Hockey keeps CCHA record even, splits games

John Becker

The NMU hockey team split its games against Bowling Green State University Falcons last weekend as the Wildcats denied the Falcons the 800th win in program history. However, the ’Cats prepare for the long haul this week as they will travel to Alaska.

On Friday, Nov. 13, the Wildcats (4-4 CCHA, 4-6-1 overall) took on the BGSU Falcons (2-6 CCHA, 5-7 overall) and were defeated, 2-1. The Falcons scored late in the first period on a power play and midway through the second at even strength. Senior captain Phil Fox scored his first goal of the year at 3:45 in the third, but it wasn’t enough for the win. The ’Cats posted 27 shots on goal while the Falcons had 28.

Head coach Walt Kyle said the Wildcats were too passive on offense, which helped contribute to the loss.

Junior goaltender Reid Ellingson stops a penalty shot from BGSU sophomore forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas. It was the first BGSU penalty shot taken since Oct. 18, 2008. Ellingson allowed three goals on the weekend and earned 40 saves. // Gil Cohen/N.W.

“I thought Friday night we were just really content to sit back and play a defensive game and we let them kind of dictate the tempo, and that’s something you don’t want to do when you’re in your own building,” Kyle said. “You want to be aggressive; you want to set the tempo.”

The Wildcats got the memo, as the game on Saturday, Nov. 14 began with an offensive flourish from Fox, who scored at 1:12 (Mike Maltese, Justin Florek) and 5:41 (Tyler Gron, Scott Macaulay). Kyle said Fox’s goals were well-deserved because he’s always working hard.

“He’s a guy who’s shown that he can score in flurries,” Kyle said. “He does have a touch around the net and oftentimes it continues for guys once they build that confidence level.”

Junior goaltender Reid Ellingson played the duration of both games, earning 40 saves on the weekend and stopping BGSU’s first penalty shot since 2008. The penalty shot was granted when a Wildcat player put his hand on the puck while it was in the crease, the blue area in front of the net where a goaltender stands. Kyle said the call adhered to the rulebook and Ellingson made a great save. He also said the goalie spot is still open between Ellingson and freshman Jared Coreau.

The Wildcats earned three more goals in the third period. Gron scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season at 13:45, Andrew Cherniwchan beat the goalie at 17:54 and Kory Kaunisto earned his first career goal at 19:01 to seal the victory, 5-1.

Gron said he’d like to find himself in the right spot more often, and attributed his success to his teammates on the ice.

“I just kind of go to where I think the puck’s going to go to next, and if it does, I capitalize on it,” Gron said. “A lot of my offensive opportunities this year have been from my line mates giving me the opportunity when there was a good pass or a good play to me.”

The Wildcats had 40 shots on goal to the Falcons’ 16, and Kyle said it had to do with solid defense alongside a revved up offense.

“We were much more aggressive in what we did and I think that showed in the shots and in the score,” Kyle said.

The Wildcats will need a powerful offensive unit this weekend as they travel to take on the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (4-3-1 CCHA, 7-4-1 overall) on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19-20. The Nanooks are 5-1 at home, losing only to the Michigan Wolverines, and Gron said it’s not just about traveling.

“Waiting around in airports isn’t ideal but I’d say the hardest part about the trip is the time change,” he said. “Once you get there you have to get on the ice, equivalent to about 1 a.m. our time.”