NMU looks ahead to series downstate

Cody Boyer

Following a split weekend entrance into WCHA play against Michigan Tech, the NMU men’s hockey team traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska to take on the Nanooks, skating away with a split.The No. 4 Wildcats hit the road Wednesday, Oct. 30 to compete against the No. 5 Nanooks Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2, losing the first game 5-4 and leaving the second game with a victory, 2-1.


NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the Alaskan weekend helped the team gear up for next week’s series in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“I think it was a good weekend,” Kyle said. “We have played four in a row now in our league and we have played against two really good teams in our league with [Michigan] Tech and Alaska. We have played three of those games on the road and we have got one of our toughest trips of the year out of the way. The guys played very well.”

On Friday, the Wildcats made it to the scoreboard in the first period after two Nanook goals when senior forward Stephan Vigier earned his sixth of the year. Other Wildcats who contributed goals during the first game were sophomore forward Cohen Adair with two goals and senior defenseman CJ Ludwig with one.

“We put ourselves in the hole during the second period,” Kyle said. “We took some penalties, but we scored a couple of five-on-three goals. To our guys’ credit, we bounced back from 2-0 to 2-2, then from 5-2 to 5-4.”

Assisting goals on the Wildcat side of the ice were freshman forwards Shane Sooth and Sami Salminen, junior forward Reed Seckel, freshman defenseman Brock Maschmeyer and Vigier.

Senior forward Erik Higby said, despite numerous penalties and the Nanooks’ quick start, NMU was able to enter the final moments of the game strongly.

“We wished we got points on Friday, but it was a close game and a good comeback from us,” Higby said. “Everyone felt fine going into the third period. No one was rattled or upset about anything. We actually made a pretty good comeback at it and we had some chances late. That carried over into Saturday’s game.”

On Saturday, NMU avenged the previous night’s loss with a 2-1 win. Ludwig earned his fourth goal of the year and Vigier earned his seventh. Assisting Ludwig’s goals were junior forwards Ryan Kesti and Ryan Daugherty. Ludwig assisted Vigier’s goal.

Sophomore goaltender Michael Doan opened the series for the ’Cats, allowing five goals of 22 shots on net. Redshirt freshman Mathias Dahlstrom entered the game at the end of the second period, saving eight shots.

Kyle said the selection of a consistent first string goalie has started to become evident over the eight games played thus far.

“Doan was our backup a year ago and Mathias was sitting in waiting,” Kyle said. “When the season started, the intent was to give both those guys an opportunity to earn the job. We are almost a quarter of the way through our season and we have given those guys a pretty equal opportunity to earn the job. At this point, Mathias has edged ahead and will get a little more playing time, at least for the immediate future based on how they both continue to play.”

Kyle said the team had some  help from home this year when it came to dealing with fatigue in traveling further distances.

“One thing that made a big difference for us was how Forrest Karr, who is the [NMU] athletic director, is from Alaska and understands that travel,” Kyle said. “He planned the travel this year so we could leave on Wednesday instead of Thursday. I can tell from our perspective we were not nearly as fatigued on Saturday as we usually are. I thought we played really, really well on Saturday and to a large degree we controlled the play.”

With two split weekends within the WCHA conference, the Wildcats will be playing a non-conference matchup against Western Michigan this weekend.

Higby said the team is currently preparing itself to again embark from Marquette in order to play against the Broncos.

“Right now, it is about getting rest and staying focused in order to prepare ourselves,” Higby said. “It’s definitely tough with the travel from Alaska to going the next week downstate to play. So far, we are okay with the travel play. Every team has to do it. We can’t really use it as an excuse.”

While Western Michigan is ranked third in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Kyle said people watching the Wildcats can expect to see an interesting matchup between the Wildcats and the Broncos.

“They are a good team,” Kyle said. “They are one of the teams leading their conference right now. They just came off of a big sweep of Colorado College, which is a good team. We’ve gone down there the last couple of years in the CCHA and we lost four straight in their building. We know it is going to be a difficult task. It’s about moving ahead, getting better every night and getting wins while we can.”

This weekend, the ’Cats take on the Broncos on the road. The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 and 5:05 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10 in Kalamazoo, Mich.