’Cats travel south to Alabama-Huntsville

Ray Bressette

The NMU hockey team looks to get back in the win column this weekend when they face off against the University Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, who are riding a winless skid of their own.re-hockey_ET

NMU head coach Walt Kyle said after seeing his team swept in Huntsville by the Chargers last season, his team is not taking any conference points this
weekend for granted.

“It shouldn’t be hard to find motivation and focus after last year,” Kyle said. “The guys know this, and we’re in the middle of the toughest stretch of our schedule. We want to get through this and survive and keep getting points every weekend.”

Puck Drop between the teams is set for 7:07 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5.

Alabama is riding a six-game losing streak, dating back to Oct. 31 where their last win was against LSSU in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

The Chargers sit in last place of the WCHA’s ten teams with a 2-7-1 conference record, 3-8-1 overall. Alabama has not won a home conference game in the friendly confines of the Von Braun Center, and their last home win was on Oct. 10 against the University of
Connecticut.

Last weekend, the Chargers dropped a pair of games at home to the Bemidji State University Beavers both by a 4-1 score.

Alabama head coach Michael Corbett said their losing streak is a result of self-inflicted wounds.

“Right now, we are a team in need of a win,” Corbett said. “We have played well at times, but mistakes that have been made are ending up in our net. We have to overcome those mistakes against WCHA opponents, especially playing NMU who has a high-octane offense and wants to play fast. We are going to have to contain their forwards and manage the puck very well.”

Despite their recent struggles, Alabama has the second highest scoring offense in the league, averaging 2.7 goals and 24.5 shots per game. Sophomore forward Brennan Saulnier is seventh in conference in scoring with seven goals and 11 points.

However, Huntsville’s junior goaltender Carmine Guerriero is 12th out of 14 qualifying goalies in the WCHA in both goals-against average (2.99) and save
percentage (.891).

Junior forward Dominik Shine said NMU is aware of Alabama’s potential.

“They’re a team that probably works harder and competes harder than any other team in our league every night,” Shine said. “They’re a tough opponent to play against.”

NMU is coming off a weekend where they were swept by the Bowling Green State University Falcons in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Falcons took the opening game Friday, Nov. 27 by a score of 2-1. The following evening, the Wildcats battled back from a  score of 3-1 to tie the game with two quick goals in four minutes from senior forwards Darren Nowick and Cohen Adair. In the eventual overtime, the ’Cats were five seconds away from ending the match in a tie and escaping Bowling Green with a point when Falcon sophomore forward Mitch McLain buried a shorthanded goal behind Wildcat freshman goaltender Atte Tolvanen.

Tolvanen has led the ’Cats between the pipes this season, starting all but one game while senior Mathias Dahlstrom sits with an injury. Tolvanen is second in the conference with a .930 save-percentage and fourth in goals against with a 2.25 average.

Last weekend’s losses dropped the ’Cats to 4-5-5 on the season and 3-4-3 in conference play, keeping them in fifth place in
the WCHA.

Kyle said a key to this weekend’s match with the Chargers will be playing with more discipline, as the ’Cats are averaging the most penalty minutes in the conference at 15.3 minutes per game.

Junior forward John Siemer said the ’Cats know what it will take to be successful in Alabama
this weekend.

“If we stick to our consistent and relentless game, then more opportunities will come,” Siemer said. “We’re in a good spot right now as a team. We have some growing to do, but other than that we’ve
found ourselves.”