MARQUETTE, Mich. – The word average comes to mind when you think of the 2010-11 Northern Michigan University hockey season. The Wildcats were picked sixth in the preseason Central Collegiate Hockey Association poll and had two players named preseason honorable mention all-conference. When the ‘Cats skated off the ice for the final time they were sixth in the CCHA and a week later had no one mentioned in the all-conference picks.
The eight seniors had made it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA final four each of the first three years and the hopes were high for a fourth. The ‘Cats started postseason play by hosting Bowling Green State in a best-of-three series from the Berry Events Center. NMU dominated play on Friday (March 4), winning 6-3. The ‘Cats only managed to score one goal in the next two nights combined and had the season come to a crashing end against the last place Falcons.
NMU finished the season 15-19-5 overall and 12-13-3-0 in the CCHA. The season started slow as the team didn’t pick up its first win until the sixth game of the season when they swept Ohio State (Oct. 29-30) at home and then won a third game in a row at Lake Superior State (Nov. 5).
Seven series in the first half of the season were splits with opponents either with a win and a loss or a win and a tie. NMU picked up sweeps over Ferris State (Jan. 21-22) and Michigan State (Feb. 11-12) in the second half of the season. The ‘Cats went 3-0-1 in the final four games before meeting Michigan in the final series of the regular season. If the ‘Cats would’ve picked up a win in one of the games, they would’ve gotten a first round bye. NMU played its best game of the season on Friday (Feb. 25) night in a 3-2 loss to the Wolverines. Michigan wasn’t able to relax until the final horn as the ‘Cats peppered shots all the way until the end. Michigan clinched the CCHA on Saturday (Feb. 26) in the final game of the regular season.
Junior forward Tyler Gron led the team in scoring with 17 goals. He also had 15 assists to led the team with 32 points. Seven of his goals came on the power play. Gron was twice named as the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week.
Junior forward Justin Florek was second on the team with 14 goals. He also had 15 assists for 29 total points. Senior captain Phil Fox had 11 goals on the season. Greger Hanson and Scott Macualay both led the team in assists with 17. Andrew Cherniwchan was third in points with nine goals and 14 assists. Kyle Follmer had 10 assists on the season. Macualay and Andrew Fernandez led the team in plus minus with a plus six.
Freshman Erik Higby was CCHA Rookie of the Week in the first week of December after the series with Western Michigan. He finished the season with five goals and eight assists. Senior defenseman Erik Spady was named CCHA Defensive Player of the Week after the sweep of Ferris State. Spady had two assists on the weekend and finished the season with a goal and six assists.
Junior Reid Ellingson played in 31 games as the goaltender. His record was 10-14-3 with a 91.6 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average. He was named CCHA Player of the Month for November and was named CCHA goaltender of the week three times. Ellingson had 42 saves in a 4-1 win over Lake Superior State (Nov. 5) and 41 saves in a 2-1 win over Alaska-Fairbanks (Nov. 20).
Freshman Jared Coreau appeared in 15 games, protecting the net for NMU. He was 5-5-2 with a 90.0 save percentage and a 3.71 goals against average. Coreau was twice named the CCHA Goaltender of the Week. He made 51 saves in a 3-2 win over Notre Dame (Dec. 11) and 50 saves in a 4-2 victory over Michigan State (Feb. 11). He had two other performances of 40+ saves.
The 2010-11 senior class consisted of Jared Brown, Andrew Fernandez, Phil Fox, Greger Hanson, Nick Kosinski, Mike Maltese, Robert Skinner and Erik Spady.
Scoring goals had been a problem all season for the Wildcats as the team was eighth in the CCHA at 2.18 goals per game. The underclassmen will have to step it up next season as NMU will look to bounce back in 2011-12 from the earliest postseason exit under head coach Walt Kyle.
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