Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wolverines end Wildcats season

The Michigan Wolverines made a statement this weekend at the expense of the Northern Michigan Wildcats. After beating the Cats, 4-1, on Friday night, Michigan embarrassed NMU on FSN Detroit with an 8-3 victory to complete the sweep.

The Wolverines will advance to play Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena while the Wildcats begin looking for pro contracts and new recruits to fill the plethora of holes on this team.

Northern scored three power-play goals from Pat Bateman, Mike Santorelli and Ray Kaunisto. T.J. Hensick had a hat trick for Michigan.

Bill Zaniboni was pulled from the NMU net during the second period after allowing five goals. He allowed four in the second and while he looked shaky, there wasn't much he could do as the Wolverines sliced and diced the NMU defense. Brian Stewart finished the game but was pelted just as hard.

For a more complete look at tonight's game, check out our live game-day blog here. Kyle blogged live from Yost Ice Arena while I piped in from Marquette, watching on FSN Detroit.

Game 2 looms

The Wildcats and Wolverines will face off again tonight in the historic Yost Ice Arena. Northern needs a win to force a decisive game three, while Michigan will secure an 18th straight trip to the Joe Louis Arena with a victory tonight.

The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on FSN. Live blog posts will also be posted on Tech Still Sucks II.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Wildcats drop game one to Wolverines

For the NMU Wildcats, Friday night was a microcosm of the 2006-2007 season on a whole.

After digging a hole against the Michigan Wolverines, falling behind 3-0 in the first period, NMU just couldn't dig their way out, ultimately losing 4-1.

Freshman netminder Brian Stewart got the start for the Wildcats and began the game sluggishly, as did his teammates. In the first period alone, Stewart allowed three goals on ten shots.

After that first intermission, though, Stewart was a different goaltender and he made a plethora of sprawling saves to hold the Wolverine goal total at three. At the end of the night, Stewart had allowed just the three goals on 37 Michigan shots. All of this was done in front of a hostile Wolverine crowd that will call you every dirty name in the book as you head to the penalty box and will give a freshman goalie hell.

“Stewie was fine. They had one goal – their power-play goal – that was from a bad angle and it was something that he potentially could have had," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "Other than that I thought he did a great job. This is a tough environment. It’s a hell of a lot tougher place to play than it was down in Columbus last week, based on the crowd.”

Walt would not yet announce tomorrow's starting goaltender.

Trailing 3-0, NMU got a little help from forward Nick Sirota when he opened the second period by netting a goal just 1:20 into the frame. The marker came after he took a pass from Bobby Selden and streaked along the boards toward the net. Coming in alone at netminder Billy Sauer's left side, Sirota fired a perfect shot, top-shelf and past Sauer's ear.

The single goal was all that the Wildcats could muster, despite numerous opportunities in front of the Michigan net and an oft-surprised Sauer.

NMU controlled the pace of play for nearly the entire third period, but every time the Wolverine forwards get the puck, they are a definite threat. UM's Andrew Cogliano finished out the scoring by firing in an empty-net goal at the 19:09 mark of the third.

The NMU power-play got little exercise tonight and the Wildcats were on the advantage for just 59 seconds in the game. Michigan, on the other hand, took advantage of nine NMU penalties. Although they went just 1-6 with the extra skater, the Wolverines fired twelve power-play shots and had a man advantage for 10:22.

If NMU hopes to win game two tomorrow they must control the pace of play and stay out of the box. It will be near-impossible to win a special teams game against the Wolverines. Also, Stewart (or whoever is in net) needs to, once again, stand on his head.

The two teams face off again tomorrow night at 7:35. The game will be brodcast on FSN, as well.

Santorelli Named as CCHA Player of the Year Finalist

Fresh off of his assignment as a First Team All-CCHA forward, Mike Santorelli has been named as one of the three finalists for the RBC Financial Group CCHA Player of the Year award.

The other two finalists are Michigan forward TJ Hensick and Notre Dame goaltender David Brown.

Hensick, then a sophomore, was a nominee in 2005 for CCHA Player of the Year but was beat out by NMU senior goaltender Tuomas Tarkki, the last Wildcat to win the award.

The full release can be found here.

Other awards include Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Offensive Defenseman of the Year, Defensive Defenseman of the Year and Defensive Forward of the Year.

There are no Wildcat finalists in any other categories.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Live from Ann Arbor: Part Two

"It's been a long four years, Batesy," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said to the Wildcat senior and leader. "Let's make it longer."

After watching an open skate for an hour, the Wildcats practiced for an hour and a half today in the Yost Ice Arena. Then they were able to sit back and watch as Red Berenson led the Wolverines through a practice.

After boarding the bus, Walt yelled the above phrase to NMU captain Pat Bateman, who was in the rear of the bus. And it spoke volumes.

Bateman and the other seniors are 9-7 in the CCHA Playoffs and they have reached the Joe the last three years. But they have never won the year-ending tournament. And this is their last chance. After a skate around tomorrow, the Wildcats will face off against the Wolverines and they will try, once more, to make the 2006-2007 season longer.

That may prove to be a difficult task against a big, fast Michigan team. Miami, another quick team, visited Marquette to round out the regular season and they were hopefully a decent warm-up for the 'Cats.

I will try to make in-game posts, but the Yost internet setup was giving me trouble today. If I can't get the posts up in-game, I will put them up afterwards.

"Old Time Hockey"

Former Wildcat Nathan Oystrick is at it again. In the third period of last night's 4-1 win over the Houston Aeros (and former Michigan Tech goon John Scott), Nathan Oystrick and Ryan Hamilton go at it after Nathan performs a "highlight reel" worthy (and very clean) hip check.

Video captured and posted by 'Wolfkeeper' at

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Live from Ann Arbor: Part One

After driving for two hours in the midst of an early-morning snow storm, I arrived in Marquette just in time to board the bus for Ann Arbor. Twelve hours (and two movies) later, the Wildcat bus arrived at Yost Arena.

The team stopped over in Gaylord where they skated at the Otsego County Sportsplex, running through a 2+ hour practice. They looked fairly sharp, with Sardsy displaying his one-time wrister and Stewart looking great in net.

The start is his on Friday.

It's kind of too bad for Zaniboni, too, but everyone says that he is taking the shift well.

The 'Cats will get to skate in Yost tomorrow and will then rest up for the Wolverines.

I'll post more later, I'm exhausted now.

Santorelli named to All-CCHA First Team

Northern Michigan junior forward Mike Santorelli was named to the All-CCHA First Team today along with three Michigan Wolverines. Santorelli tied Michigan's T.J. Hensick as the leading vote getter among forwards with 51 points. Michigan's Jack Johnson, a defenseman, led all vote getters with 53 points.

The complete list and release from the CCHA can be found at

No other Wildcats landed an all-league honor or even received any votes.

NMU-Michigan game notes

Northern Michigan game notes have been posted at

Michigan game notes can be found at the official Wolverines hockey website here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Maunu named Wildcats' scholar athelete of the year

From the NMU Sports Information Department:

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - Matt Maunu has been designated as Northern
Michigan University's CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The CCHA
Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be chosen from among the group of 12 nominees
with the winner announced at the 2007 CCHA Awards on Thursday, March

Maunu, a senior from Esko, Minn., is an accounting/financial planning
major. On the ice the defenseman has 16 points on five goals and 11 assists for
the 2006-07 season. The faculty athletic representative at each school, in
consultation with the head coach, selected the institution's Scholar-Athlete of
the Year. Each school's Scholar-Athlete of the Year serves as the school's
nominee for CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Nominees must have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 through the fall term of the
selection year to receive the school's Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. The
CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year is selected by the 12 faculty representatives.
Voting is based on a system that awards five points for a first-place vote,
three points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

On the air

Fox Sports Net Detroit will broadcast Game 2 of the CCHA second round playoff series between the Northern Michigan Wildcats and Michigan Wolverines on Saturday at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. CCHA All-Access airs at 7 p.m. prior to the game.

Northern is 0-2 this season on television, falling to Ferris State and Ohio State on CSTV. The last time Northern faced the Wolverines on FSN was on Jan. 28, 2005 at Yost Ice Arena in a 4-1 win for the Wildcats.

Monday, March 5, 2007

G-B-U: CCHA First Round (OSU)

In the first round of the CCHA Playoffs, the 10th seeded Northern Michigan Wildcats pulled the upset and defeated the 7th seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, two games to one.

After losing game one by a score of 6-2, the Wildcats rebounded in dramatic fashion, taking game two in overtime, 3-2. On Sunday, NMU finished off the Buckeyes with another 3-2 victory.

While the outcome ended the season for OSU, it breathed surprising new life into a Wildcat team that seemed all but dead a couple of seeks ago. NMU will now continue their road trip as they head to Ann Arbor to face-off against the 2nd seeded Michigan Wolverines.

The Good

1) Brian Stewart

You can't say this enough in this space, but the performance of freshman netminder Brian Stewart buoyed the 'Cats in Columbus.

Entering the weekend, Stewie had played in only eight games and had a 1-2 record. He was allowing nearly 3.5 goals per game and had a .887 SV%. His lone win had come on the road against the Miami RedHawks, when Stewart stopped 39 of 41 Miami shots. the loss was only Miami's fourth loss in the last 26 home games.

Stewie turned into a brick wall this past weekend, though, and he backstopped the 'Cats into the second round of the CCHA Playoffs. After a mediocre showing in the second half of the Friday loss, the freshman made the start on both Saturday and Sunday. NMU won both games and Stewart stopped 76 of 80 OSU shots.

It would seem that at this point, Stewie has brought with him some sort of freakish BC magic and that the starting job is his to lose. A netminder is one of the most crucial aspects of any successful playoff team, and if NMU has found an efficient one (no matter how unlikely), coach Kyle will not likely be willing to tamper with it.

2) Senior Effort

For three minutes and fourteen seconds on Saturday night, the NMU season was just one Buckeye shot away from being over. Then, at the 3:15 mark of overtime, Wildcat senior Dusty Collins netted the game-winning shot to force a game three.

Time and time again over the past four years, the senior class of Wildcats has played their best with their backs against the wall. It was evidenced three years ago when they made a first-round playoff trip to Alaska to take on a heavily favored Nanook team. The 'Cats downed Alaska in two games and made the trip to the Joe.

On Sunday, the seniors stepped up again as Zach Tarkir and Darin Olver both netted short-handed goals on the way to a 3-2 Wildcat win and a first-round series victory. Over the three nights the seniors piled up six points and six assists and will need to continue to produce offensively to have any hope of keeping up with the high-powered Wolverine offense this weekend.

The Bad

1) Friday Night

The Friday game against the Buckeyes was all sorts of ugly for the Wildcats. After falling behind 3-0 early, Kyle pulled senior goalie Bill Zaniboni, who allowed three goals on 22 shots, in favor of Stewart. In relief, Stewart allowed three goals on 21 shots and NMU fell by four.

The 'Cats were out-shot 43-24 and allowed Ohio State to go 2-5 on the power-play.

On top of that, senior leader Darin Olver was whistled for kneeing in the first period. He received a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct. Olver headed for the locker room, but was allowed back in the game when it came to the attention of the officials that they could not hand out both penalties at once. The break may have been the only one for the Wildcats on Friday night.

2) NMU Power-play

The Wildcats have not been a serious power-play threat all season long, and that continued against the Buckeyes. Over the course of the three games, NMU was 1-10 with the extra skater.

On the bright side, the NMU PK scored two goals (both shorties came on Sunday). However, it is never good when your power-play only converts on 10% of their chances. As Walt told me before the Ohio State trip: "Special teams will be a huge component in the playoffs for everyone. If we're going to do well, we're going to have to continue with that."

The Ugly

1) The OSU Ice Arena

The Jerome Schottenstein Center is the name of the ice rink where the Ohio State Buckeyes play their regular season games. It holds 17,500 people.

The OSU Ice Arena is the name of the ice rink where the Ohio State Buckeyes practice and where the women's team plays. The men's team played there untill 1998. It is also where OSU played their first-round CCHA Playoff series against the Wildcats. It holds 1,000 people.

While the atmosphere in the hockey barn may have been loud, it was only due to the size. The official attendance never topped 800 for the weekend, but USCHO correspondent Paula Weston said that the place was packed.

The Buckeyes were forced to play in the Ice Arena after they were ousted from the Schott by a high school wrestling tournament. All other venues were reportedly filled, as well.

Ohio State earned a home playoff series in the CCHA Tournament, and in reality, they never got it.

2) Being Road Warriors

The Wildcats will have become used to living from a suitcase by the time this is all over. And they will have traveled at least 2136 miles.

After traveling from Marquette to Columbus (630 miles), NMU played three games in back-to-back nights, their most compact stretch of the year. To celecbrate the win, the 'Cats immediately headed back to the U.P., but were forced by weather to stay in Munising overnight. They finally made it to Marquette on Monday morning.

They will now leave on Wednesday and travel to Ann Arbor (438 miles), where they will play 2-3 games over the weekend. The Wildcats will certainly be challenged as they attempt to retain some momentum through it all.

And, if everything falls into place and the 'Cats can escape Ann Arbor with a victory, as well, they will then be headed to the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit (454 miles).

On a side note, I am planning on going to Ann Arbor on Wednesday for the upcoming series and should be able to keep the blog updated on my travels in Wolverine country.

The rise of the U.P.

An interesting fact from this week's CCHA release:

This marks the first time in the 17 years that they’ve been in the league
together that both Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan have both advanced
past the first round of the playoffs.

The No. 6 seeded Michigan Tech Huskies will travel to No. 5 Colorado College for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. The best-of-three series runs Friday through Sunday.

Hittin the Links

When the Northern Michigan Wildcats left Marquette, they had not won in the city of Columbus in 26 years...

...and there was only like a foot of snow.

When they finally returned to the U.P. last night, they had shook the Curse of Columbus and ran into a blizzard in Munising.

That's what you get for avoiding the four feet of snow that the rest of us were blasted with.

The Cats were stranded in Munising last night but are returning to Marquette today. Paula Weston of has a review of the decisive Game 3 victory for NMU. In the article, NMU head coach Walt Kyle gave his key to the series - freshman netminder Brian Stewart.

"I think the biggest single thing ... is we changed goaltenders," Kyle said. "And that's no slight on Billy [Zaniboni]. We changed goalies and the kid was unbelievable. I mean, he was unbelievable. The save he made in the goalmouth down here in the third, that's pure athlete, right there."

There is also a review from the game up at the Columbus Dispatch. I have hesitated to post anything from there because whoever is writing the stories now for OSU hockey resembles a young college newspaper reporter from some big school like the Michigan. Sorry kid.

Also out on the web, has a short feature written by NMU senior defenseman Matt Maunu, who has really stepped up his game this season and in the playoffs. Maunu writes about being an athlete, student, husband and dog owner.

Finally, here is something to keep you occupied at work that is quiet interesting. recently ranked all the general managers in the big four professional sports (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB) with at least three years of experience.

Former Northern Michigan hockey player Don Waddell, now the general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers, ranked sixth overall out of 98 GMs. Jay Feaster of Tampa Bay (No. 2) and Lou Lamoriello of New Jersey (No. 5) were the two NHL GMs ranked ahead of him.

The rankings are quiet interesting and I'm not sure how much one can value the results. Other notables on the list include the Chicago Bulls' John Paxon coming in 10th, Pierre LaCroix of the Colorado Avalanche is 14th, the Pistons' Joe Dumars is 15th, John Schuerholz of the Atlanta Braves is 42nd, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is 48th and the Red Wings' Ken Holland came in at No. 90.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Get Shorty - Cats advance

Having a short handed goal scored on you can be a real kick in the cherries.

Thanks to the efforts of Zach Tarkir and Darin Olver, the Buckeyes were kicked in the cherries twice Sunday night...

...and we all get to listen to those damn commercials for one more week. I'm very proud to have quit drinking Mountain Dew so I don't have to associate myself with that damn product.

The Wildcats disposed of the Ohio State Buckeyes with a 3-2 win Sunday night at the OSU Ice Rink to advance to the second round of the CCHA playoffs. The No. 10 Cats defeated the No. 7 Buckeyes, 2-1, in the best-of-three series and will now travel to Michigan for another best-of-three bout.

OSU held a 1-0 lead after the first intermission. Tyson Strachan notched a power-play goal off of a Bobby Selden penalty late in the period. The Cats had nearly scored twice in the first period but one goal was disallowed after replay and another was not checked despite requests by Walt Kyle.

Northern exploded in the second with Tarkir seizing the momentum from Ohio State, posting the Wildcats first shortie of the night off a feed from Nick Sirota. The Beaver Dam Golden Beaver (Yes, that is really Beaver Dam High School's mascot) picked up a score of his own before the second intermission struck.

Olver made himself even more popular in the city of Columbus by sinking the dagger into the heart of the Buckeyes' season as he and his teammate, linemate and good friend Pat Bateman took off on a break away. Olver held the puck and put it past Joseph Palmer to put NMU up 3-1.

Olver notched two goals on Saturday night and was almost ejected for kneeing on Friday.

The Buckeyes scored again just before the end of the game, too little, too late, however.

Even more amazing than the Wildcats two shorties or even the fact that they shook the Curse of Columbus (the Courtney Curse up next?), was the play of freshman goaltender Brian Stewart.

Stewart, who relieved senior Bill Zaniboni on Friday and made 42 saves Saturday, continued his Tuomas Tarkki-like run Sunday by stopping 34 of the 26 shots he faced in Sunday night's win.

Like last night, tonight's win for the Wildcats presents a number of questions and not just for NMU.

First, is Bill Zaniboni done for the season? Has he lost his job to Brian Stewart?

I think there is a good chance we'll see Stewart on Friday night but he will have a short leash. Zaniboni made 36 saves in a win this season at Michigan but had lost his four prior bouts with the Wolverines.

Stewart is the hot goaltender right now and Walt Kyle must stay with him. A hot goaltender, like Tuomas Tarkki in 2003-04, can carry a team very far.

Second, can Darin Olver continue his clutch play?

If Olver is hoping to improve his stock for the New York Rangers, he is doing very well. With each clutch goal, the dollar amount on his contract goes up.

All season long Olver has sat in Mike Santorelli's shadow. It's like we have all forgot that Olver is the high round draft pick. After almost being tossed from Friday's game, Olver has shown why he has been the Cats top offensive threat since he threw on the green and gold.

Third, is this the end for OSU head coach John Markell?

Unlike the Wildcats, the Buckeyes are not allowed to be in a rebuilding mode. After two stellar seasons in 2003-04 and 04-05, the Buckeyes have gone nowhere and been ousted in the first round of the CCHA playoffs each of the past two seasons. This after winning the Mason Cup in 2003-04. OSU was second in the regular season and playoffs in 04-05.

Does Markell get one more year? I'd like to think so.

In other CCHA action Sunday:

- The Lakers finally won a playoff series, beating the Ferris State Bulldogs, 3-2, in Sault Ste. Marie. Nik Sellars had the game-winning goal with 2:09 left in regulation. LSSU had a 2-0 lead after the first period but the Bulldogs rallied with two scores in the second.

- The Alaska Nanooks are playing for the greatest prize of all among college students - the right to miss more class time. That can be a very powerful motive for a group of college students.

Alaska made the hot seat of Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane a little hotter Sunday by ousting the Broncos with a 3-1 win Sunday. The Nanooks will now remain in the lower 48 states.

CCHA playoffs, second round match ups:

- No. 10 Northern will return to Yost Ice Arena to play the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines. Northern split at Yost earlier this year and somehow made Billy Sauer look good. Puck is set to drop at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if necessary.

- No. 11 Alaska heads to South Bend, Ind. to meet the CCHA regular season champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame swept the Nanooks in the four-game regular season series. The Irish closed out the regular season with a sweep of Alaska in Fairbanks.

- No. 8 Lake Superior State travels to Oxford to play the No. 3 Miami Redhawks. The Lakers lost 3-of-4 against Miami and were swept at Miami.

- No. 5 Nebraska-Omaha will play at Munn Ice Arena against the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans. MSU took 3-of-4 points from Omaha in Omaha during the regular season. State lost 4-of-5 to close the regular season. Two of the losses were at home to Bowling Green and Western Michigan.

Stewart to return Sunday

From CCHA Correspondant Paula Weston:
"I didn't like Billy last night, and I pulled him, and he struggled the last
time we played Ohio State," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "He didn't
play well then. I went with Stewie ... and we'll see him tomorrow."

In other CCHA playoff action:

- The Lake Superior State Lakers forced a Game 3 with a 4-3 win over Ferris State in Sault Ste. Marie. Dominc Osman had two scored for LSSU, including the game winner. Trent Campbell notched a shortie for the Lakers while Jeff Jakaitis made 23 saves in the win.

- The Western Michigan Broncos chased Alaska netminder Wylie Rogers from the net after scoring three times on five shots in a 6-2 beating of the Nanook to force a Game 3. Riley Gill made 37 saves in net for Western. Paul Szczechura has two goals for Western.

- Nebraska-Omaha gladly disposed of the Bowling Green Falcons with a 7-5 win Saturday to complete the sweep. BGSU took the Mavericks to overtime Friday night and I think the rest of the CCHA is glad to see the pesky, last-place Falcons eliminated. James Unger had a hat trick for Bowling Green and Brandon Scero had a hat trick for UNO, one of which was the game-winner. The No. 5 seeded Mavs were the only team to advance to the second round and will travel to No. 4 Michigan State next week.