No. 20-ranked Wildcats host Bulldogs

Ray Bressette

re-CS_HockeyThe No. 20 ranked Wildcat hockey team continues to ride their undefeated streak through the first six games to start the season. If the streak is going to stay alive, they will have to do so against an opponent that has seen much success the past few seasons in the No. 16 ranked Ferris State University Bulldogs.

Last weekend, the Wildcats tied the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers 1-1 Friday, Oct. 31 at Berry Events Center, and defeated them 4-1 the next night Saturday, Nov. 1.

Senior forward Reed Seckel earned two points in the series with a goal and an assist.

Despite the two teams being members of the WCHA, the series was considered non-conference, since the games were scheduled before Alabama-Huntsville joined the conference in 2013.

Head coach Walt Kyle attributed Saturday’s win to the leadership of senior forward and team captain Ryan Kesti.

“The guys in our locker room found a way to get it done,” Kyle said. “We talk about winning periods, and when I went to talk to the team after the second period, Kesti was already talking to the team saying all the right things. When you have leaders like that on your team, the ball is rolling in the right direction.”

The Wildcats’ undefeated record through their first six games is the best start to a season in 16 years for the program.

NMU will be hosting their first home conference game of the season this weekend when the Bulldogs travel to Marquette.      

The Wildcats and FSU both made the switch from the CCHA to the WCHA during the 2013 offseason. Many players on Bulldogs’ roster have seen success over the last three seasons at FSU, including winning the CCHA and reaching the NCAA Championship both in 2012, reaching the CCHA quarterfinals in 2013 and winning the regular season WCHA title and reaching the NCAA Midwest Regionals last season.

NMU head coach Walt Kyle said FSU still has the competitiveness they’ve had the last few seasons.

“They’re a really strong team that’s been bringing in a lot of great success, from an All-American goalie to a great set of defenders in front of him, they know how to win,” Kyle said. “They carry a great work ethic with them, and we’re definitely going to be challenged this week.”

Ferris’ success has been led by their head coach Bob Daniels, who has been on the Bulldogs’ coaching staff for 23 seasons and is the program’s all-time winningest coach. Daniels is the reigning WCHA coach of the year.

Daniels said this weekend’s games will come down to talent and strategy.

“I expect another series that will probably feature games decided by two goals or less,” Daniels said. “Both games should be hard fought, featuring two of college hockey’s premier goaltenders, and as is often the case, special teams should play a large factor in the outcome.”

Senior goaltender CJ Motte has stood between the pipes for the Bulldogs the past four seasons and, through his team’s first seven games this year, has a 94.3 save percentage, good enough for third best in the conference.

Sophomore forward Chad McDonald is leading the Bulldogs in scoring with three goals, while junior forward Matt Robertson leads with five points. For NMU, sophomore goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom is second among WCHA goaltenders with a 96.2 save percentage.

Dahlstrom is also leading the conference in goals against average at 82 percent.

The ’Cats have benefited from a number of offensive contributors through their first six games, as junior forward Darren Nowick leads the team with four goals and has earned six points.

Sophomore forward Dominik Shine leads the Wildcats in points with seven, while sophomore forward Shane Sooth has put up six points as well.

Last season, the ’Cats lost their season series to the Bulldogs 0-3-1. The one tie came in a 1-1 contest on Saturday, Nov. 30 at Berry Events Center. NMU lost the other three matches, with the largest deficit a 7-1 loss on Friday, Feb. 7 in Big Rapids, Mich.

Kesti said his team knows what to expect out of FSU this season.

“Ferris is a very good team,” Kesti said. “They put a pretty good thumping on us in Big Rapids last year, and with our big ice surface I know they’ll play with a lot of speed. They play well as a team, and we look forward to the challenge.”