As a former college goaltender at Notre Dame, Northern Michigan athletic director Forrest Karr couldn’t help but feel a bit of sympathy on Friday for Ferris State goaltender CJ Motte, even though the Bulldogs beat the Wildcats 4-1.
With 11 seconds to play in the game, Motte lost what would have been only his second shutout of the season, giving up a power-play goal.
Karr said after the game he’d have a tough time that night letting go of that goal, but not Motte.
The only goose egg that matters to him is the one that still stands in his loss column after 13 starts.
“I played hard the whole game. The defense really played hard the whole game, so I can’t be too upset,” Motte said Friday after picking up his 11th win of the season.
“Being a goalie, you want to stop every one, but realistically, it’s not going to happen. I just go out there and try to give my team a win. Every time we win, it’s a job accomplished.”
The Bulldogs are on a nation-best 11-game unbeaten streak, having gone 9-0-2 during the stretch. That includes 8-0-2 in their first 10 WCHA games to comfortably lead second-place Bemidji State by seven points in the league standings.
Motte has been in goal the entire time, and while his GAA (2.35) is good for only sixth in the WCHA and his save percentage (.919) ranks only fifth in the league, he’s dominating in the ultimate statistic with a league- and nation-best winning percentage of .923 at 11-0-2.
“It’s a nice security blanket for us,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “I don’t want to rely as heavily as we did on him [Friday] night, but I’d prefer to play more like [Saturday] where he makes some big saves, but he’s not overly tested.”
Motte has given up three or more goals in seven games this year, with his lone shutout coming Nov. 1 at Alabama-Huntsville. His offense, however, has scored four or more goals in nine of his starts and averages a league-best 3.73 goals per game.
“It’s good knowing those guys can really put some pucks in the net,” Motte said. “A three- or four-goals-per-game average is pretty good, but we can’t rely on that. Moving forward in the season, we have to continue to play and get better defensively and me as a goaltender, cutting that goals against average down.”
Wildcats lose captain Ludwig for season
Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said Tuesday that Wildcats senior defenseman and captain C.J. Ludwig is indeed out for the season with a right knee injury. An MRI confirmed Tuesday what Kyle feared on Friday after the loss to Ferris.
“For as long as he’s out, that’s a big loss for them,” Daniels said.
FSU junior forward Dom Panetta collided with Ludwig’s right knee to the right of the NMU net while both players were chasing down a puck with under four minutes to play in regulation. Ludwig had to be helped off the ice, unable to put any weight on the injured knee.
Ludwig ranks second in the league in scoring among defensemen with five goals and seven assists. With four power-play goals, he’s tied for fourth overall in the league.
“It hurts not having Ludwig,” NMU senior Stephan Vigier said. “He’s our leader and our captain and probably one of our best defensemen. We have guys who can play up there and can do a pretty good job.”
Vigier will take over as the Wildcats’ captain the rest of the season while junior forward Ryan Kesti has been promoted to an alternate captain.
Freshman forward Brock Maschmeyer will move back from forward to defenseman. He played alongside senior defenseman Wade Epp in Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Ferris.
“To me, Ludwig was playing like an all-league guy. He was having a great year,” Kyle said. “He’s our captain on the ice. He’s our leader off the ice. When he’s out of our lineup, we’re going to miss him, but we all waste too much time worrying about the pieces we’re missing and we should be giving credit to the pieces we have.”
Beyond bragging rights
With just two wins between them in their last 13 games combined, Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage hardly need any more motivation for this weekend’s series in Anchorage.
For 20 years, the rivals have played for the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup, the prize that goes to the season series winner. The Nanooks have won the trophy four times in a row and lead the overall series 12-8.
But there’s more than just bragging rights on the line this year, as this will be the first time WCHA points are also up for grabs.
Anchorage and Alaska rank eighth and ninth in the league standings, respectively, with four points separating them. However, the Nanooks, with just four points overall, have two games in hand.
The Seawolves will host this weekend’s series and are 5-0-1 at Sullivan Arena. While their home wins alone already have eclipsed last year’s season total, they are 0-5-1 on the road and have just one victory in their last six games overall.
The Nanooks, meanwhile, have just one win in their last seven games since starting the season 4-1-2. Alaska has lost four straight.
This weekend’s series is the first half of the Governor’s Cup competition. This year also marks the first time since 2007-08 that the teams will play four games to decide the winner. They will meet again in Fairbanks on March 7 and 8 to close out the regular season.
Around the WCHA
• Alabama-Huntsville was shut out for the sixth time this season on Saturday when it fell 1-0 to Western Michigan in the third-place game of Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament. It was also the fifth one-goal loss of the season for the Chargers. Huntsville’s 5-2 loss to Notre Dame in the tournament opener was the only game of its last four in which it’s managed to get on the board.
• Bemidji State ranks third in the conference in scoring, averaging 3.0 goals per game. That’s nearly one goal per game more than the Beavers averaged last season when they finished the season 11th in the WCHA with just 2.06 goals per game. Bemidji State tied and lost to Miami, continuing a tough nonconference schedule that included St. Cloud State and Minnesota to start the season. The Beavers will play North Dakota in mid-January.
• Looking for some additional leadership, Minnesota State made junior forward Chase Grant an alternate captain prior to last week’s series against Alaska-Anchorage. He joins captain Johnny McInnis and alternates Brett Stern and Josh Nelson. However, Nelson, a senior defenseman, is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. The Mavericks have won three straight games and four of their last five league games.
• Michigan Tech broke its road curse in Fairbanks with a sweep of the Nanooks to cap a 13-day Alaska road trip that began with a loss and tie in Anchorage. Tech was 0-7-2 away from Houghton before the trip. The Huskies now play back-to-back series at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena starting this weekend against Bemidji State and the following weekend vs. Bowling Green.
• The Falcons won’t be missing November much after going 4-5-1 overall and 1-4-1 in their three road series. Bowling Green capped the month by getting swept at Lake Superior State. BGSU begins December at home against winless Alabama-Huntsville. The Falcons are 5-1-1 at home this season and 4-0-1 vs UAH all-time at BGSU Ice Arena.
• LSSU’s 4-3 wins over BGSU gave the program its first WCHA sweep and snapped a four-game losing skid that dated to Nov. 2. The Lakers’ last five games have all been decided by one goal.
• This week’s WCHA players of the week are Minnesota State junior forward Jean-Paul Lafontaine (offense), Ferris State junior goaltender CJ Motte (defense) and Michigan Tech freshman defenseman Shane Hanna (rookie).
USCHO covers the WCHA all week long on the WCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.