Monday, February 26, 2007

G-B-U: Miami

During a weekend highlighted by senior tribute, the Wildcats played host to the No. 9 Miami RedHawks. At the end of two nights, the team had traded a pair of 4-1 decisions, with NMU pulling out a victory on Senior Night (Saturday).

Having finished out the regular season, the 'Cats must now prepare for the first round of the CCHA Playoffs and a trip to Columbus Ohio.

The Good

1) Seniors Leaving Their Marks

Well, they left their marks on the weekend, at least. Two of the nine departing players are goaltenders (Zaniboni and Hatinger). The remaining seven seniors picked up either a goal or an assist in the Miami series.

On Friday, Pat Bateman picked up the lone Wildcat goal. The following night was Senior Night and Dusty Collins scored a goal while Bobby Selden, Rob Lehtinen, Darin Olver, Matt Maunu and Zach Tarkir all gathered assists.

Bill Zaniboni started in goal for both games and on Saturday he was replaced by fellow senior Josh Hatinger with only :38 remaining in the game.

2) A Little Momentum?

Picking up a split is better than being swept, especially when it is against the No. 9 team in the country. The RedHawks were a good tune-up for the Wildcats as they head into the playoffs. And although they didn't manage to earn a home series in the first round, the 'Cats may have picked up a little momentum and a bit of confidence on Saturday.

The Bad

1) The Defense

Let me rephrase: Aspects of the defense. I'll say up front that the NMU penalty-kill did a phenomenal job as they shut out (0-10) the power-play of a team that converts on nearly 19% of their opportunities.

NMU's 5-on-5 defense, however, showed some frightening lapses on Friday night. There was a rash of NMU turnovers in their own defensive zone and three of the four Miami goals can, more or less, be attributed to a defensive miscue by NMU. The fourth goal was scored on an open net.

The RedHawk forwards also torched the NMU D down the ice more than twice. One of the fly-bys resulted in a goal after Nathan Davis zipped along the boards past Zach Tarkir.

NMU head coach Walt Kyle felt that the defense played solid. I would say that the defense was mediocre and that their major errors were egregious and costly and they came too often. On Saturday, though, they weren't too bad.

2) A Trip to Columbus

NMU was unable to slide into eighth place in the CCHA, but they only have themselves to blame. LSSU finished in the coveted eighth spot and had 25 points, just four more than the Wildcats.

As compensation for the season-ending position, NMU must travel to Columbus for the first round of the CCHA Playoffs. The Wildcats are quite familiar with this year's version of the Ohio State Buckeyes as the two teams have faced off four times this season, with OSU winning three of the games. The only victory for NMU came in late October, a 2-0 decision in Marquette.

But despite knowing the Buckeye team, NMU may rather play somewhere else. The series is historically neck-and-neck, but it has been a home ice battle and when the games take place in Columbus, the Buckeyes hold an 18-5-1 edge over the Wildcats.

The Ugly

1) The Senior Night Festivities

Senior Night is one of the more emotional and intense nights for all of the players. They are reflecting back on a large chunk of their life that has been spent on one team, with one group of guys, trying to achieve one goal. The senior class typically plays its collective heart out when the team takes the ice.

The presentation of senior night should certainly reflect this passion. When the NMU Wildcat senior class took the ice on Saturday, however, it was nothing like that.

In the past, a fog machine has been turned on while a spotlight highlights each individual senior as they skate alone. Saturday's edition of Senior Night saw dimmed lights, but that was all. No spotlight was used and no fog machine was employed and each senior was forced to, for no apparent reason, skate the ice in darkness. A little more showmanship could certainly be employed in an instance like this (or during any Wildcat home game, for that matter).

2) Mike Santorelli, Alone

On Friday night Mike Santorelli did a couple of mildly shocking things. First off, he didn't manage to put the puck in the net once over the course of the night. Then, while looking to produce some offense, Santorelli constantly passed to himself. Buzzing the front of the net and weaving between RedHawks, he neglected wide open teammates in an apparent attempt to score unassisted.

As Santorelli left the ice after one particularly bad instance of this, Kyle hollered into his ear for over a minute straight. The coach was likely telling Santorelli something that he, surprisingly, may need to hear: you need to be able to pass the puck if you ever want to be successful, as a team or as an individual. The brazen lone ranger act shows that Santorelli may be more interested in carrying this team, and in scoring goals, than he needs to be.

On Saturday night Santorelli's game was not nearly as bad. He passed, he cycled and he played with the other four guys on the ice. And he also scored twice.

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