Nardi and Newhouse: Hockey’s fifth-year senior captains cherish being a Wildcat


SAYING GOODBYE—Joseph Nardi and Ben Newhouse sharing the ice together back in November against Michigan Tech. The two senior captains’ careers are coming to an end soon. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

Both forward Joseph Nardi and defenseman Ben Newhouse had played their four years of college hockey, and could’ve moved on to try and play in the pro ranks. However, after coming up one game short of the NCAA Tournament and wanting to build off of that, both individually decided to give Northern Michigan University’s hockey program one more year.

Nardi and Newhouse both live together, and are now in their second year as the captain and the alternate captain.  If everything goes right this weekend while facing Ferris State, Northern could be in play to host the first round of the CCHA Tournament next weekend. However, this weekend will be the final regular season game in the Berry Events Center as a Wildcat, and each has a different path to where they are today.

Nardi now owns the program record for most games played and reached over 100 points in his NMU career. He also was the only player to stay at NMU once Walt Kyle was let go as head coach in favor of Grant Potulny in 2017. However, his career at NMU was cut short with a serious knee injury in practice prior to the Jan. 14-15 series with Minnesota State-Mankato. He’s had to adjust from being out on the ice.

“It’s definitely been different, the first game was definitely weird sitting in the stands just being away from the guys,” Nardi said. “That’s the one thing I’ve missed, is being in the dressing room between periods and being a leader on the ice for them. I’ve absolutely adjusted to it, and it’s really nice to watch the guys now.”

Nardi just had surgery, and hasn’t been going on the road with the team to rehab for that recent operation. Other than that, he has been as close to the team as possible by attending practices and meetings. In his own way, Nardi’s been trying to continue to lead the team from the sidelines.

“It’s tough, I want to be out there and playing in my fifth year and trying to help the team win,” Nardi said. “I think you can still lead, I’ve had a lot of coaches that helped me growing up that reached out to me, friends and family, and tried to make sure that the point of emphasis was to stay around the guys and still lead in different ways.”

Nardi’s injury, combined with a lot of other injuries, has made this season one of ups and downs for the team. It also left Newhouse as the only captain suiting up for the ‘Cats for the final month and a half of the season.

Newhouse has had his own journey to this point, because it didn’t begin here. He played one season at Union College before transferring to NMU. He had to sit out the 2018-19 season for transferring, and now is close to completing his third full year, and career, as a Wildcat. In times where it could be hard to be yourself and try to add on Nardi’s leadership on top of his own, Newhouse has tried to stay within his same leadership style and see the others help.

“It was very difficult losing Joe, it was his second year as a captain and third year wearing a letter,” Newhouse said. “Obviously, that’s a big void that you lose not only on the ice, but in a leadership regard as well. That’s difficult to overcome, but for me, I’ve been trying to stick with the same things like being vocal on the bench and on the ice, and try to have a positive attitude as much as possible. But, it’s been a collective effort to fill the leadership void that was lost when Joe went down.”

In hockey, one player wears the “C” for captain, and another wears the “A” for alternate captain. Nardi doesn’t see it that way, he sees both of them as the leadership nucleus of that team, and it’s been a special partnership for the two of them. Both players mentioned how much of an honor being a captain is, and it’s even more special in a community like Marquette where you’re recognized.

“I think the leadership group that we have with me and Ben, it’s not a captain’s assistant, for me in my mind, it’s 1A and 1B,” Nardi said. “It’s showing right now with me not in the line-up, Ben’s doing an unbelievable job with the team. He’s just showing his true leadership that’s coming out, and it’s really nice to watch that the team is in really good hands on the ice. It was special to come back with Ben for a fifth-year.”

Both players went through the senior day ceremonies last year, but this year will be different for them. There were barely any fans for this a year ago, but the Berry should be packed to send off these two fifth-year seniors, along with six others who will go through the ceremony. After last year going through this without parents in attendance, both Nardi and Newhouse will have their parents here. Nardi is from Canada, so his parents weren’t even allowed to cross the border, and Newhouse’s parents will be here also. 

For these two players that have been the leaders of this team for two years, it couldn’t be more different for how it’s going to go. Newhouse will be out on the ice, while Nardi will watch his senior day weekend from the same bleachers as you and I. 

“This year, especially with the injury, I think that I’ve been expecting it to come and to have my parents coming is special to me,” Nardi said. “Having them here, and the fans that I’ve played in front of for the last five years, and my coaches and my teammates, it’ll be an emotional night for sure.”

Newhouse is looking forward to doing a lap around the ice to thank the fans for their unwavering support that they’ve shown through the ups and downs, he said. With next week’s postseason fate unknown, he’s hoping to end at least his last home regular season games with a pair of wins.

“It’s pretty bittersweet, if these are my last games at the Berry, I want to go out on a high note,” Newhouse said. “I’m sure it’ll be emotional, but it’s a happy thing and for my entire experience at NMU, I’m extremely thankful for, and I’m sure every other senior here can say the same thing.”

Northern hosts Ferris State to close out the regular season and congratulate the seniors. The Wildcats had a dominant 7-1 win on Friday, and the second game of the series begins at 6:37 p.m. on Saturday.