Saturday, March 17, 2007

Milam doing it all for Gwinnett

While well known former Wildcat Nathan Oystrick punches faces, Jamie Milam has been punching the net this season as a defenseman for the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL.

The Lake Orion native has 21 goals and 21 assists for 42 points in 60 games this season. Milam has returned to playing defense after playing his junior and senior year as a forward at Northern. has an article by Christine Troyke of the Gwinnett Daily Post about Milam's transition back to his natural position. You can check it out below.

Milam Plays Both Forward, Defense For Gladiators

Friday, March 16, 2007

Class of 2007 Turned Pro (Day 2) UPDATE

The Transactions for 3/16/2007

As of 10:20 am CDT, the following 'Cats have gone through AHL or ECHL transactions:

- Dusty Collins (Tampa Bay) - Springfield Falcons(AHL) ATO (3/15/07)
- Darin Olver (NY Rangers) - Hartford Wolf-Pack(AHL) ATO (3/16/07)
- Pat Bateman (undrafted) - Milwaukee Admirals(AHL) ATO (3/16/07)

Word also is that Bateman will be in the lineup for the Milwaukee Admirals vs. Chicago Wolves game this Saturday at 7 pm at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Tickets for this matchup of Bateman vs. Oystrick are still available. Click the prior link, or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.

**EDITED 10:40 PM 3/16**
Rob Lehtinen (undrafted) - Johnstown Chiefs(ECHL) ATO (3/16/07)

I lied yesterday, THIS blog post will be updated today as more 'Cats are released through the transaction system.

Fanless Joe

After having a heart attack from watching the Badgers get lucky against a No. 15 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, I decided to flip on over to FSN so I could feel bad for myself about not being at Joe Louis Arena this year.

The familiar sight made me feel a little bit better about being in Marquette, watching college basketball all day and cursing team that I would have bet on had gambling been legal.

Here are the things I do miss about not being at the Joe this week:
- Greektown Gyros
- Missing class 2005 CCHA Super 6 opening game
- The RenCen (GM Renaissance Center)
- Fox Theatre
- CCHA open bar party

What I don't miss:
- Michigan fans
- Hangovers
- Paying for wireless at the Ren Cen
- An empty Joe for early games

The empty Joe Louis Arena for today's ND-LSSU is nothing new for the CCHA. In fact, you can throw this in as a CCHA Championship weekend tradition.

The league went from the Super 6 format to today's format because Thursday's early game was always played before an empty bowl of seats. The picture above is a shot of The Joe from the press box prior to the start of the NMU-UAF game in 2005, played at 4:05 p.m. on a Thursday.

This current format was supposed to eliminate that problem but apparently the league has forgotten that unlike those of us in hockey world, the real world is all still working at 4 p.m. on a Friday.

Part of the blame for the lack of attendance for Game 1 today can be attributed to two small fan bases that do not travel well. They are also both a bit of a drive from Detroit. NMU and Miami did not draw very well last season, though NMU fans had planned to be in Detroit all season and they always travel well.

The league needs to start playing these games later in the evening. While this would make it a late night, and cut into the open bar party at the RenCen, it would provide fans a better chance to make the games.

The CCHA Championships are supposed to be a showcase for the league. It is supposed to be a special event for the players, coaches, fans and everyone involved with the programs. The week is supposed to be an award for the people associated with those teams.

An empty arena truly tarnishes the league and the experience.
Side note: How many CCHA fans do you think the Fox Theatre draws from showing that damn Celtic Women promo over and over. I think they'll have better luck with Diego's Acid Flashback.

Hobey Finalists Announced

The ten Hobey Baker Award finalists were announced yesterday. The leading CCHA goal scorer, NMU's Mike Santorelli, did not make the list.

Four CCHA skaters did manage to make the list, however, as Notre Dame's David Brown, Miami's Nathan Davis, Michigan's TJ Hensick and Nebraska-Omaha's Scott Parse are all finalists for the honor.

The complete list of finalists can be found here.

Cats shut out at CCHA Awards

NMU junior forward Mike Santorelli and senior defenseman Matt Maunu were the lone Wildcat nominees at Thursday's CCHA Awards and both came home empty handed.

Notre Dame goaltender David Brown was named the CCHA Player of the Year as he beat out Santorelli and Michigan's T.J. Hensick

UNO senior defenseman Michael Eickman beat out Maunu as the CCHA Scholar Athlete of the Year.

The complete recap of the awards show can be found at

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Finnish Elite League Playoffs

The Finnish Elite League started their playoffs today. Fans of Kärpät were nervous with their "rookie" goaltender facing his first ever FEL playoff game, but Tuomas Tarkki once again silenced the critics with an outstanding performance, guiding Kärpät to a 3-0 win over the Pelicans. The former Wildcat saw just 24 shots all game.

Pictures and a Finnish description of the action is available from the Oulun Kärpät website.

For those that aren't quite familiar with the FEL playoff system, it's not too different than the CCHA playoffs. Kärpät was awarded a bye (from what I understand of this schedule) and is in a best of seven series to advance to the quarterfinals.

Class of 2007 Turned Pro

The first of the 'Cats to go pro has been announced via's transactions page. Leading the parade to go pro from this years class of seniors is not the first person 'Cat fans would have picked to go pro.

Dusty Collins (Tampa Bay) has been signed to an Amateur Try Out with the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. (3/15/07)

This space will be updated throughout the day and tomorrow as other (pending) announcements are released. There is talk that Pat Bateman has been also signed to an ATO. The AHL updates their transactions throughout the day, while the ECHL generates one transaction update per day.

CCHA Signings

News on some player movement around the CCHA.

Alaska junior forward Kyle Greentree has signed a professional contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Also joining him in Philly will be fellow junior CCHA skater, Jonathan Matsumoto of Bowling Green.

The pair are the first CCHA players to sign NHL contracts this offseason.

To keep up on other off-season signings, check the constantly updated INCH chart, College to the Pros.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kowalski gets called up by Hurricanes

Former Northern Michigan Wildcat goaltender Craig Kowalski has been called up from the Florida Everblades of the ECHL to the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. Last season, Kowalski was named a practice goaltender for the Canes during their Stanley Cup Playoff run.

The release can be found at

Starter Cam Ward was recently injured and Kowalski has been called in to serve as a back-up netminder. Former Lake Superior State Laker and seven-year NHL veteran John Grahame is currently starting for Carolina.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Santorelli Watch

Of the four leading goal scorers in NCAA Division-I hockey, only one is still playing in his conference tournament.

Ted Cook of Niagara, NMU's Mike Santorelli and Miami's Ryan Jones will sit and watch North Dakota's Ryan Duncan to see where they finish as the season come to a close this weekend.

Cook still currently holds the lead with 32 goals this season. Santorellis currently sits in second place, finishing the year with 30 goals while the best Jones can finish is fourth with 28 goals.

Duncan, who is one back of Santorelli with 29 goals, has possibly two games left in the season before the NCAA tournament starts. The Fighting Sioux will meet St. Cloud State in the first semifinal of the WCHA playoffs on Friday.

Santorelli Watch will be taking a whole new perspective in the upcoming weeks as Wildcat fans wait to see whether or not the junior forward will bolt for the professional ranks.

Santorelli was still in Marquette as of noon Monday. I ran into him outside the Superior Dome today and no, he was not wearing one of the God awful Milwaukee Admirals jerseys.

G-B-U: Michigan

After five months of Wildcat hockey, the team from Northern Michigan University hit the end of the road this past weekend, finding their fate in Ann Arbor.

The Wildcats earned a best-of-three series with the Michigan Wolverines after an upset victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes (2-6, 3-2, 3-2) and they looked to carry some of that momentum into lower Michigan.

After dropping the first game, 4-1, Northern entered Saturday's contest with their backs against the wall. An absolute explosion from the Wolverine offense, sent the Wildcats packing, though, and Michigan won game two, 8-3.

The Good

1) TJ Hensick

TJ Hensick is, quite honestly, the best hockey player that I have seen all year. It has been said here in the past that although Mike Santorelli can score so well, he would be a much better hockey player if he could pass and set people up.

Hensick is that player. Not only can he control the puck while bobbing and weaving through defenders and seem to score almost effortlessly, but he is a brilliant set-up man. Every time he gets the puck on the wing, he is somehow able to direct a beautiful pass through the slot. This may explain why he has 42 assists in 38 games and why his linemates have combined for 37 goals in that time.

To top it off, Hensick picked up a hat trick on Saturday night, bumping his season goal total to 20. In his last game in Ann Arbor, Hensick, who has 62 points on the year, skated off the ice to chants of 'Hobey Baker'.

I wouldn't be surprised.

2) Brian Stewart

The frshman Stewart made the start on Friday night, giving up three goals in 17 minutes. After the third goal, though, Stewie played better than I have seen him play all season (granted, I wasn't in Columbus last weekend).

Maybe it just takes him 20 minutes to get warmed up.

He made numerous acrobatic kick saves and put his body on the line more than once and for the game, he faced 37 shots and allowed just the three goals.

He came into Saturday's game about halfway through and finished it out. His Saturday performance wasn't as sharp, but he got hung out to dry on a couple of those goals, as well.

During the past two weeks, Stewart was playing not just for playoff success, but most likely for a job next season, too. With Zaniboni's departure, the goaltending situation will be slightly muddled for NMU and Stewart, Derek Janzen and
Ian Keserich could all compete for the starting role.

3) NMU Power-play

It's a little ridiculous to bring it up at this point, I know, but on Saturday the Wildcats went 3-5 on the power-play. Every NMU goal came with an advantage and that's something that the 'Cats haven't had all season.

The Bad

1) The NMU Offense

In this case, the best defense was a good offense for the Wolverines. For the weekend, they out-scored the Wildcats 12-4 and out-shot them 65-41. They managed to score four goals on the weekend.

The one aspect of the Wildcat offense that did seem to work was the aforementioned power-play. On a whole, though, the offense struggled greatly against what was thought to be a sub-par Michigan defense.

2) Billy Sauer

I hear people saying that Wolverine netminder Billy Sauer played well over the weekend and that he did his part to push them to the Joe.

This is a lie.

I understand that Sauer was not tested heavily in the series and that UM won both games. He stopped 35 of 39 shots (.897 SV%) over the weekend, but was only put in a position to make a big play around three to four times. He might have done it once.

At one point on Saturday night, Sauer had allowed two goals on five shots.

He finished out the night stopping 14 of 17 (.82 SV%), but Saturday should have been the best night for the goalie. It was game two of the conference quarterfinals and his team was attempting to end another team's season. That is a scenario when a goalie should step up.

The good news for Sauer, however, is that A) he has improved consistently since the beginning of the season when he was, honestly, terrible and that B) the Michigan offense is so disgustingly powerful that they may be able to carry Sauer for a period of time.

They will reach a point, though (namely the NCAA Tournament), when he will likely be relied upon to provide something that he cannot.

The Ugly

1) Saturday Night

When the NMU Wildcats took the ice on Saturday night, they were hoping to keep up with the nation's most prolific offense. For the first 2:30 of the game, Northern controlled the play and the contest was tied.

And although Michigan controlled the pace of play for the majority of the first period, the game was still within reach when Santorelli netted one at the 2:33 mark of the second (score: 4-2).

That's when it got bad.

The Wolverines tagged on another goal and then NMU took three penalties within 1:30, giving Michigan a 5-on-3 advantage, which they promptly exploited for a goal.

Down by four goals near the end of that middle period, the Wildcats seemed as though they were almost skating the time out, just waiting for that trip to the locker room. Michigan scored again at the 19:37 mark of the second.

I understand that it had to be disheartening for those guys to get gutted like that in what turned out to be their final game of 2006-2007, but the fact that they let it show so much is what surprised me.

To their (and the coaching staff's) benefit, they came out in the third with much more fire.