’Cats thrash Badgers in road opener

Cody Boyer

The NMU hockey team broke out the brooms in Wisconsin over the weekend, sweeping their first series of the season.

The Wildcats took on the No. 15-ranked University of Wisconsin Badgers on Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13, clinching both games with third-period goals. NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the results of both games were a welcomed step for the team in their season-opener.

“As a coach, I was very happy with the way we played and how we came out on Friday,” Kyle said. “Both teams were a little sloppy, which you would expect for your first games at that tempo. We were able to keep composure and stay more composed than Wisconsin.”

The ’Cats started off on Friday behind Wisconsin after the Badgers scored the first goal at 14:25 in the second period. NMU answered the goal with one of their own at the beginning of the third with sophomore forward Reed Seckel scoring his ninth career goal 18 seconds into the period. Seniors Matt Thurber and Kyle Follmer assisted Seckel’s goal.

Kyle said the team’s ability to lead from player to player resulted in a stronger performance on the ice.

“You have to certainly give credit to our leadership, and when I say ‘leadership,’ I don’t just mean the captains,” Kyle said. “The upperclassmen and other guys were able to settle things down and they played better and better as the games went on.”

Freshman forward Cohen Adair scored a power-play goal at 9:07 into the third period to win the game for the ’Cats, 2-1. Assisting Adair’s first career goal was junior forward Stephan Vigier and freshman forward Justin Rose. Between the posts, junior goaltender Jared Coreau saved 19 shots on net, earning his 18th career win with NMU. Adair said winning against Wisconsin was a boost of morale for his fellow Wildcats, but there was room for improvement.

“Winning against Wisconsin is huge,” Adair said. “They are ranked fairly high, so beating them early on is a big thing. There were a few things that could still use some improvement, such as our systems.”

On Saturday, the Wildcats started from behind their opponents for the second time during the weekend after the Badgers scored three minutes into the first period. Adair earned his second career goal to tie up the game in the second period, with Thurber and senior defenseman Scott Macaulay with the assists. Thurber contributed to the ’Cats with a goal of his own in the third period, tying up the game after a second Badger’s goal. Thurber said beating a team that was once his own felt good for both himself and for the rest of the ’Cats.

“Playing against Wisconsin again felt good,” Thurber said. “It always feels good, getting a couple of wins coming out of there. It’s huge for our team to be able to get out-of-league game wins, as well.”

Senior forward Kory Kaunisto tagged the game-winning goal, with Macaulay earning his second assist of the game. Sophomore forward Ryan Daugherty finalized the 4-2 victory with an empty-net goal, assisted by junior forward Erik Higby.

Defensively, Coreau established his place between the posts with 18 saves. Following the weekend’s victories, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association named Adair the Gongshow Rookie of the Week. Adair scored a winning goal against Brock University on Sunday, Oct. 7 and scored goals in both games against Wisconsin.

“Adair is a guy that we expect to have good offense out of,” Kyle said. “Getting as much as we have so far is a bonus, and we expect him to contribute offensively on a regular basis.”

NMU travels again next weekend to play at 8 p.m. on both Friday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 20 against Nebraska-Omaha.