Wildcat hockey drops big home games

John Becker

While splitting series has been their M.O. for most of the season, the Wildcats (11-15-4 overall, 9-11-2 CCHA) have fallen into a rut with the postseason closing in. Last weekend, the NMU hockey team played their second-to-last home series and was swept up by the Lake Superior State University Lakers.

Head coach Walt Kyle said that the team is disappointed after failing to get any points over the weekend.

“We have a little bit of a cloud over us right now and we have to get rid of that and get guys back to playing the way they’re capable of playing,” Kyle said.

Sophomore defenseman Scott Macaulay maneuvers through a gaggle of Laker defenders, as he attempts to get the Wildcat offense going. However, the gaggle was too strong, as the Wildcats lost both games this weekend. // Adelle Whitefoot/NW

The Friday, Feb. 4 game began with an early power play goal from LSSU, but Mike Maltese answered back at 19:37 in the first period. It was the only Wildcat goal of the game and of the weekend. The Wildcats continued getting penalties while the Lakers continued the offensive punishment. Every Laker goal on Friday was a power play goal, and without any offense generated, the Lakers delivered a 4-1 loss to the ’Cats.

Kyle said the penalties were the coffin nails in Friday’s game.

“Friday we got caught in that trap of taking penalties, inopportune penalties at inopportune times and along with that we weren’t able to do a good job killing the penalties,” Kyle said.

The Wildcats played a better game fundamentally on Saturday, Feb. 5, holding LSSU to 26 shots on goal while the ’Cats had 31. However, failure to convert on multiple chances led to a 2-0 loss. It was the first shutout the Wildcats endured since a 3-0 loss to Bemidji State.

Despite the loss, Kyle said he felt better about how the team played on Saturday.

“We played the kind of game on Saturday that we need to play to have success,” Kyle said. “We kept their power plays down, we kept our opponents’ scoring opportunities down and we kept their goals down; we just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”

Losing this series also put the team into a four-game losing streak, the largest losing streak of the year to date. Kyle said it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“Two weeks ago we were looking at the four or five spot; now we could be looking at finishing near the bottom,” Kyle said. “Obviously we don’t want to do that. We want to get ourselves together and find a way to move forward.”

Freshman defenseman Austin Handley said the Wildcats aren’t where they want to be right now, but that they believe they can bounce back.

“We still have the ability to make some games in the standings and get up to fifth or sixth place,” Handley said.

The Wildcats will travel this weekend to take on the Michigan State University Spartans (12-14-4 overall, 8-12-2 CCHA). The Spartans have won five of their last 10 games, including victories against Miami, Ohio State, Michigan and LSSU.

The Spartans have 26 points to NMU’s 29 in the standings. A sweep against the Wildcats would put them in 10th place, in front of Bowling Green (13 points). Handley said this series is a must-win.

“This series is huge for us. We can’t lose four points to these guys so they can pass us in the -standings,” Handley said.