Wildcats take weekend, aim at DePere

Katie Bultman

The men’s club hockey team swept the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs over the weekend on Friday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 10 to add a pair of wins to their record.

Friday night, Minnesota came out with force, and NMU took some hard hits in exchange for a few Bulldog penalties.

However, the ’Cats fought back to take the lead at 3:49 in the first period when sophomore forward Wolff Belanger assisted senior forward Brad Gicopoulos for the goal. At the end of the first period, the Wildcats were up 1-0.

NMU entered the second period with a very physical game, something head coach Carl Trosien found surprising for the first night of play.

“We did not expect the aggressive play that early in the game,” Trosien said. “It’s something you expect the second night but not in the first game. It had to do with the intensity of the situation.”

Both teams came in undefeated in the conference, and both were ranked in the top 15.

In the second period, fans witnessed penalties from both sides of the floor.

However, at 18:02 NMU took the first goal of the second period when freshman Ben Hughes and junior Mike Baudino assisted senior Kellen Michalak, all forwards, to give the ‘Cats a 2-0 lead.

The game picked up when Duluth answered at 17:33 in the period.

NMU came back with a goal from sophomore forward Dillon Montalvo off an assist from junior forward Eric Wozny.

Montalvo fully understood the value of the game, and what it meant to the team.

“It was a big game with pretty even teams and we had to feel each other out first,” Montalvo said. “They were definitely aggressive and they had to be with our speed and fore-checks.”

A late penalty for NMU in the second period hurt the ’Cats when the Bulldogs scored off a power play with a minute before the break.

With one period to go NMU held the lead, 3-2.

To start the final period, the ’Cats left the locker room with energy that carried over to the ice.

Freshman forward Anders Carlson scored a power-play goal off assists from Gicopoulos and Belanger, and sealed the game for the ’Cats.

Carlson said that the team enthusiasm stemmed from the ’Cats desire to end the game on a strong note.

“We just wanted to finish off the team, play better, and take it to them,” Carlson said.

NMU ended the first night with a 5-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth.

Saturday night proved to be a much lower scoring game, where all the points came from the second period alone.

In the first period, sophomore goaltender Jeff Ryan was taken out for a short amount of time after a hard hit from Minnesota. Trosien said the team was worried about Ryan.

“When Jeff got hit in the first, it was a point where we were more nervous,” Trosien said. “You never want to see the goaltender hurt.”

However, Ryan was able to get back on the ice and contribute saves that led to the low scoring game, something his team gave him credit for.

“I really think our goaltender kept us in the game,” said senior defenseman Shane Feehery.

In the second period, NMU scored a quick goal at 19:31 on the clock when Gicopoulos and Carlson assisted Belanger to put the first point on the board.

Minnesota responded with a goal at 13:57, but Carlson came back to score the second game-winning goal of the weekend off an assist from Belanger with 6:41 in the second period.

The ’Cats left the ice with a 2-1 win. Sophomore forward Dean Potila said he felt good about the team’s energy during the second period for the ’Cats.

“We had more intensity and we pushed harder for the next goal,” Potila said.

Freshman defenseman Karsten Heppler said the close score added to the physical play.

“We wanted to win,” Heppler said. “It was one of those close games so it got physical.”

Over the weekend, Wildcat team members put up some big accomplishments, as Ryan added 11 wins to lead the ACHA and the National Stats. In addition, Belanger scored to lead the nation in goals with 23, and place second in points with 45.

NMU heads to DePere, Wis. next weekend for a rematch against the St. Norbert Knights JV team at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16 and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17.