Club hockey ends losing streak

Ray Bressette

The Northern Michigan University men’s club hockey team opened up conference play with a split series against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds.

The Wildcats opened up their series against Eau Claire at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 with a 10-2 victory over the Blugolds, where senior forward Kellen Michalak scored two goals with four assists on the night.

NMU head coach Carl Trosien said it was nice for the team to end their four game losing streak with the win.

“We had a rough month of October,” Trosien said. “Tonight’s performance will help us put those losses behind us. It’s always good to start off well against conference teams and get things kicked off the right way.”

The ’Cats fell behind early at 5:45 in the first period when junior forward Luke Dillon scored a goal for Eau Claire past NMU junior goaltender Alex Latvala. The Wildcats responded when Michalak tied the game at 9:41 with a goal past Eau Claire’s junior goaltender Max Glaser. Michalak’s goal was assisted by sophomore defenseman Karsten Heppler.

Senior forward Kevin Mcnab opened the scoring series for the ‘Cats at 3:10 in the second period with a goal assisted by Steve Eklund.

The Wildcats had contributing goals from sophomore defenseman Karsten Heppler, sophomore forward Anders Carlson, junior forward Dean Potila, junior forward Dillon Montalvo and sophomore forward Steve Eklund. Eau Claire goaltender Max Glaser, who made 18 saves on 23 shots, was pulled in the second intermission and replaced by junior goaltender Ryan Laughlin, who made 10 saves on 15 attempts.

NMU was led in scoring by Michalak Friday, who scored two goals with four assists.

Trosien said he’s pleased with seeing Michalak come through for his team.

“Michalak’s a freak of nature,” Trosien said. “He’s definitely one of those kids who will carry his team. As good as his goals were, his assists were even more phenomenal.”

Michalak credited the victory to his team’s defensive play.

“Our biggest key right now is defense,” Michalak said. “They can’t beat you if they don’t score, and when you play good defense, the offense comes with it. That’s been our mentality all season.”

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2 the Wildcats skated to a 2-2 tie with Eau Claire. The Blugolds jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, with goals from junior forward Luke Dillon at 7:52 and senior forward Jon Roessler at 18:34 in the first.

Senior defenseman Shane Feehery got the ‘Cats on the board late in the second period, as he scored a goal past Laughlin at 18:34, assisted by senior forward Eric Wozny.

The Wildcats tied the game 3:03 into the third period off a goal by Eklund with another assist from Wozny.

Eklund said he was pleased with his team’s ability to come back after their first period deficit, despite the tie.

“We started off late and couldn’t get the jump we wanted,” Eklund said. “We were able to grind back and get a couple of goals, but it’s bittersweet to finish with a tie when we could have gotten a win.”

Neither team was able to score the rest of regulation and into overtime, as freshman goaltender Zachary Casavant made 24 saves on 26 shots in the afternoon for NMU. Laughlin made 35 saves on 37 shots for Eau Claire.

Trosien said he was happy with the team’s performance over the weekend against their conference opponent.

“Right now, Eau Claire is sitting high up in the conference, so it’s great to get three points off of them,” Trosien said. “We probably should have completed the series sweep in our second game, but we’ll take a tie any day when you fall behind like we did.”

NMU will travel to Duluth, Minn. to take on the Minnesota Bulldogs on Friday, Nov. 8 and Saturday, Nov. 9.

Eklund said the team feels confident heading into this weekend’s trip.

“We usually play pretty well when we play these guys,” Eklund said. “We need to get our game clicking early and generate the jumpstart we need, and we should come out with a pair of wins.”