Saturday, March 3, 2007

Cats force Game 3

Northern Michigan senior forward Dusty Collins snapped a 26-year-losing skid for the Wildcats in Columbus and extended the Cats' season for at least one more day Saturday night in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Collins notched the game-winner at the OSU Ice Rink 3:15 into the extra period. Senior forward Darin Olver gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead in the first period, posting two scores in a span of 1:29.

Olver's lead would not stand, however. The Buckeyes chipped away at the Wildcats' lead by scoring at the 9:44 mark of the first period and again at 7:02 of the second period.

NMU freshman goaltender Brian Stewart, who relieved senior Bill Zaniboni on Friday, started for NMU and picked up the win Saturday. Stewart stopped 42 of the 44 shots he faced to pick up his first career playoff win.

OSU netminder Joseph Palmer faced more of a challenge on Saturday, having to stop 31 shots in the loss.

The Buckeyes and Wildcats will play a decisive Game 3 tomorrow at 7:35 p.m.

Two big questions going into that match for NMU will be whether or not Stewart receives the start in net tomorrow night. Zaniboni has been pulled two weekends in a row and while he has been solid in net this season, he has not been great. Great goaltending, not just solid goaltending, is what can carry a team far in the playoffs.

In 2003-04, the Wildcats rode an inexperienced Tuomas Tarkki to the CCHA semifinals and NMU head coach Walt Kyle may be looking for the same type of magic to happen again this year.

In the pregame, Kyle said that none of the goals allowed by Stewart on Friday were his fault, while Zaniboni did let in a bad goal. With the Wildcats winning Saturday with Stewart in net, look for the freshman to return for Sunday.

Stewart is not just playing right now to keep the Cats season alive, he is auditioning to be the starter next season.

Besides Stewart possibly having something to prove, Olver came through in the clutch Saturday night. After being booed in the pregame, according to NMU radio play-by-play man John Focke, Olver silenced the OSU crowd with his two quick scores.

Olver had been tossed from Friday's game for kneeing but the officials allowed him back into the game after realizing you can not hand out a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct.

The Wildcats will need Olver to come back with the same fire on Sunday, and it would help if the Buckeye fans offered him the incentive again. Boo away OSU.

Santorelli Watch

Northern Michigan junior forward moved with two goals of Niagara's Ted Cook Friday while putting some distance between those below him in the race to finish the season as the nation's top goal scorer.

Santorelli was the only scorer in the top four to notch a goal Friday night. Cook only picked up an assist in a 3-1 loss at Alabama-Hunstville while North Dakota's Ryan Duncan did the same. Miami's Ryan Jones is off this weekend.

Santorelli moved up to 29 goals but Saturday night could be his last game of the season. Cook still sits at 31 while Jones and Duncan are tied at 27.

Cats nab former OSU goaltender

The North American Hockey League announced Thursday that former Ohio State Buckeye netminder Ian Keserich has committed to play for Northern Michigan next season. Keserich spent two seasons in Columbus (04-05, 05-06) backing up David Caruso but left OSU prior to this season to return to play in the United States Hockey League.

Keserich appeared in 10 games for the Buckeyes in two season, turning in a goals against average of 2.54 and a .905 save percentage.

This season with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, Keserich ranks fifth among goaltenders with a .903 save percentage and 2.55 GAA. Prior to playing two years at OSU, spent two seasons with the NAHL's Cleveland Barrons.

Keserich is a 2004 seventh-round draft choice of the Colorado Avalanche. He was taken 215 overall.

You can read more about him at Hockey's Future or check out his former OSU bio.

Friday, March 2, 2007

NMU falls behind 1-0 in first-round series

The first games of the CCHA Playoffs were everything that a fan could have hoped for. Three of the four games went into overtime and two of the wins were come-from-behind victories. Playoff hockey was, as it should be, a thrill.

Unless you're talking about the NMU Wildcats.

It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong for the Wildcats did on Friday as they dropped their first (and the night's most lopsided) CCHA Tournament game against Ohio State, 6-2.

At the 12:29 mark in a scoreless game, Darin Olver was whistled for kneeing. He received a five-minute major and a ten-minute game misconduct. The OSU power-play kicked in and two PP goals put the Buckeyes up 2-0 early in the second. Soon after, they struck again as Mathieu Beaudoin put OSU up by a trio.

That marked the end of senior goalie Bill Zaniboni's night and he was replaced with freshman netminder Brian Stewart less than halfway through the game.

Zaniboni had allowed three goals on 22 shots. Playing in roughly half of the game, Stewart allowed three goals on 21 shots.

Matt Maunu cut the Ohio State lead to 3-1 at the second intermission, but the flood gates burst open again in the final frame, with the Buckeyes piling on three more goals. Mike Santorelli added one last goal for the 'Cats.

NMU was out-shot 43-24 on the night and have now lost 11 straight games in Columbus. NMU must now win back-to-back games against OSU in order to advance in the CCHA Tournament.

This may prove to be a problem. Although the Wildcats have occasionally looked like a very solid hockey team this season, they have had serious trouble piecing together two good games in back-to-back nights.

The puck drops tomorrow at 7:05.

In other CCHA Tournament games (aka. the way playoff hockey should be):

FSU 4, LSSU 3 (OT)
-Trailing 3-2 with less than four minutes remaining in the game, Ferris State's Aaron Lewicki sent the game into overtime with his goal at the 16:29 mark. Then, 12 minutes into overtime, Bulldog forward Mark Bomersback completed a hat trick and lifted Ferris to victory over the Lakers.

-Staying in the come-from-behind vein, the Nanooks were trailing 2-0 late in this game. They then mounted an improbable comeback, scoring two goals (one short-handed) in the final two and a half minutes to send the contest into OT. The Nanook momentum carried them to the victory and Lucas Burnett netted the game-winner at the 4:09 mark of overtime.

UNO 3, BGSU 2 (OT)
-Another overtime game, and probably the most surprising. After blowing the Falcons out in the regular season (overall score: 20-3), UNO was pushed to the limit at home against Bowling Green. After trading goals throughout regulation, the two teams skated through 4:24 of overtime before Maverick Mick Lawrence fired the game-winning shot.

-All teams play again Saturday night.

OSU-NMU game notes, preview

Better late than never...

Ohio State game notes:

Northern Michigan game notes:

Also, my game preview from the Mining Journal can be found at

Thursday, March 1, 2007

CCHA Playoff Predictions

Writing a series preview with no game notes is quiet the challenge, especially when I decide to be a history buff. Check out the Mining Journal tomorrow for my preview of the Ohio State-Northern Michigan CCHA playoff series.

For a good laugh, check out my predictions from the beginning of the year. Here is a brief summary of where I slotted teams and how far off I was.

1. Michigan State (-3)
2. Michigan (E)
3. Miami (E)
4. Ohio State (-3)
5. Northern Michigan (-5)
6. Notre Dame (+5)
7. Nebraska-Omaha (+2)
8. Ferris State (-1)
9. Lake Superior State (+1)
10. Alaska (-1)
11. Western Michigan (+5)
12. Bowling Green (E)

Difference: 26

I would like to note that after learning about Tom Fritsche being out, I moved the Buckeyes to seventh and Omaha to fourth, bringing my differential down to 24. Not bad if you take out my botches with NMU, Notre Dame and Western.

But still, since my regular season predictions are off, I must make new playoff picks. Kyle Whitney's predictions can be found at

Ferris State at Lake Superior State
- The Bulldogs have won 6-of-8 to close out the season and may be the hot team in the first round right now. The Lakers on the other hand have skid their way into a home ice slot, winning only five games in 2007. Jeff Jakaitis will steal one game, but the Lakers are a sad team in the playoffs.

Ferris State in three.

Alaska at Western Michigan
- Almost as hot as the Bulldogs are the Western Michigan Broncos, who have won 5-of-6 to close the season. The Nanooks on the other hand have lost six straight and were swept at Western three weeks ago. The Nanooks used to look like they were on the right track a few years back when they reached the final four at Joe Louis Arena but now the roles have reversed. Jim Culhane has is team firing and for once, they aren't getting fired themselves in net.

Western Michigan in two.

Bowling Green State at Nebraska-Omaha
- Bowling Green has played teams tough in recent weeks but tough has not been good enough. This may be Scott Paluch's last stand. Seven wins in a season is not acceptable for this once historic program. Omaha isn't very hot either, however. The Mavs have won three straight but prior to that were 0-3-2. Still, BGSU is bad. Hell, NMU swept them.

Omaha in two.

Northern Michigan at Ohio State
- Did the Wildcats get back on track Saturday night in a 4-1 win over Miami or was it just a burst of energy for senior night? Did Miami let off the gas since the won Friday night? I guess it's nice to see the inconsistent Cats back over the consistently bad Wildcats. Northern has lost 7-of-9 and that does not scream "hot team" coming into the playoffs. The Buckeyes have won 4-of-6 and if you've picked up on the trend with these picks, you know what's coming. The Cats will make it close and interesting. They will even pick up their first win in Columbus since the 80s but there will be no free beer in Detroit this year (Please prove me wrong here Bates!)

Ohio State in three.

From here roughly, I'll take the home teams next weekend - Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and Miami. There is a big difference between the top and bottom of the league right now.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2006-07 regular season predictions

Western College Hockey took a look back at the preseason predictions of the CCHA media, coaches, Inside College Hockey as well as his own.

The trends show that everyone underestimated Notre Dame and Western Michigan, while we over estimated Michigan State and Northern Michigan.

Also, check out his which coaches are on the hot seat. Two that suprised me were Western Michigan's Jim Culhane and Michigan State's Rick Comley.

I think Culhane bought himself another year with his playoff run last season and the strides made this year. As for Comley, the Mason Cup from last season also gives him another year, though Chris makes a good point that Comley may be done when the contract athletic director Ron Mason expires.

Fighting in hockey is good, let me tell you why...

There is only one way to describe this fight between former NMU captain Nathan Oystrick and Omaha's Brett Palin ...

Oystie fucked this kid up, yo.

Catch the video online at

It very much reminds me of one of the greatest hockey fights off all time between Claude Lemieux of the Colorado Avalanche and the Red Wings' Darren McCarty, when the two squared off before the puck dropped.

Ahh the bloody memories of Colorado-Detroit. The good old days of the NHL.

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.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2/24 Post Game Audio

With a victory on Saturday night, the mood in the locker room was much less tense. Nothing was being slammed in the background and players were quiet talkative.

Tonight, Kyle Whitney and I, Matt Wellens, spoke with three seniors who usually do not get a lot of press and you can hear those conversations below.

Josh Hatinger

Dusty Collins

Rob Lehtinen

We also spoke with NMU head coach Walt Kyle. There were two stoppages in the interview. The first comes after I ask Walt what it's like to trail Rick Comley by 600 wins and again when asked about Collins exemplifying intensity while Dusty stands right behind Walt.

Also a special thanks to Miami coach Enrico Blasi for stepping off the warm bus into the cold and back into the Berry Events Center to speak with us. Blasi talked with us about the game and the upcoming CCHA playoffs.