Hockey team hosts last-place Seawolves

Ray Bressette

The hockey ’Cats head home to resume WCHA play this weekend against the conference’s last place University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves after losing and tying Penn State on the road last weekend.

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NMU head coach Walt Kyle will resume team actions this week, after sitting out last weekend’s series against Penn State due to administrative leave.

Senior forward and team co-captain Ryan Kesti said the bench wasn’t the same without their head coach last weekend.

“It was definitely quieter,” Kesti said. “Walt is pretty vocal in what he does, and he’s very good at what he does, so it was a different situation, but the assistant coaches did a great job and we’re glad to have him back.”

The Wildcats enjoyed three-goal leads in both matches against the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley last weekend, but a late second period goal and three-third period goals led to a 5-4 loss Friday, Jan. 23. Pennsylvania native sophomore defenseman Barrett Kaib scored two goals for NMU in the loss. Penn State outshot the Wildcats 53-30 in the game.

The following afternoon, NMU jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period and after trading scores with Penn State, the ’Cats held a 4-1 lead with five minutes remaining in the second period. The Nittany Lions scored four of the next five goals to send the game into overtime.

After five minutes of overtime, the game remained tied at five goals each and went into a shootout.

Sophomore forward Casey Purpur, junior forward Darren Nowick and freshman forward Robbie Payne each scored in the shootout to give the ’Cats the shootout victory, despite the game being counted as a tie.

The Wildcats will return to Berry Events Center to host Alaska Anchorage at 7:07 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, as well as Saturday, Jan. 31. The Seawolves enter this weekend fighting for their playoff lives, sitting at the bottom of the WCHA in tenth place with a conference record 4-10-2, 7-11-4 overall and 10 conference points. Anchorage is only two points behind ninth place LSSU which has 12 points. Due to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks’ ineligibility for the WCHA playoffs due to NCAA violations, only the tenth place team will be eliminated from the WCHA playoffs with Fairbanks in March.

Kyle said the ’Cats cannot take Anchorage lightly due to their place in the standings.

“One of the beauties of this league is all the teams are comparable and compete with each other,” Kyle said. “Anchorage is a very good team with some dangerous players, they are well coached and we’re going to have our hands full.”

NMU currently sits with a 6-8-4 conference record, 9-9-6 overall and tied with Ferris State University in fourth place with 16 conference points.

The Seawolves are coming off a bye week, and haven’t played since their earned pair of road wins over the Nanooks Friday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, Jan. 18 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Senior forward Scott Allen is the highest goal scorer for Anchorage with seven goals, while junior forward Blake Tatchell leads his club in points with 17, as well as assists with 13.

Freshman goaltender Olivier Mantha has started 17 of the Seawolves’ 22 games and has earned a .928 save percentage as well as a 2.39 goals-against average.

For the Wildcats, sophomore goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom has a 2.18 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in the 20 games he’s played.

Nowick, sophomore defenseman Brock Maschmeyer and sophomore forward Dominik Shine have each scored seven goals for NMU. Shine has the most points for the ’Cats with 18, while Nowick has 17.

The Wildcats have not produced as well in the home confines of Berry Events Center this season, where they have posted a 2-3-4 home record as opposed to their 5-6-2 record and 2-0 neutral site record. Their only home wins came over the University of Alabama-Huntsville Saturday, Nov. 1 and Ferris State on Saturday, Nov. 8. The ’Cats last home game ended in a 3-3 tie over Michigan Tech Friday, Jan. 9.

The Seawolves are 2-7-1 in road games this season.

Senior forward Reed Seckel said the ’Cats need to do a better job defending their home rink.

“This is our place where we practice every day, and we need to start getting more wins here,” Seckel said. “Hopefully we can get some students and some fan base out and get some noise. There’s nothing better than playing at Berry Events Center when this place is wild.”