The Wildcat club hockey team had a very close series against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs last weekend, Oct. 29 and 30 at the Berry Events Center.
Their previous weekend against Robert Morris University left the team with a lot of goals to work towards in the following week. One of the main things the Wildcats wanted to focus on was their conditioning. Right wing Kellen Michalak said the team did almost nothing but conditioning in practice last week to get them prepared for the game against the Bulldogs of Duluth.
“We were working on conditioning, two practices of bag skating which is skating for a half hour straight without touching the puck,” Michalak said.
Defenseman Shane Feehery was glad to see the team work more on net work and screening this past week.
“There was a lot in front of the net, forwards and defense, tipping shots and screening the goal line. Defense worked on clearing pucks out so they can’t get any shots or screen the goalie,” Feehery said.
The Friday night game was a nail biter all the way through. The team didn’t come out as strong as they wanted, but they still put up a good fight. The Wildcats came in pretty confident for this game because last season they swept Duluth winning both games; the first 3-2 and the second 5-0.
However, after a 1-1 regulation and no winner after overtime, the teams went to the shootout. During the shootout, only Brad Gicopoulos and Michalak scored, but Minnesota Duluth earned three goals ending the shootout 3-2. The shootout win gave the Bulldogs the tie-breaking goal and the 4-3 win for Minnesota-Duluth.
In a shootout scenario, five players on each team get a chance to score a goal against the goalie, no defenders, just the offensive player and the goalie. Normally the offensive player will try to deke the goalie.
Unfortunately, Michalak said conditions on the ice were not ideal, so players ended up taking normal shots that are easily telegraphed by the goalie.
“Personally everyone has their favorite move, you practice that move. It’s your bread and butter. A few of the guys didn’t do it because after 20 minute period and five minutes of overtime the ice isn’t good, puck handling is really hard,” Michalak said.
Feehery thought that it might have been their confidence from last year’s wins that had an effect on how they came into that game.
“We were thinking we were going to win. We were so confident and had a solid week of practice that was really intense, we may have been a little overconfident. We came out pretty hard, but not flying like we could have,” Feehery said.
Even though this game was a loss, it was a good experience for a few of the players. For freshman Derrick Perry’s first college hockey game, he did very well.
“First game, I was a little nervous, first college club game. It felt good to be on the ice, I was fourth line. I kept up with the pace, my line isn’t out there to score goals, we grind them out and keep the puck out of our zone,” Perry said.
All the offensive work that the team had been working on also paid off, because they did much better in that area. They just weren’t up to par on their defense.
“We changed up and were focusing on our offense so much; it worked, we just weren’t focused on defense at all. There are two ends to the ice, you have to play both, if you’re not defensive you can still lose,” Feehrey said.
The second game was a 6-7 loss but the team isn’t fazed by it and is already focusing on their next game against the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals on Nov. 5 and 6 at 9 p.m. at the Saginaw Valley Ice Arena.
The team is pretty tough, but the Wildcats are still going to give it their all and approach it like any other team. Freshman Johnny Barger is going in thinking positively.
“Everyone’s saying we’re going to lose to Saginaw, but I think that’s just going to bring us down, if we already think we’re going to lose why are we even going to play. I’m going to approach it like I do every game … I think we’ll be fine,” Barger said.