’Cats split with Sparty, ready for Miami

Delaney Lovett

After splitting with Michigan State Nov. 18 and 19, the Wildcats (2-5-3 CCHA, 5-6-3 overall) used a weekend without games to prepare to battle No. 18 Miami University this weekend.

The Saturday 2-1 win against MSU (4-4-0 CCHA, 8-5-1 overall) marked the Wildcats’ first win in regulation since the end of October.

“It felt great,” said head coach Walt Kyle. “We could have certainly done better, but it felt great to get the win and State is obviously a good team.”

It wasn’t until 19:49 in the second period that Northern scored to break the deadlock with a goal by senior left wing Justin Florek. His goal was assisted by defensemen Kyle Follmer and Mitch Jones.

The Spartans responded with a goal in the third period, followed by a Northern goal by junior left wing Brian Nugent just 3:09 later.
“In terms of a split, it’s always nicer to win on a Saturday and end on a positive note,” said senior right wing Tyler Gron. “We definitely played like we wanted it more, and the outcome showed that for us.”

The ’Cats outshot the Spartans on Friday, 27-24, and Saturday, 30-21. Northern took fewer penalties than State on Friday, but were unable to come away with the win, falling 4-2.

“We out-chanced them Friday and Saturday, we just didn’t get any lucky bounces to tie or win the game on Friday,” Gron said.

Gron responded to State’s first goal later in the first period, but the Spartans returned with two more, making it 3-1 going into the third.

Coming within one of MSU, Gron scored his second goal of the night in the third period.

Northern pulled senior goalie Reid Ellingson with just 1:06 remaining for the extra attacker, when State sealed the win with an empty-net goal.

“We have a goal set in mind for our team as far as the offensive standard,” Gron said. “Step one to scoring is shooting the puck more even if it’s not a prime scoring opportunity.”

Northern is currently tied for ninth out of 11 in the CCHA standings. Gron said the standings do not reflect the Wildcats’ level of play.

“Once we grasp the roles of every player and get on the same page with what everyone’s trying to do, we’re going to start winning a lot more games than we lose,” Gron said. “The rankings will start to reflect that.”

Kyle said he is unhappy about where the ’Cats stand, despite their difficulty of schedule. Kyle refused to use it as an excuse, he said.

“The reality is there were some games we could have had that we didn’t get,” Kyle said. “There were some nights in my opinion where we didn’t perform to the level we should have.”

The ’Cats need to find a way to limit their losses and win games, Kyle said.

“To me, the most important column is that loss column, and you can’t let that build up too high,” Kyle said. “You never can recover from that.”

The Wildcats had last weekend off and used some of the time for conditioning and practice.

“Because of all we’ve been through, I think those days off were probably a good thing for us,” Kyle said.

The ’Cats will be short sophomore defenseman Wade Epp, junior defenseman Kyle Follmer and junior defenseman Scott Macaulay due to team suspensions.

NMU snaps back into action as it takes on Miami (4-4-2 CCHA, 8-6-2 overall) Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Berry Events Center. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

“We’re going to be challenged this weekend as much as we’ve been challenged all year,” Kyle said.