Slow starts lead to big wins for ’Cats

Georgette Breen-Naylor

The men’s club hockey team played their final two home games of the season against an opponent in their conference.

Northern Illinois University traveled up to Marquette to play the ’Cats at the Lakeview Arena this weekend on Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb 2. The ’Cats had an opportunity to add to their season total of wins as they went up against Northern Illinois and Finlandia. The ’Cats started off slow in their first game at home. The ’Cats fell behind 1-0 in the first period but were able to tie in the second with a goal from freshman Karsten Heppler.

“It was a slow start,” Heppler said. “It was disappointing, but we tied.”

The ’Cats fell behind 2-1 until a goal by junior center Neeco Belanger in the closing minutes of the game tied the score, 2-2. That goal would be the final goal of the game as the ’Cats had to settle for a tie. Sophomore forward Dean Potila said the team had some opportunities that they did not take advantage of.

“We had some good chances of scoring,” Potila said. “There’s always tomorrow.”

The second game against Northern Illinois proved to be a different game. The ’Cats were able to come out strong in their second game against Northern Illinois and had them playing from behind the whole game. The team was able to hold the lead the whole game with goals from  Neeco Belanger, sophomore Wolff Belanger, senior center Brad Gicopoulos and Heppler.

Compared to the first game, this was an offensive shootout, something head coach Carl Trosien was happy about.

“We played a lot better early, we had a lot more energy,” Trosien said. “We came out kind of flat last night.”

Coach Trosien said the team came out stronger in the second game. Northern Illinois was able to come back from a few goal deficit but couldn’t close the gap as the ’Cats took home the win 6-5. Senior defense Mark Novak said he thought the ’Cats came out stronger in this game.

“We came out really hard in the first,”  Novak said. “We just wanted to play tonight a little more, we weren’t as hesitant.”

Northern Illinois would be the team that started slow in the second game as the ’Cats took an early lead.   The ’Cats seemed to have more energy in the second game which helped them to build a lead and hold on for the win against Northern Illinois.

“I think they found some legs,  and we got up a few goals,” Trosien said. “It was a big difference, we just came out stronger in the first period.”

Playing from behind during the first game, the ’Cats made a big improvement in their second game against Northern Illinois as they held a steady lead throughout. The final game in the ’Cat’s weekend was considered an exhibition, and it was also a chance for those who do not get to play to have an opportunity. Sophomore right wing Ben Hughes was one of the players that went on the trip.

“It was more of a game that we could mess around a bit,” Hughes said.  “We let all the veterans have a rest today and just had all the rookies, besides a few starters.”

Although the ’Cats lost to Finlandia, Trosien said they were able to gain some experience for their younger players. Hughes said the veterans had earned the day off after a tough two game weekend, one of which went into overtime. The ’Cats ended this weekend by picking up one win and earning one tie.

Ben Hughes said there were some starters who joined the rookies to help them gain some game experience.

“It was a good time for all of us rookies to spend time playing together and get ready for the big games coming up,” said  Hughes. “The rookies had a good time playing another game with our assistant captain Novak.”

The ’Cats will rest up as a team and travel to Minnesota to compete in the WCCHA Tournament this upcoming weekend on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9 in Blaine, Minn.