The bye week paid off for the NMU hockey team as rest and solid defensive play helped the Wildcats sweep the Ferris State Bulldogs last weekend in their second sweep of the season.
The Wildcats (11-11-4 overall, 9-7-2 CCHA) have 29 points and are currently in a three-way tie for fourth place with Ferris and No. 17 Western Michigan University. Head coach Walt Kyle said he was very pleased with the team’s performance last weekend.
“Every night that you can get points in league play is critical,” Kyle said. “I think the guys did a real great job.”
The ’Cats and Bulldogs played a long stalemate into the third period on Friday, Jan. 21, until FSU scored at 16:14. The Wildcats had a clutch moment when junior forward Justin Florek (Greger Hanson, Erik Spady) beat the FSU goalie at 18:03. The game continued into overtime, where both teams only took one shot on goal: the ’Cats were more accurate, earning the overtime victory 2-1.
Kyle said Florek’s goal was a big turning point, thanks to a crisp pass from Hanson at the offensive blue line.
“(Florek) doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk; he gets it done in big moments for us and he certainly is a good player,” Kyle said.
The Saturday, Jan. 22 game saw a two-goal first period with junior forward Andrew Cherniw-chan and Florek both scoring in the first 20 minutes. A FSU goal in the second made the game 2-1; however, redshirt freshman defenseman Wade Epp sealed the deal at 18:11 in the third, for a final score of 3-1.
Senior defenseman Erik Spady earned CCHA Defenseman of the Week for his performance on the weekend. Kyle said Spady’s effort was solid, and that multiple defensemen could have shared the award. Ellingson was also honored by the CCHA for his efforts, earning CCHA Goaltender of the Week for the third time this season. Ellingson said the CCHA accolades are nice, but that the efforts were not his alone.
“It’s more of a team effort. Those awards come when the team is playing well, and we played well defensively all week and it showed,” Ellingson said.
The Wildcats travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., this weekend to take on the Western Michigan University Broncos. The Broncos are on a win/tie streak of nine games, boasting the longest unbeaten streak in the nation currently. Kyle said the importance of the upcoming Jan. 28-29 series is underlined by the fact that the teams are tied in the standings.
“If you want to have success, you have to make sure you get points against a team you’re competing with –– and our guys are aware of that –– and I’m sure their guys are as well,” Kyle said.
Ellingson agreed with the coach and said that playing Western in this series definitely has extra emphasis beyond the -conference rivalry.
“If we can come out with a sweep it’s going to really put us in a good position in the league down the stretch,” Ellingson said.
The Wildcats return home to take on the ninth-placed Lake Superior State University Lakers (6-11-7 overall, 4-8-6-4 CCHA)on Feb. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Berry Events Center.