Wildcats tied for fifth in WCHA

Katie Bultman

NMU hockey team travels to top-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato

The Wildcats will be on the road for three non-consecutive weekends until their next home series, which opens the weekend after winter break at 7:07 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17.

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The ’Cats begin their trek on the road this weekend for an 8:37 p.m. game Friday, Dec. 7 against Minnesota State-Mankato. Minnesota State is currently tied for third place in the WCHA with a 5-3-0 conference record.

The ’Cats sit at fifth in the WCHA, tied with Michigan Tech and Bowling Green following a 4-1 loss to Ferris State University on Friday, Nov. 29 and a 1-1 tie with Ferris on Saturday, Nov. 30. NMU is 4-3-1 in conference.

NMU is one of two teams to hand the Bulldogs a tie. Ferris is currently sitting with no losses and an 8-0-2 WCHA record.

Following the loss Friday evening, head coach Walt Kyle said the Wildcats struggled because they found difficulties scoring.

“They’re (Ferris) good and we played into what they do,” Kyle said. “They were really patient in the neutral zone. Their power play was good; they got two on the powerplay. They wait for you to make mistakes. I didn’t think we did a very good job managing the puck and I thought that we didn’t do a very good job, to their credit, threatening the net.”

Friday evening both teams racked up the penalties, recording 56 penalties in minutes between the two teams. Two players were also ejected.

Wildcat junior forward Reed Seckel and junior forward Andy Huff of Ferris State both received disqualification penalties that removed the men from the rest of the series.

Kyle said once Seckel got involved, the Wildcats came out on the short end and the ’Cats were not threatening.

“I didn’t think our best players were our best players,” Kyle said. “I thought we were really content to try and do stuff individually, and not collectively move the puck with any efficiency. We drifted kind of through the second period. Seckel got ejected and we just weren’t very efficient.”

Redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom took the loss for the ’Cats with 17 saves. Freshman goaltender Derek Dun, who celebrated his birthday Friday evening, received 18 minutes of playing time for the Wildcats and recorded eight saves.

Sophomore forward Cohen Adair scored the lone goal for the Wildcats at 19:49 in the final period off assists from freshman forward Sami Salminen and junior defenseman Luke Eibler.

Kyle said the team needs to focus on consistency following the game Friday evening.

“The top half of the lineup has to play like they are guys that belong in the top half of the lineup,” Kyle said. “They have to consistently make plays and consistently threaten. I think they’ve done a good job with that for the bulk of the year but they did not do a good job with that tonight.”

Senior defenseman and team captain CJ Ludwig faced an injury Friday evening that took him out of the game. He did not return Saturday night and the injury report has not yet been released.

Senior forward Stephan Vigier said the team was missing an important piece Saturday without Ludwig, but the men stepped up.

“It hurts not having Ludwig,” Vigier said. “He’s our leader and our captain, and probably one of our best defensemen. It hurts not having him, but we’ve got guys that can play up there and do a good job.”

Saturday evening the ’Cats tied with Ferris State to lead into an overtime period. Neither team was able to score, and the final result was a 1-1 tie.

Salminen and freshman forward Dominik Shine assisted senior forward Jake Johnson for the goal that tied the game at 14:17 in the second period.

Vigier said the team had to work to move pucks up to defensemen and get shots from there.

“They’re (Ferris) a really hard team to play against because they really matched up down low and they play a really tight, tight defense,” Vigier said. “They were doing a good job blocking and stuff like that, but I think today we were a lot more successful than yesterday in getting shots through and it was nice to see Jake Johnson get down in there.”

Over break, the Wildcats will face Minnesota State-Mankato, North Dakota and Bemidji State on the road before returning home to face Alaska-Fairbanks.

Kyle said after the weekend, the most important item on the team agenda during the next few series will be to determine the team lineup.

“I think the biggest thing right now is we have to find out what our lineup is going to be, and I thought we had some guys play up,” Kyle said. “We have to mix and match a little bit.”