NATIONALS BOUND — NMU is set to compete in the womens club hockey national tournament this weekend.
NATIONALS BOUND — NMU is set to compete in the women’s club hockey national tournament this weekend.
Caden Sierra/NW

Women’s Hockey falls short in CCWHA Playoffs, focus shifts to nationals

The NMU women’s club hockey team traveled downstate on Feb. 23 for the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association (CCWHA) playoffs where they clashed against the Michigan State Spartans, who finished sixth place with a record of 11-12-0. The ‘Cats fell to the Spartans 4-3, finding themselves eliminated from the playoffs. The Wildcats finished the season with a record of 11-7-2, taking fifth place in the WDII CCWHA division.

In the first period, Michigan State wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as the Wildcats found themselves in an early 2-0 hole after the Spartans struck early with two quick goals. NMU rallied with a power-play goal from senior Chloe Valente with assists from junior Breanna Bisek and senior Paris Wegleitner to bring the ‘Cats within one with a 2-1 score. The Spartans tallied another goal near the halfway mark of the period to make the game 3-1. As the period was coming to a close, a goal from Wegleitner made the game 3-2 and kept the ‘Cats within one.

Caden Sierra/NW

As the second period rolled around, defense stood firm on both teams as tensions ran high. The ‘Cats broke the ice in the second as Valente made her second goal of the night, tying the game up at three apiece going into the third period. 

Entering the final period with the game hanging in the balance, both teams dug deep. However, it was Michigan State who managed to extend their lead with a late goal, putting the game out of reach for the Wildcats. The Spartans went on to top the Wildcats with a final score of 4-3. Despite the loss, Wildcats’ goaltender sophomore Lucy Bruening stood tall, turning away 31 of the 35 shots she faced. 

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The ‘Cats emerged from the loss strong, bouncing back with a 9-1 win the next day against the Miami University RedHawks before concluding their road trip. Led by early goals from junior Cecelia Cunningham, Valente and Wegleitner, the Wildcats set the tone for the game. Despite some penalty challenges throughout the contest, the ‘Cats cashed in on a power-play opportunity and continued to dominate throughout, with more goals coming later in the game from Bisek and senior Alyvia Peedle.

“I thought we had a high intensity in both games during the playoffs,” Cunningham said. “I was very proud of our team’s efforts even though the first game did not turn out the way we had hoped.”

With the official rankings for the 2023-2024 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) WII season released, the ‘Cats now look to shift their focus to nationals. NMU currently stands among the 16 teams selected to compete for the 2024 ACHA Women’s Division II National Championship title.

“We had a few last-minute practices to work on things as a team,” Cunningham said, in terms of preparing for nationals. “Personally, I am trying to keep up with off-ice training and watching films to stay in the ‘hockey’ mentality.”

The path to nationals represents an opportunity for the Wildcats to show their talent and skill on the national platform. The ‘Cats will be slotted in the Central Region, with contenders such as Sault College, Central Michigan University and Adrian College. The Wildcats’ first game of the tournament was Tuesday, March 12, against the Assiniboine Cougars at the Maryville University Hockey Center in Chesterfield.

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