending with a tie between the two teams.    The Wildcats were on a role and ready to play smart for the third period.  The star of the second period was Michalak who scored two goals in the second before he was removed from the game for what he said was a controversial penalty.

“They called me for elbowing with head contact, it was a questionable call.  I was kicked out of the rest of the first game but allowed to play the next game anyway,” Michalak said.

Even though the leading scorer of the game was gone that was enough to motivate the rest of the team to play hard and take the game.  The win really had the team pumped for the second game the following day.

“Going into the second game, we had our hopes pretty high.  Even though we knew they’d be tough because they would get rest, we knew we had the edge because we won the first game” Cavato said.

The second game of the series on October 9 against started off much the same way as the first with Iowa scoring the first goal in the first period.

“They came out pretty physical too; they outsized us and really used that to get under our skin.  We didn’t handle it well, took unnecessary penalties that left us short handed at important times in the game . . . we took ourselves out of the game,” Michalak said.

One of these plays was when Michalak scored a short handed goal for the Wildcats, but right after got a penalty and the Hawkeyes scored on a power play.

Sophomore Shane Feehery admits that it was those kinds of plays that went wrong in the second game.

“Second game, we let penalties get to us.  Maybe we were a little overconfident from the win on Friday,” Feehery said.

Even though the second game was a loss for the Wildcats, 3 – 5, they were still proud of their lines for stepping up to the plate like they did.

“We set up in formations on the ice so we know where we should be.  It’s nice to know that your linemates know what they’re doing and know where to be.  The coaching staff has instilled in us the knowledge to know how to do that.  We’ve made huge improvements as a young team in that aspect of our game,” Michalak said.

The Wildcats are going to put those improvements to test at the greatly anticipated American Collegiate Hockey Association D2 Showcase this coming weekend.  Michalak said it is a privilege to be invited to this showcase because the association invited only the best in the division.

“This is the biggest thing in our season besides playoffs, it’ll be a tempo-setter for the rest of the season it could make us or break us,” Michalak said.

The team is taking every precaution to make sure that they are at their best for the first game of the showcase.  Playing on a travel day is hard on teams and aren’t always 100 percent on the ice, so the Wildcats be leaving a day earlier than usual so they can be fully rested.

“We are leaving Thursday at noon, spending the night in Bowling Green, then its only a two hour bus ride from there so we won’t be that tired.  There is going o be some stiff competition, all the best teams in division two, a good test for the team,” Feehrey said.

Going into the showcase the Wildcats are 5 and 5 for the regular season.  The Wildcat’s first game at the ACHA DII Showcase is on Friday October 15 at 1p.m.