’Cats prepared for U.P. rival Lake State

Delaney Lovett

The Wildcats’ season is looking up after sweeping Miami University (4-6-2-1 CCHA, 8-8-2 overall) last weekend with a 2-1 Friday win and a 5-1 win on Saturday.

The Northern sweep halted the RedHawks’ eight-game unbeaten streak and held Miami off for another week, as it is one win shy of its 600th in school history.

“Anytime you get a sweep, it’s always a great feeling,” said senior goaltender Reid Ellingson. “That’s what you set out to do.”

Northern (4-5-3-2 CCHA, 7-6-3 overall) played without three of its top defensemen on Friday due to suspensions after the Michigan State series. The Wildcats played with two sophomores and three freshmen defensemen.

“The guys who came in and took advantage of that opportunity did a great job,” said head coach Walt Kyle. “It was a pretty young core.”

Senior right wing Tyler Gron scored less than 10 minutes into Friday’s game, assisted by freshman center Dylan Walchuk and senior left wing Justin Florek.

The RedHawks were quick to return with a shorthanded goal 2:05 later.

After a scoreless second period, freshman defenseman Jake Baker picked up his first Wildcat goal, assisted by senior right wing Tyler Gron and junior center Kory Kaunisto, to seal the victory.

“I think we played very well defensively, especially the guys Friday stepping up for us,” Ellingson said. “Everyone had a big effort this whole weekend.”

In net for his first Friday game was sophomore goaltender Jared Coreau, who came out of the night with 25 saves. Ellingson took over between the pipes on Saturday, stopping 28 shots.

Kyle said Northern started taking control of the game when Miami penalties provided numerous power play opportunities. But the turning point, Kyle said, was sophomore center Stephan Vigier’s first goal.

“Daugherty, Vandercook and Kesti were out there doing a ton of work down low and kind of took over the shift,” Kyle said.

When Kesti went to the bench for a change, Vigier took the ice and drove to the net. The goal put the game in favor of the ’Cats, Kyle said.

“The puck squirted to me and I just put it home,” Vigier said. “Those guys really should get all of the credit. I just happened to be there at the right time.”

Of the five goals Saturday night, three were scored on five-on-three power plays. Two of the goals were by Florek and the third by Vigier.

“We were pretty efficient,” Vigier said. “We got our shots through, and then were present in front of the net picking up rebounds and obviously scoring goals in the end.”

The one other even-strength goal was credited to sophomore left wing Reed Seckel in the second period, assisted by junior center Matt Thurber and Baker, putting NMU up 3-1.

Gron was named CCHA offensive player of the week for his play against Miami, completing the weekend with one goal and four assists.

“Gron is a big reason why our power play is doing well right now,” Ellingson said. “He worked really hard over the weekend, not just in the offensive zone; he was backchecking hard.”

The Wildcats face No. 15 Lake Superior State University (5-4-1 CCHA, 10-6-2 overall) this weekend in Sault Ste. Marie and Ellingson said Northern can’t underestimate the Lakers.

“We’ll go in there Friday and try to get the win, and we’ll worry about Saturday following Friday’s game,” Vigier said. “Of course we’re looking for two wins, but we just have to take it one game at a time.”

The ’Cats look to continue the streak at LSSU. The games begin at 7 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 10.