Hockey loses to No. 1 team in nation

John Becker

The difficulty of playing the best NCAA team in all of college hockey cannot be underestimated. The NMU hockey team knew that going into their away games at Miami University on Oct. 22 and 23, yet the Wildcats still came home winless.

The Wildcats (0-2 CCHA, 0-4-1 overall) opened with an early penalty in the game on Oct. 22, allowing the RedHawks to score a power play goal at 2:04. Miami’s second goal didn’t come until late in the second, but the first goal proved to be enough as the RedHawks bested the Wildcats, 4-0

The ’Hawks allowed four power plays in the first two periods, but the Wildcats couldn’t convert during that time.

Kyle said he was not pleased with the failure to capitalize on the RedHawks many penalties.

“Right now our special teams play is pathetic, and we’re working on making sure that our power plays become more effective,” he said.

However, the ’Hawks were able to get two more power play goals in the third at 4:23 off the CJ Ludwig boarding penalty, and at 18:11 off the roughing call on Wade Epp.

Still, Kyle said he felt most of the penalties were not foolish mistakes, but acts of desperation.

“A lot of penalties in those games, guys were beat and had to make a play to contain someone, and wound up taking penalties,” Kyle said. “The issue there isn’t discipline, it’s an issue of guys wanting to contain and win those battles.”

The Wildcats fared no better on Saturday, Oct. 23 as they were defeated once more by the RedHawks, this time 9-1. Sophomore defenseman Kyle Follmer earned the only goal of the weekend at 6:56 in the third period, his first of the season.

The Wildcat offense wasn’t taking many shots with 21 in the first game and only 16 in the second game, compared to the ’Hawks 28 and 34 shots on goal, respectively. RedHawks junior goaltender Cody Reichard was hot in front of the net on both nights, but Kyle said he felt the ’Cats failed to put Reichard’s reputation to the test.

“We didn’t do a very good job of testing them, and that was a big factor in both nights; not the goaltending, but our inability to test them,” he said. “When you fail to make a team worry about defending their net, they can really storm at you. “

The Wildcats will host their CCHA home opener this weekend against the Ohio State University Buckeyes, a team which the ’Cats split games with during the 2009-2010 season.

Junior goaltender Reid Ellingson was the starter for last year’s games against the Buckeyes during a season where the Wildcats had three-year starter Brian Stewart.

Kyle said the pressure is mounting for the team to win.

“We’re 0-4-1 right now. I think any time you get a start like that, truth (is) there is pressure. There’s pressure to win from within,” Kyle said.

Follmer agreed that a win would feel great, but the team has other goals in addition to victory.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure to get that first wins because it would get a lot off our backs, but I think the pressure, more or less, is just getting better each game,” Follmer said. “As long as we get better each game, that’s our goal.”

Follmer also said he thinks the Buckeyes will come hungry for another conference victory.

“I think they’re going to come at us especially early, and try to take the crowd out of it. Really, we just need to play our game and we’ll be fine,” he said.