Hockey team hosts Bemidji State

AnnMarie Kent

After finishing a 1-1 series against the University of Wisconsin Badgers over the weekend, the NMU hockey team hosts the Bemidji State Beavers this weekend in the  regular season home opener.
The Wildcats played the Big Ten Conference Badgers on Friday and Saturday at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

re-hockeyvsvictoria-3684The Wildcats finished Friday night in a 3-2 victory but fell short on Saturday in a 6-5 loss.

“It was a good start to the year but there’s a lot to be worked on,” junior forward Robbie Payne said. “All the guys are expecting that when you go into the beginning of the season.”

During Friday’s game Payne recorded one goal. But Saturday night he became the first Wildcat in 10 years to record 5 points in one game, with two goals and three assists.

Payne’s performance in the series earned him the Offensive Player of the Week Award from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“It’s fun and it was a good weekend,” Payne said. “Hopefully going forward I can continue to do that.”

There are many other players on the team that have the ability to receive accolades like this, Payne said. He also credited his successful weekend to his linemates freshman forward Darien Craighead and junior forward Zach Diamantoni. Another Wildcat received an honor this weekend. Sophomore goalie Atte Tolvanen was named to the Mike Richter Award Watch List. The award is given to one outstanding goalie in men’s Division I hockey.

He said he’s focusing on the season and not winning the award.

“If we win as a team I might have a chance to win, but it’s all about the team,” Tolvanen said. “If you lose every game, there’s not a chance to be there.”

Tolvanen was named with 20 other DI goalies across the country. Four other Western Collegiate Hockey Association goalies made the list as well.

The Wildcats host Bemidji State for the first home series of the season. The Wildcats played the Beavers on Halloween weekend last year. Friday night ended in a stalemate, both teams earning no goals by the end of over time. Saturday’s game ended more favorably for the Wildcats. After finishing the first frame in a tie, 1-1, the ’Cats shot two more unresponded goals.

Going into the weekend the Beavers lead the Wildcats in the all-time series 5-4-3.

Tolvanen said he remembers last year’s series against the Beavers was tough and they got a lot of shots against the Wildcats, but he also remembers two really good games for himself.

Head coach Walt Kyle said the Beavers are always a well-prepared, well-coached team.

“We’ll have our hands full,” Kyle said. “They just beat Bowling Green who’s projected first in the league.”

The Beavers started their season over the weekend with a sweep of the Bowling Green State University Falcons.

The Falcons were ranked No. 1 in the WCHA preseason coaches poll. The Beavers toppled the Falcons in 2-1 and 4-1 games over the weekend. Tolvanen is excited to be back on the ice at the Berry Events Center especially after the good season they had there last year, he said.

Payne said the new scoreboard has gotten the team fired up for the season at home.

“It’ll be good to get our opening games here at home.”