Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wildcats Inactive, Slip Farther

Things aren't looking good for the Wildcats after Friday night. NMU doesn't play over the weekend, but on Friday they still managed to lose some ground in the CCHA Playoff race.

After Western Michigan and Lake Superior both picked up victories on Friday night, NMU lost two points on each team. With only two games remaining on the schedule, the Wildcats have 19 points and are in a tie for ninth place. LSSU is in eighth with 23 points. If the Lakers pick up just a single point in their next three contests, they will put themselves out of (NMU's) reach and the 'Cats will be relegated to the bottom tier of the CCHA and a first round road playoff game.

The NMU hopes could be dashed as early as tomorrow night when LSSU and Michigan face off again.

Of course, to have a shot at a home game, NMU would also need Alaska to slip up as they finish their season (they fell to Notre Dame on Friday). And they will, obviously, need to sweep Miami next weekend.

It seems that the question at this point is: how far will NMU have to travel for their first playoff game?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Santorelli Watch

If the Northern Michigan Wildcats chances of hosting a CCHA playoff game at the Berry Events Center was depressing, then you may not want to read this one because Mike Santorelli's chances of winning the goal scoring title have essentially slipped away as well.

With two games remaining for Santorelli (26 goals), he trails Niagara's Tim Cook (27) by one goal but Cook still has six games left to play.

A new player has also entered the mix, Quinnipiac's Brandon Wong (23), who is only a freshman. He sits three back from Santorelli.

Here is a comparison of the top three's next opponents.

Santorelli, 2 vs. Miami

- Bye this week but will meet Miami next week. The Redhawks are ranked No. 4 overall in the CCHA in team defense, allowing only 2.56 goals per game. Their penalty kill is even more solid, having allowed only 22 goals all season.

- In net, Miami uses a tandem, rotating time between Jeff Zatkoff and Charlie Effinger. Zatkoff has a 2.19 goals against average and Effinger sits at 2.65. Each has allowed 41 goals this season.

- In Miami on Nov. 3-4, Santorelli did score each night in a split.

Cook, 2 at Wayne State

- Wayne State is allowing 3.78 goals per game. The Warriors use two different goaltenders - Brett Bothwell and Will Hooper. Bothwell, the freshman, is allowing 3.70 goals against while Hooper has allowed 3.85.

- Cook posted three goals in a two-game sweep of the Warriors at Niagara in December. Hooper was in net both nights.

Wong, 1 at Cornell, 1 at Colgate

- After riding David McKee for the previous three seasons, the Big Red have also gone to a pair of netminders rotating time. Freshman Ben Scrivens is posting a 2.21 GAA in 11 games thus far while Troy Davenport has a 2.36 GAA in 19 games, and a winning record.

- Wong had one goal on Davenport during their first meeting of the year on Nov. 18, a loss for Quinnipiac.

- Colgate is led in net by Mark Dekanich, who has a 2.36 GAA in 30 games this season. Wong was held scoreless by Dekanich in a 2-2 tie back on Oct. 28, the two schools only meeting this season.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What if?

Sitting on a late season bye this weekend, the Northern Michigan Wildcats will be forced to sit and watch, waiting to see if the rest of the CCHA will pass on by.

In theory, the Wildcats still could host a home playoff series if the following happens.

1) NMU sweeps Miami.


2) Lake Superior State only takes one total point from Michigan and Western Michigan (0-3-1). Both games are in Sault Ste. Marie.


3) Alaska only takes four total points from Notre Dame and Nebraska-Omaha without getting two wins. (1-2-2, 0-0-4). Both games are in Fairbanks.


4) Ferris State only takes six total points from Bowling Green at home and at Notre Dame (2-0-2, 3-1-0).


1) NMU takes three points from Miami with a win and a tie.


2) LSSU loses out, going 0-4-0 against Michigan and Western at home.


3) Alaska only takes three points at home against Notre Dame and UNO (1-2-1, 0-1-3).


4) Ferris State only takes five points against Bowling Green at home and at Notre Dame (2-1-1, 1-0-3).

The Wildcats will be eliminated from home-ice contention if they lose one game. They need at least three points and a lot of help.

If the help does not come, there are a number of places the Wildcats could travel to for the first round of the CCHA playoffs, specifically Alaska, Ohio State, Omaha, Western or Lake Superior State.

For the Wildcats, if you have to travel, Kalamazoo and Sault Ste. Marie would be your first choices. The series in the Soo would be all about revenge and it would also be a short trip. Western Michigan is also a winnable series and the travel is okay. Both the Lakers and Broncos have horrible records recently in the playoffs as well.

Omaha, Ohio State and Alaska (especially) would be awfully long trips, however, in 2003-04, NMU traveled to Fairbanks where they swept the Nanooks to advance to the CCHA Super Six.

NMU was a No. 7 seed that season in the playoffs and had been swept by UAF in Fairbanks during the regular season. I picked NMU to lose the series in three games that season and gave them no chance of winning that series, especially since Craig Kowalski was out for the season (Sorry for keeping that from you all that year but Walt Kyle wanted everyone to fear him coming back. It was off-the-record information and I was still trying to win over Walt. It all worked out, eh?).

I told my editor to plan for a season wrap up the next week and had told my professors that I would not be leaving for Detroit. By 3 a.m. on that Sunday morning, I was making hotel reservations, frantically e-mailing professors and eating crow.

Then NMU pulled another upset, beating Michigan State in Game 1 and extending my vacation. The point is, anything can happen come playoff time, even on the road.

It's not time to give up yet posters. We may still get our free beer after all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where Are They Now? Nathan Oystrick

Wolves Goaltender Fred Brathwaite, Nathan Oystrick, and Darren Haydar

"Oystrick with a shot from the point... SCORE!"
Words that any NMU fan has heard and enjoyed for years, and the Atlanta Thrashers organization is getting familiar with them. As a rookie with the Chicago Wolves (AHL affiliate for Atlanta), Nathan started his season struggling but quickly adjusted to the higher speed professional game. While at the preseason training camps, Nathan was unable to give a full effort due to his recovery from mononucleosis. The first few games he played for the Wolves exposed weaknesses that NMU fans would easily call "Freshman Mistakes."

Two weeks into the season Nathan was getting back into shape and feeling more comfortable earning his first point of the season, and second professionally, while on the road in San Antonio. Two days later while on the same road trip, Nathan would score his first professional goal. The power play tally from the point was nothing new to NMU fans. The next game Nathan followed up his offensive touch by scoring two goals at home against the Manitoba Moose.

Wolves Boris Vlabik, Nathan Oystrick, and Joey Crabb
Earning plenty of ice time including power play and penalty kill time, Oystrick is developing into a solid defenseman for the Wolves and a great draft by the Atlanta organization. As of 2/13/07, he is currently +17 for the season in 56 games played with only 79 minutes of penalties. Along with the solid defensive play, Nathan has continued being a scoring threat with 11 goals and 28 assists for 39 points and currently holds the top spot in scoring for defensemen, and is 10th in scoring for all rookie skaters in the AHL. Having a roommate like leading scorer and rookie Brett Sterling (Colorado College), and line-mates of Jason Krog (Univ. of New Hampshire) and Darren Haydar (Univ. of New Hampshire) also help bring the numbers up.

Nathan and the Wolves returned home to play last night for the first time in their last 11 games. The long road trip that bookended the AHL All-Star game included two games in Toronto where Wolves players got to experience the Hockey Hall of Fame. After a few days rest, the Wolves will head back out onto the road for a three game trip, before they spend most of the month of March at home.

In the most recent game, Nathan had one assist and was +1 on the night to help the Wolves win 6-2. Nathan played a solid game of defense all night but was overshadowed by the few mistakes his defensive partner Braydon Coburn kept making.

Wolves schedule and internet radio broadcast is available at

Photos of Nathan Oystrick from

Monday, February 12, 2007

G-B-U: Ohio State

Over the weekend, the Wildcats traveled south and faced off against the Ohio State Buckeyes in a two-game set. NMU returned to Marquette with no points after falling to OSU, 3-2 and 4-1. The Wildcats will now take a week off to reflect on mediocrity before finishing out the regular season. Before the break, though, here's a look back at a weekend to forget.

The Good

1) Scoring from the quiet guys

In the two losses, NMU netted goals from Zach Tarkir, Matt Siddall and Andrew Sarauer. Before the weekend those three guys had combined for 12 goals. It's good to see them get on the board, even if no one else can. It always seems like the player that really sparks a team in the playoffs is a quiet guy that no one expects. A guy more like Andrew Sarauer and less like Mike Santorelli.

2) A week off

In reality, this is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, the Wildcats get an extra week to prepare for one of their toughest homestands of the season, an extra week to ready themselves for playoff hockey and an extra week to line up for a run at the CCHA Tournament.

On the other hand, NMU must sit home this weekend and watch as teams like Lake State and Alaska determine their fate for them. It's a tough pill to swallow, but the Wildcats are on the outside looking in right now and they are the only ones responsible for it.

The Bad

1) Special teams

The NMU special teams, on a whole, were sub-par over the weekend. They converted on one of nine power-play attempts (11%) and killed 12 of 16 OSU power-plays (75%).

The Wildcats are not offensively talented this year, that much is known. With this in mind, they need to be able to be able to take advantage of a power-play situation. They need to also be able to take care of things on the defensive side of special teams. Any playoff team worth its weight will come out on top in the special teams category.

2) Mike Santorelli's goal-less-ness

Santorelli failed to pick up a point in the final LSSU game two weeks ago and then again on Friday against OSU. The two game pointless streak was also his first of his season. After scoring ten goals in seven games during a January streak, Santorelli has scored only one marker in his last five contests.

Ted Cook is first in the nation with 27 goals and his Niagara team was inactive over the weekend. Santorelli, who has played in four more games than Cook, is second with 26 goals. Niagara has six games remaining on their schedule. Northern has just two.

The Ugly

1) Playing on someone else's home ice

After the dissapointing weekend, the Cats are tied with Alaska for ninth in the CCHA with 19 points. They are two points behind LSSU in eigth, and four behind WMU in seventh. LSSU and Alaska both have four games left and the 'Cats only have two, but NMU has to hurdle both other teams.

So, it is still possible for NMU to get a home playoff game. If LSSU loses out and Alaska loses three of four and NMU sweeps Miami in Marquette, then the Wildcats would host a playoff game on the first weekend of March.

Hey, I said it was possible. I didn't say it was likely.