Do or die
MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University Wildcats are heading into the playoffs on a skid and they’ll need to pull out of it this weekend if they want to continue in the postseason.
After dropping three games in a row, including a sweep by Upper Peninsula rival Michigan Tech, the Wildcats head south to take on No. 13 Bowling Green State starting tonight for two or three games on consecutive nights.
“They’re obviously a really good team,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said while traveling to Ohio. “Anytime you’re on the road is not ideal. We won a couple of games down there earlier, but I can tell you that they came at us pretty hard.
“All of those top three teams (MTU, BGSU and Minnesota State) kind of ran away from everybody else. We got one of those guys and it’s going to be a tough go for us.
“Having said that, we aren’t afraid of them. It is what it is. At this time of year, you have to win your games, no matter who you play.”
NMU has had mixed results against the Falcons over the years. The Wildcats were upset by BGSU in the first round of the playoffs in 2011 and 2012. However this season, NMU swept the Falcons on their home ice, so the Wildcats have reason to think they can turn their fortunes around this year.
To take down the high-powered Falcons again, the Wildcats will have to accomplish what they did against them a few weeks ago.
“I think we had a really good chemistry,” Kyle said. “Michael (Doan) was very good in goal. We had a really good effort throughout our lineup and that’s what it’s going to take if you’re going to be successful in the playoffs.”
A few weeks ago, the Falcons appeared to be a sure thing to make the NCAA postseason tournament. Now they are on the bubble and will need a good showing in the WCHA playoffs to make a tournament bid reality.
BGSU has four players with more than 20 points, with Brandon Hawkins at the top with 28 on 14 goals.
Goaltending is a strength for the Falcons as Tommy Burke and Chris Nell each have high saves percentages and goals-against averages. NMU will counter with Doan, who picked up two wins against the Falcons.
When it comes to special teams, the Falcons have the best penalty kill in the country, bu if there’s one weakness with the Falcons, it’s their power play. BGSU is 33rd in the nation, which isn’t bad, but it’s not overpowering either. NMU has the 13th best penalty kill, so the Wildcats have an advantage there.
“I think our confidence is good,” Kyle said. “We’ve started to get some bodies back. Every time you get to this time of year, it’s kind of a new breath of life.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.