The battle for the first victory of the season is over for the NMU hockey team as the Wildcats swept the Ohio State University Buckeyes last weekend in their conference home opener.
Head coach Walt Kyle said he feels good overall about the ’Cats (2-2 CCHA, 2-4-1 overall) win over the Buckeyes (1-3 CCHA, 2-5 overall).
“Through the course of the games, both Friday and Saturday, we had some individual breakdowns but I think that’s something we’re going to have to just grow with right now,” Kyle said.
The Oct. 29 game started out slowly in the goal department; both teams took 11 shots on goal but none made it past either netminder. Tyler Gron was the first to score at 13:10 in the second period, but the Buckeyes answered back early in the third with their first goal. Greger Hanson sealed the victory with his goal at 15:44 in the third; Wildcats won 2-1.
The Wildcat offensive unit wasted little time on Oct. 30 with Erik Higby scoring an early goal at 3:49 in the first. The team had some penalty killing to do after the Buckeyes goalie sold a hit from Justin Florek at 6:06. However, Andrew Cherniwchan was able to get a goal on a shorthanded breakaway where he beat the goaltender with a backhanded shot to the goalie’s stick side. Kyle said Cherniwchan’s play was one for the highlight reels.
“He’s got great speed and he’s able to poke that puck away. One of the things that we did talk about last week was you have the ability to attack when the opponent (is unprepared),” Kyle said.
The Wildcats had the advantage until 15:15 when a five minute major penalty was called on CJ Ludwig for contact to the head. Ludwig also received a game misconduct, but the true threat came from two Buckeye power play goals at 15:26 and 15:45. Kyle said he still thought the team did reasonably well with penalty killing despite the two goals one after the other.
“I thought our penalty killing did a pretty good job. The numbers show that (the Buckeyes) scored a couple on Saturday and both goals weren’t anything structurally, just two of our guys made mistakes,” he said.
Freshman goaltender Jared Coreau said he felt he could have stopped the first power play goal as he was beaten from a five-hole shot.
“I should have closed it up a little better,” he said. “On the second goal, the guy game out on a mini-breakaway and put it up low blocker side. Low blocker is generally the toughest place for a goalie to stop the puck.”
The Wildcats killed off the rest of the major penalty into the second period, but the Buckeyes offensive unit scored its third unanswered goal at 4:23. The Buckeyes later made the same mistake as the Wildcats, as OSU’s Travis Statchuk was ejected and received a five minute major for contact to the head at 5:23.
The Wildcats earned a power play goal of their own when Kyle Follmer found the net at 7:12 in the second. Even though the Wildcats got one power play goal, Kyle said he would like to see improvement when the power play occurs.
The game would remain at 3-3 until midway through the third period when Justin Florek was able to get the game-winning goal at 12:42. The Buckeyes pulled their goalie at 18:28 but were unable to convert, giving Wildcats the victory, 4-3.
Freshman goaltender Jared Coreau earned his first collegiate win and was named CCHA Goaltender of the Week for stopping 59 of Ohio’s 63 shots on goal and allowing only two even-strength goals on the weekend. Coreau also said he felt honored to receive the award, but that he is more focused on the next opponent than his accolades.
The Wildcats will travel to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Lake Superior State University Lakers (0-3-1 CCHA, 2-4-2 overall) on Nov. 5 and 6. The Lakers are coming off of a two-loss weekend to the No. 1 Miami University RedHawks (3-0-1 CCHA, 5-1-2 overall).
The Lakers were able to take one game against Miami into the shootout, and Kyle said he’s expecting a similar effort from them this week.
Coreau said the team is expecting an aggressive offense that wants to score early and often.
“It’s going to be a pretty heated matchup,” Coreau said. “I’m expecting them to be quick and aggressive, probably a lot of net drives. Another thing though is that their goaltending isn’t forming that well right now, and they’re scoring six goals, but they’re also giving up six goals.”
The ’Cats will return home to host the Bowling Green State University on Nov. 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Berry Events Center.