Hockey team squares off in Ohio

AnnMarie Kent

A week of rest and conditioning has the Wildcat Men’s Hockey team ready to take on the Bowling Green State University Falcons in one of the final series of the season.

While head coach Walt Kyle wasn’t happy to have a bye-week when the team has built up so much momentum during the last few weekends, he said he’s glad some players got the rest and rehabilitation that they needed to play well through the end of the season.

re-HockeyVsAlaska2.CD“The second half of the year you always have some fatigue and we do have some guys that are dinged up,” Kyle said. “It was good for those guys to get a rest.” Sophomore forward Jordan Klimek said the team is feeling good after having a week off but was disappointed to have the bye-week when they did.

“We were starting to roll and putting our game together so I guess you could see it as a little stump in that way,” Klimek said.

The team travels to Bowling Green, Ohio for its second series against the Falcons this season.

The Wildcats last saw the Falcons at the Berry Events Center on Nov. 11-12 when the Falcons were the third team of the season to sweep the Wildcats. The Falcons scored five goals both nights of the series but the Wildcats were unable to respond as well.

The first night NMU only got one goal past BGSU and the second night recorded three goals against the Falcons. Freshman defenseman Philip Beaulieu led the scoring in the series with three assists.

The Falcons are currently ranked fourth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, right behind the Minnesota State University-Mankato Mavericks—who the Wildcats face off against Feb. 17-18. Klimek said Bowling Green is a tough team that plays a hard, gritty game.

“Going into Bowling Green they have a small rink and usually have a great atmosphere in there and tons of energy,” he said. “I’m looking forward to some fun games down there.”

The Falcons have won the last six games against the Wildcats. The last time NMU came out with a win was February 2015 while the Falcons were ranked No. 8 in the country. BGSU is 12-11-1 within the WCHA and 14-15-2 compared to NMU’s 5-12-3 in conference and 7-17-4 overall.

Kyle said the team isn’t focused on their standings, but rather on what happens moving forward.

“Right now we’re at the point where you do control your own fate,” Kyle said. “If you win you’re probably going to get in. As coaches you’re focused on trying to be the best team that you can be and give yourself the best shot to win every night.”

The Wildcats and the Falcons each have WCHA top scorers on their team. Junior forward for the Falcons Mitch McLain leads the WCHA with 16 goals and senior forward Dominik Shine puts NMU in the stats with his 15 goals. Shine was injured earlier in the season and has appeared in eight fewer games than McLain has.

Kyle sees a trend with Shine; during the second half of seasons he tends to take off, playing at a new caliber.

“He’s doing that now, he’s playing at a higher level than he’s ever played at,” he said. “Right now he’s the most dangerous guy in the league.”

While the team has had a lackluster season, freshman forward Darien Craighead says the feeling in the locker room is a positive one.

“It’s just the guys in the locker room,” he said. “They just keep levelheaded when things aren’t going right.”

The puck drops at the BGSU Ice Arena at 7:07 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4. Games are broadcasted at and on local radio at 100.3 FM.