Hockey Home Opener: Q&A with head hockey coach Walt Kyle

NW Staff

The North Wind sat down with NMU head hockey coach Walt Kyle to discuss the end of last season and expectations for the upcoming season.

NW: Can you recap the end of last season and how you were feeling at that point?

WK: We were really disappointed, the way we finished in the playoffs. Going into last year, we had two All-Americans in Mark Olver and Erik Gustafsson who wound up making the decision to leave early.
When we lost those guys, we knew as a team that last year was going to be a little bit of a step back. We were going to have to commit a lot of time to young kids and give them time to develop and grow through the year.

As the year progressed, we got pretty close to getting a bye in the first round of the playoff, and we didn’t get there, so we had to play first round at home.

We were a little banged up and wound up losing that series. To me, that was probably the biggest disappointment of the year: not getting through that first round. That’s something we’ve traditionally been able to do.

NW: What strengths does the freshman class possess?

WK: This freshman class, we’re really happy with at this point. They’re going to need some time and some experience, but we think we have some guys in there who can do a very capable job.

I also think that it’s important to understand always that freshmen aren’t the guys that make the difference. If you get a freshman who’s a real impact player, that’s a bonus.

The guys that are returning have to fill the voids created by the losses of players from last year. They have to, every year, become better players and they’re going to have more opportunity to be impact guys this year.

NW: It doesn’t take effect yet, but what are your feelings about NMU’s change in conference and what it will bring to the team?

WK: We have two more years in this conference which we’re happy and proud to be in. I think that the conference change is going to bring a lot of different teams into this building.

One thing I like is it puts us in the same league as Tech, which we really should be. That rivalry now will take on a whole new meaning. We’re still going to be able to play many of the same teams that people see now in this building, but we’re going to be in a non-league setting.

I think it puts us in a league with schools that are much more like us. I think all of the schools that are presently in the new WCHA are Division II schools with Division I hockey. That puts you in a more reasonable environment to have success.

You’ll be competing against schools with like resources, like academic institutions, and that’s always a good thing.