The Northern Michigan University hockey team left the arena victorious on Sunday as they opened the 2012-13 season against Brock University.
After ending the 2011-12 season with a loss in the CCHA playoffs versus Bowling Green, the Wildcats started their season on a high note, beating the Badgers 2-0. The ’Cats started off the game with a goal in the first period and remained consistent to score another in the third.
NMU used a combination of two goaltenders to earn their first shutout this year. NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the team exhibition game gave some of the new players a chance to experience Wildcat hockey.
“We were able to get a lot of young guys a lot of ice time and minutes tonight,” Kyle said. “They got a good taste of a game at this level, and I am happy with them.”
Sophomore defenseman Mitch Jones gave the ’Cats their first point at 8:11 in the first period with a power-play slap shot from the blue line to get the puck passed Brock goaltender, Kody Blois. Freshman forward Justin Rose got the assist after he passed Jones during the first of nine power plays.
“We had a lot of chances with power plays,” Kyle said. “We scored the one in the first, we were sloppy at times, we fumbled the puck around and missed the net at times, but if we generate that many chances then we’ll score a lot of goals.”
The ’Cats brought 37-20 shots-on-goal against the Badgers. The first ice-time of the season gave the ’Cats many advantages, while the Badgers racked up 18 minutes of penalties. Six out of nine Badger penalties occurred in the second period. The Wildcats had players in the box for 12 minutes with six penalties.
NMU tacked on the final goal of the game at 14:04 in the third period, with freshman forward Cohen Adair scoring his first Wildcat goal for the team from in front of the net. Junior forward Erik Higby assisted the goal after he took the puck away from Brock and passed it to Adair in the zone.
Higby said the chemistry of the team improved as the game progressed, allowing better lines and more opportunities.
“I thought we played well,” Higby said. “I think we came out not flat, but we were a little jittery. There were a lot of power plays, so we really didn’t have to stay together. During most of the third period, we took over and that’s when Cohen scored his goal. Chemistry started clicking.”
In the net, junior goaltender Jared Coreau started the game in the crease and remained in play until the second period. Freshman Michael Doan took his place with 9:08 in the second period, making his first appearance in the net for the Wildcats. Coreau made nine saves, while Doan saved 11.
“You got to give Michael Doan a lot of credit,” Kyle said. “He came in at halftime without a lot of shots. He comes in and had to make a lot of big saves, and he winds up closing the door. He did a great job there.”
The Wildcat freshmen maintained a dominant presence on the ice. Freshman forward Ryan Aynsley was able to play after a year of ineligibility. Offensively, Higby, Adair and Rose remained a consistent forward line throughout the game. Kyle said a lot of promise was generated with how the freshmen and the Higby-Adair-Rose line performed.
“I think Ryan Aynsley did a really good job for a guy who couldn’t play all of last year,” Kyle said. “He had a number of opportunities. Higby, Adair and Rose were clearly our best line today. They had the most chances and I thought they played very well.”
The Wildcats are gearing up to open their regular season next weekend at 8:05 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13 against the Wisconsin Badgers in a non-conference game.
The game will take place at the Resch Center in Green Bay, and last-minute tickets are still available online at www.ticketstaronline.com or at the Superior Dome Ticket office.