The Wildcats have four games remaining in regular season, and they need the additional points to keep the playoffs in sight after the team was defeated by Michigan Technological University.
Nearly 4,000 hockey fans packed Berry Events Center and the parking lots Saturday, Feb. 22, for the final rivalry match-up between Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech in the 2013-14 season.
Head coach Walt Kyle said the fan support at this time in the season was amazing to see in the ’Cats’ home rink.
“Our crowd was unbelievable tonight, and that was, in my opinion, the best crowd of the year,” Kyle said. “I so much appreciate them sticking around. We’re not stupid, we know it’s been an up-and-down year.”
Kyle is referring to the 12-18-2 overall record the ’Cats are running this season. The Wildcats are ranked 9 of 10 teams in the WCHA, a spot they’ve been sitting in the past few weeks.
In the most recent series, NMU lost two games to MTU with a 7-4 defeat in Houghton, followed by a 3-2 defeat at home. Junior forward Reed Seckel, freshman defenseman Barrett Kaib, sophomore forward Darren Nowick, junior forward Ryan Daugherty and freshman forward Dominik Shine all scored over the weekend to make up the six goals, with two from Daugherty.
Redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom recorded the losses with 46 saves of 54 shots on goal.
The Huskies walked away with an additional four points following their victories, moving MTU up from a fourth-place, three-way tie, to a third-place ranking in the WCHA.
Senior defenseman Wade Epp is plus two on the season, and has four assists and one goal in overall play. Epp said in the final weeks of play, the Wildcats need to bounce back from the losses and do what they are capable of.
“The end result wasn’t what we were looking for, but we have four games left,” Epp said. “We have to take any sort of positive that we have coming out of tonight, and just bounce back and really focus.”
Against the Wildcats, Michigan Tech sophomore goaltender Phoenix Copley recorded 58 saves of 64 shots on goal. Copley is running a season 2.55 goals against average and .909 save percentage.
Senior forward Stephan Vigier said Copley made a difference in leading MTU to victory. The ’Cats had 39 shots on goal Saturday night alone, but only managed to score two. The Huskies, in comparison, had 21 shots on goal.
“They took care of their opportunities and won the game,” Vigier said. “[Copley] was good. We had probably forty shots; we had twice as many shots as them. We had tons of opportunity. He was probably the difference tonight.”
At 7:07 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28, the Wildcats open the NMU midsemester recess with their final regular-season home series against the Bowling Green State University Falcons, a team out of Huron, Ohio.
The ’Cats have yet to see the Falcons this season, a 10-10-4 WCHA team with a fifth-place, three-way tie in the current standings.
Kyle said the Wildcats showed effort in the face of defeat against MTU, and that’s something they will need to bring this weekend.
“It is playoff mode,” Kyle said. “You have to win games right now. That’s the way it is. You control your effort. You control your discipline. You don’t always control the outcome.”
Bowling Green played the USA U-18 team in their most recent game as an exhibition match on Friday, Feb. 21, resulting in a 6-1 loss. The Wildcats played the U-18 team in their first game of the the season and took the 3-1 victory Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013.
Bowling Green is led in points by junior forward Dan DeSalvo, who has 27 points on the season off 21 assists and six goals. The Falcon’s sophomore goaltender, Tommy Burke, has a .912 save percentage and 2.43 GAA, but he splits time with freshman goaltender Tomas Sholl.
The Wildcats will need to grasp points in the final four games of the season in order to have a chance at playoffs. Each victory is worth two points. Currently, the Wildcats have 21 points in the WCHA, now seven points behind third-place Michigan Tech and three points behind the teams tied for fifth place.
“Every game from now on is a playoff game; it’s do-or-die,” Epp said. “We need to win the next four games.”