Heading into week 10 of conference play, the men’s hockey team has fallen to an eighth place ranking in the WCHA, putting the ’Cats behind rival Michigan Tech University.
Head coach Walt Kyle said the team should not dwell on the standings for too long at this point.“You can dwell on it all you want,” Kyle said. “In reality, I just looked at the standings today and there are six teams between 23 and 19 points.”
From this perspective, Northern Michigan University, with 19 points, is four points away from third place in conference.The Wildcats dropped their most recent game, 5-1, to No. 2 Minnesota State on Saturday, Feb. 1, following a 5-2 Friday evening victory over the Mavericks.
The ’Cats’ sole goal in the loss came off a penalty shot from senior forward Erik Higby.Higby said he was prepared when he went one-on-one against the Maverick’s freshman goaltender, Cole Huggins.
“I knew what I was doing right before I went down,” Higby said. “I was going to either go low blocker or five hole.”Higby chose to go five hole and his quick decision paid off. Huggins was unable to block the shot and the Wildcats made it on the board at 18:23 in the second period.
NMU was down three to one at that point in the game.
In the third period, the Mavericks shut-out the ’Cats and finished with the victory.
Higby said the team wasn’t doing much to kill Mankato’s power plays.
“I feel like we come up really strong Friday and we just kind of expect like we’re going to do the same thing Saturday, and it doesn’t happen,” Higby said. “Going down the stretch this is basically play-off hockey and we’re going to need to figure out how to get two in a row.”
Up next for the Wildcats is a road trip to Big Rapids, Mich. where the ’Cats face the No. 1 team in the conference, Ferris State University.
The Bulldogs are 13-3-2 in conference, with their only losses to Minnesota State and Michigan Tech.
In the Wildcats’ last match-up with the Bulldogs, NMU lost 4-1, Friday, Nov. 29, at home.
The ’Cats came back to tie 1-1, Saturday, Nov. 30 with a sole goal at 14:17 in the second period.
Senior forward Jake Johnson hit the goal with assists from freshman forward Dominik Shine and freshman forward Sami Salminen.
The past three weekends, the Wildcats have not been able to come up with a sweep because they have not finished on Saturday evenings.
The team has taken Friday-night victories against Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota State-Mankato, but then lost to the same teams on Saturday.
Senior forward Stephan Vigier said the team needs to change something up.
“Obviously we are doing something wrong,” Vigier said. “We don’t have an explanation, I wish we did, but we’ve got to figure something out here. Friday wins are great, but you’ve got to back those up, especially in this league. We need the points and it’s so tight and everything, so we’ve got to figure that out.”