MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University hockey team is on its way to the WCHA next season, but junior goaltender Jared Coreau is not coming with the Wildcats.
For Coreau, it's time to go pro.
"It's looking like I will be moving on," Coreau said Tuesday outside the training room of the Berry Events Center. "It's sad. There are great guys here. It's too bad because I think next year is going to be a big year for Northern. We'll be going into a league that we should be top three.
Northern Michigan University junior goaltender Jared Coreau gloves the puck on Feb. 8 against Ferris State at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Coreau said Tuesday he is ready to move on and plans to forgo his senior season at NMU to sign a professional deal. (Journal file photo by Zach Jay)
"I'm not saying that to slight any other teams in the division, but Northern is definitely going to have a competitive edge against all the new teams in the new WCHA."
Coreau could give the Wildcats more than a competitive edge, but an All-American edge if he returns to Northern next year according to head coach Walt Kyle.
However, the 'Cats coach is also a realist. Having coached four seasons in the NHL as an assistant with the New York Rangers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, plus three seasons as a head coach in the AHL, Kyle knows the opportunities that are about to present themselves to Coreau.
"Could his game grow with another year in college? Absolutely," Kyle said. "To me, if he was back, he could be an All-American. He's made a great step and great progress.
"At the end of the day, the best thing for him would be to back here next year, but in reality, I think he's going to get some opportunities he's not going to be able to pass up. If that happens, then we're certainly going to wish him the best."
Coreau mentioned seven NHL teams - Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and the Rangers - that have expressed interest in signing the Wildcat netminder this spring.
Coreau attended rookie camps with the Sharks and Rangers following his freshman year at NMU. Last summer in between his sophomore and junior year, Coreau attended camps by the Flames and Oilers.
This season Coreau said he's been in contact "a lot" with the Jets while the Red Wings contacted the Wildcats as recently as this week to enquire about the 6-foot-4, 208-pound, 21-year-old netminder from Perth, Ontario.
Coreau said he wants a fair shot at the NHL and will sign with the organization that can give him that kind of opportunity.
"Really it just comes down to where I will get an opportunity to play and I'll take it from there," Coreau said. "There is no certainly yet where it could be. It's exciting. I'm kind of nervous.
"I want to have a chance and know what I have to do in terms of work and everything. I'd like to hear that the NHL teams and representatives are in the AHL, they are involved a lot with the AHL team and at games watching you develop."
Coreau started all 38 games for Northern this and finished with a 2.70 goals against average, .919 save percentage and 15-19-4 record. All three stats were in a way disappointing considering as a junior, Coreau allowed an average of 2.22 goals per game with a .928 save percentage and 12-7-2 record.
Of course, last season he only faced 590 shots, which is barely half what he faced as a junior.
"Jared at times let in some untimely goals or some, at times, bad goals," Kyle said. "He was facing a lot of shots."
Coreau's 2,181 minutes, 36 seconds in goal currently leads the CCHA, though Western Michigan sophomore Frank Slubowski should surpass that this weekend in a second-round CCHA series against the team that most likely ended Coreau's career - Michigan.
The 1,109 saves Coreau made this year, however, most likely will stand as a league-best - Ferris State sophomore C.J. Motte is second with 878 - while only five other netminders in NCAA Division I college hockey have over 1,000 saves.
"When you look at his numbers and you look at some of the games that he played and what he had in front of him and what he did, he had a really good year," Kyle said.
With Coreau turning pro, NMU will be turning to an unproven goaltender in 2013-14, but Kyle anticipated this at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Freshman Michael Doan, who relieved Coreau in five blowout losses this season for a 2.91 GAA and .926 save percentage, will return with 103 minutes of experience next season and compete with Swedish freshman Mathias Dahlstrom, who sat out all of 2012-13 but practiced with NMU daily.
Both will compete for the starting job next season and just to be safe, Kyle said he plans to bring in a third goaltender to push the freshmen even further.
"That job is wide open," Kyle said. We will be bringing in someone else. We'll always have a third guy here. We expect whoever we bring in here to compete for the starting job as well.
"This is my 11th year. We've always been pretty good in goal. My theory with that position is I don't care if we have to bring in five. We will have a legit starter."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.