MARQUETTE, Mich. — In a land where it snows from November to April, hockey prevails. Its taken seriously among the residents of Michigans Upper Peninsula, but even more so when Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan are concerned. These rivals, who are located only two hours apart, began their season Friday with the annual Superior Cup Tournament.
It didnt take long for the game to take off. A mere 30 seconds into the first period the Wildcats made their scoreboard debut with a shot from rookie Andrew Cherniwchan. Cherniwchan took a pass from line mates Jared Brown and Nick Sirota to put the puck past Husky goalie Robby Nolan.
I missed the shot the first time and everyone went for it, Cherniwchan said. I picked it up and had a wide open net. Brown and Sirota are great to play with. Theyre both such strong players and easy to play with.
The trio showed its dominance once again at 4:17. This time Brown chipped the puck left of Nolan with passes from Cherniwchan and Sirota. For their two shots on goal, Northern had two goals.
Brown really came on the end of last season and hes the kind of guy we count on for scoring, Wildcat coach Walt Kyle said. Hes a very capable player and tonight he showed that.
It was awesome to have two goals in the first five minutes, Wildcat goalie Brian Stewart said. The crowd got into it right away and our whole team got a buzz of that. It helped me feel positive the first couple shots I got there, though it didnt take the pressure off entirely. You have to stay mentally focused the whole game.
In front of Stewart, Cherniwchan kept the puck out of the defensive zone and with Browns help, put it left of Nolan exactly halfway through the period.
I am really pleased with that line, Kyle said. They were easily the best line for us early in the game. You could really see that Cherniwchan has heart. He plays hard, has good hands and a brain, but his greatest gift is his ability to compete.
Though the Huskies outshot the Wildcats 15-4 in the first period, the Wildcats skated off the ice with a three goal lead.
Husky captain John Schwarz took a penalty at 4:39 in the second. The Wildcats took their one man advantage with a goal from junior Matt Butcher who popped it in glove side. Captain Tim Hartung and rookie Ben Lindemulder put some more diversity on the score sheet with the assists.
At 12:22, Wildcat winger Ray Kaunisto added another goal to NMUs game with an unassisted shot. Kaunisto carried the puck around Nolan and slipped it in past his left skate to bump the Wildcats up 5-0.
The Huskies began their retaliation at 16:01. Malcolm Gwilliam and Drew Dobson fed the puck to winger Jordan Baker who sent the puck past Wildcat goalie Brian Stewarts left shoulder.
I told our kids after the second period, Adversity doesnt develop character, it exposes it. It was 20 minutes of character. We had to keep working, we had to keep competing and I think we did that, Husky head coach Jamie Russell said.
Going into the third, the Huskies were outshooting the Wildcats 25-9, though Northern Michigan held their lead 5-1 lead. The Huskys defense kept the Wildcats from taking a shot for the first half of the third and kept them from scoring the entire period.
At 18:35 the Huskies pushed their tally up to two with a power-play goal from Alex MacLeod, Baker and John Kivisto, giving the game a final of 5-2 for the Wildcats though the Huskies outshot them 30-11.
Stewart had 28 saves on the night.
You can always count on Stewart back there. It really helps in our D-zone to know if we make a mistake hes there to cover for you, Cherniwchan said.
The credit goes to our D-men, Stewart said. Theyre down there blocking shots, taking a lot of bruises on the arms and legs and are still moving so I can see the puck.
Despite losing their first game of the season, the Huskies plan to learn from this experience and take tomorrow nights game by storm.
For us, tonights game would be the formula of how not to start on the road, Russell said. Definitely I give them credit. They got the crowd into it. They scored some nice goals and they had some nice opportunities and finished their chances.
I certainly dont question our players work ethic, how hard they competed, how badly they wanted to win, but I really question some of the decisions that we made. When we made a mistake we made a big one, and when we gave up 11 shots on net with five goals, you see that and think the goaltending was bad and I dont think you can fault our goalie at all on any of the goals. We hung him out to dry.