NMU takes first half of series, 4-2, against Ohio State in Marquette
The NMU men’s hockey team returned home once again to take on OSU, skating away with a swept weekend to continue their six game undefeated streak.
The Wildcats took on Buckeyes on Friday, Jan. 18 and Saturday, Jan. 19, defeating them 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. The series against the Buckeyes marks the ’Cats first CCHA sweep of the season.
Following the weekend’s victories, the Wildcats are now 5-9-4-1 in the CCHA and 11-10-4 overall.
NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the team had been a completely different team earlier in the season when the Buckeyes swept the Wildcats away from home.
“We had a totally different line-up last time we faced them,” Kyle said. “We went down there before and they fed us good. They were fairly close games, but we ended up not getting the job done and we all think that was the start of the downfall for us. Our guys were able to get the job done tonight, and we could have big series to close out the rest of the season.”
The ’Cats closed the weekend sweep with a game of 3-2 against the Buckeyes on Saturday. Sophomore forward Reed Seckel flipped the first goal of the game past Buckeye goalie Brady Hjelle in the first period.
Prior to the games, Hjelle was ranked as the nation’s leading goaltender in the CCHA.
Seckel’s shot was assisted by junior forward Erik Higby and senior forward Matt Thurber, who leads the nation in assists with 19.
Seckel said the redemption to start off the year of 2013 is a welcome boon to the whole team.
“We started off before the break with a lot of losses for the first half,” Seckel said. “We got some time off, we regrouped, and we came back at it. We are making up for the mistakes we made in the first half, and it feels good to be winning.”
The second period opened up the game to penalties, with OSU scoring a power-play goal to tie up the game.
Buckeye Max McCormick shot the puck underneath junior goaltender Jared Coreau, with Sam Jardine and Ryan Dzingel getting the assist.
NMU junior defenseman CJ Ludwig and freshman forward Ryan Aynsley brought the ’Cats ahead further into the second and third.
Aynsley’s shot went unassisted, while Ludwig’s goal was assisted by senior forward Brian Nugent and junior forward Stephan Vigier.
Ludwig was also named CCHA Defenseman of the Week following the weekend’s performances.
OSU managed another power-play goal 6:52 left in the third period, with Buckeye Curtis Gedig getting the goal and the assist by Tanner Fritz and Dzingel.
Although OSU pulled their goalie for an additional player on the ice, NMU held out to maintain the final score of 3-2.
Coreau ended the night with 30 stopped shots, while Hjelle held the crease with 18 saves.
Coreau said the team will be using the past victories as they travel northward to Alaska to keep up the chemistry.
“The way things are going right now, I believe in the team 100 percent,” Coreau said. “We knew they would come out hard. They didn’t want to get swept and we didn’t want to split. It makes me feel a little bit safer in the net, and it all feels pretty good.”
On Friday night, the ’Cats started the weekend against the Buckeyes with a scoreless first period.
In each of the final two periods, NMU contributed two goals, winning the game 4-2.
Kyle said the first one was a big one, with their last Buckeye encounter being less fruitful.
“They handled us pretty easily down there last time,” Kyle said. “We had an opportunity here to play well and to show them we are a better team than we were down there, and I thought the guys responded.”
Senior forward Kory Kaunisto scored at 11:19 into the second period, with assists from freshman forward Cohen Adair and junior defenseman Wade Epp.
Four minutes later, Higby pocketed a goal assisted by Adair and Thurber, bringing the score to 2-0.
Freshman forward Darren Nowick scored the third Wildcat goal following a goal from the Buckeyes, bringing the score to 3-1. Ludwig assisted.
NMU closed out the first game of the series with an open-net goal after the Buckeyes pulled Hjelle to add a player for the third time over the weekend.
Thurber scored with his second of the year on an assist from sophomore defenseman Mitch Jones.
With only 11 regular season games left, the Wildcats are gearing up to travel to Alaska this weekend.
Leading up to the game, Alaska swept Notre Dame last weekend.
The puck drops in Alaska at 11 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 26.