First regionals end in defeat: Club ’Cats place first in ACHA during regular season

Georgette Breen-Naylor

The Wildcat club hockey team ended its road to Nationals after an overtime loss against Michigan State in the program’s first regional tournament appearance.

Justin Key/NW Sophomore goalie Jeff Ryan completed the regular ACHA season placed in the top 25, nationwide. Ryan currently holds a save percentage of .933.

The ’Cats traveled to Northbrook, Ill. on Saturday, Feb. 23 to play the Michigan State University Spartans in the program’s first regional appearance in school history. Michigan State scored a goal in overtime to beat the ’Cats 1-0.Michigan State was able to score their goal off a mistake the ’Cats made in overtime.

Senior defenseman Mark Novak said when you play a team like MSU, it becomes a game of who makes less mistakes.

“I thought we played well,” Novak said. “They were able to capitalize on one mistake in overtime to end the game.”

NMU head coach Carl Trosien said the ’Cats ended regulation on a powerplay, so a goal at that point may have won them the game.

“We played a heck of a hockey game on Saturday,” Trosien said. “The vets played like we expected them to and we had some freshman step up big time.”

The Spartans able to take advantage of a three on one opportunity to win the game. Sophomore right wing Ben Hughes said MSU caught the ’Cats on a bad change.

“Both teams were worn out in overtime,” Hughes said. “They went down on a three on one and got lucky with a goal.”

Although the season is over, sophomore goalie Jeff Ryan said the overall season was still awesome.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys,” Ryan said. “All of us get along so well, and we’re having fun playing good hockey.”

The ’Cats will be losing four seniors, including defenseman Mark Feeliery, center Brad Gicopoulos, forward Kellen Michalak and defenseman Mark Novak.

Novak said there are so many memories, but his favorite was last weekend’s game and when the ’Cats swept DePaul.

“We proved ourselves to the rest of the league,” Novak said. “We will be a team that will be knocking on regionals doors for years to come.”

Trosien also shared the same memory as Novak, as he said he always couldn’t forget the sweep of DePaul’s hockey team. Trosien also added he enjoyed the traveling.

“The sweep at DePaul and some fun things you see on the road and in the hotels,” Trosien said. “I think my favorite was obviously getting the call we were going to regionals.”

With this year’s season over, Trosien said the ’Cats will look to be right back at regionals.

“We return a very solid core of players,” Trosien said. “I would love to get to nationals next season and that’s the goal.”

Trosien also said this group of ’Cats has much to be proud of. Ryan ranked in the top 25 in the country in saving percentage (.933). Sophomore forward Wolff Belanger ranked eighth in the country for goals scored.

The ’Cats finished first in their Conference in the ACHA and were the first team in the school’s history to make it to regionals.

Novak said he wanted to leave his future ’Cats with some words of advice.

“I would tell them to keep working hard and above all else enjoy the game while you can,” Novak said. “You never know when your last game will be.”