’Cats fights to gain home-ice advantage

Delaney Lovett

The ’Cats concluded a four-game road stretch with two disappointing losses against No. 3-ranked University of Michigan on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18.

NMU (9-11-6-3 CCHA, 14-12-6 overall) dropped one place in the CCHA standings to an eighth place tie with Notre Dame.

“To me, it looked like two really good teams playing really hard,” said head coach Walt Kyle. “They were able to take advantage of some of their chances and we weren’t.”

The Wildcat special teams struggled in Friday’s 4-1 loss, giving up a goal on both of two Michigan power-plays. Northern Michigan was unable to capitalize on any of its six power-play opportunities.

Scoring the lone goal for NMU and the first of his Wildcat career was freshman right wing Ryan Daugherty in the second period. Kyle said Daugherty’s line, including freshman left wing DJ Vandercook and junior center Kory Kaunisto, has emerged over the last couple weekends of play.

“We’re sticking to the basics, doing what we do best and playing our role,” Daugherty said. “Kory Kaunisto is kind of leading the way and really helping me and DJ grow as players.”

Saturday proved to be a much closer game for the ’Cats, who tied it up twice but were defeated in a 3-2 overtime loss on a Northern Michigan turnover.

“Saturday, we played really well and I think we probably deserved to win,” said sophomore center Stephan Vigier. “But they found a way to win and they should get some credit for that.”

Unlike Michigan’s commanding first period on Friday, Saturday’s game was held scoreless until the second period with Michigan first on the scoreboard.

Senior left wing Justin Florek tied it up with a goal, assisted by senior right wing Andrew Cherniwchan and Vigier. Michigan regained the lead less than a minute later on a power-play, until Cherniwchan scored a goal early in the third with an assist from Florek.

“It’s one of those weekends where you’re not happy with the result as a coach, but you’re happy with the performance,” Kyle said.

It was the first time playing at the Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. for many of the players, and the ’Cats played in front of a sold out crowd.

“It was actually amazing,” Daugherty said. “I’ve been there before and watched a game when I was a little kid and it’s a lot different when it’s a sold out place.”

The Wildcats battle Lake Superior State this weekend at home for their last weekend of regular season play.

The ’Cats play at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Berry Events Center.