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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

’Cats set for road opener against Badgers

After thorough preparation, the hockey ’Cats lace up their skates this weekend for the first game of the season.

The Wildcats ended the 2010-11 season early with a loss in the first round of playoffs. NMU hockey head coach Walt Kyle said that the players and coaches were disappointed with the team’s performance.

“Whenever that happens, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth right through the summer,” Kyle said. “There’s a real anxiousness to get started, put an end to that and have an opportunity to re-establish who we are.”

Last season was a time of growth, especially after losing All-Americans Mark Olver and Erik Gustafsson, Kyle said. This year, the team lost a moderately large senior class, but the coaches had been recruiting along the way.

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“Oftentimes you’re recruiting a couple years out,” Kyle said. “What you try to do is evaluate who you’ll be losing and bring guys in who have the capabilities of replacing that.”

The hockey team has several freshmen this year, and senior forward Justin Florek said there are a couple players who will be able to step right into the lineup and make an impact.

“The team chemistry is great,” Florek said. “We’re with each other four or five hours a day. It’s just fun to be around the locker room with the guys, and then we have a good time when we leave here.”

Senior goalie Reid Ellingson said the freshmen are fitting into the team well, although it’s always an adjustment.

“It’s interesting every year,” Ellingson said. “You kind of have to feel everything out, but we’ve been getting along really well. It’s a good group of guys.”

The ’Cats have been training on and off the ice in preparation for the upcoming season. The team does off-ice conditioning, work in the weightroom along with drills and scrimmages on the ice.

“It’s the hardest our team has worked since I’ve been here, so I’m pretty excited,” Florek said.

Part of getting ready for the season is finding lines in which the players are comfortable and successful. Although the lines have been switching every couple days, the team is trying to solidify the lineup and create chemistry.

“I really like how it looks in practice,” Florek said. “Each line brings a different element to the game, and if we can bring all of those together I think we’ll be successful.”

The coaches have ideas of who they want to play together Kyle said.

“We want to give everyone an opportunity to show us what they have,” Kyle said. “We’ll evaluate and give the opportunities to the guys who perform best.”

The 2011-12 hockey schedule is packed with challenging opponents for the ’Cats, such as, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Michigan State University and Ferris State.

“Our schedule is stupid, how good it is,” Kyle said. “This is the best schedule that we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been here. It’s arguably one of the best schedules Northern has ever had. It’s a big test for us.”

The Wildcats will begin their season this weekend not with a home exhibition game, but away against University of Wisconsin at the Kohl Center which seats about 14,000.

“Playing in the Kohl Center is probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing a college hockey game,” Florek said. “It’s one of those games where you have the butterflies, and then you go out on a big stage like that; it’s a lot of fun.”

Kyle said it’s the toughest environment that the ’Cats will play in all year, but he would rather have the team be away opening weekend.

“Early in the year when you have a new team, new players and people assuming new roles, I think it’s healthy to get on the road and spend some time where it’s just the team together,” Kyle said.

The team goals for the season are to be in contention for a spot in the NCAA tournament, earn a spot in the top four and make it back to the Joe Lewis Arena, Ellingson said.

“We’ve got to get off to a good start,” Ellingson said. “We’re thrown right into the fire, so hopefully we can come out strong.”

The Wildcats take on the Wisconsin Badgers at 8 p.m. Eastern time Friday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Kohl Center in Madison.

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