MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan hockey team completed its 36th season of hockey during the first weekend of March. The Wildcats waited two weeks after their final game to see if they were selected to the NCAA Tournament but were left off the bracket.
Northern finished with an overall record of 17-14-6 and was 11-11-6-3 mark in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for sixth place overall. The CCHA media and coaches had the ‘Cats ranked in sixth in the preseason polls. NMU was 5-1-0 in its nonconference schedule over Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams.
Senior forwards Tyler Gron and Justin Florek were honored on the CCHA all-conference teams. Gron was a first team selection and Florek a second team pick. Freshman defenseman Jake Baker was an honorable mention on the All-Rookie Team.
The ‘Cats won four of their first five games in October. A split at Wisconsin (Oct. 7-8) and a sweep of St. Cloud State (Oct. 13-14) got the nonconference schedule rolling. Top-ranked Michigan came to the Berry Events Center for the first CCHA series (Oct. 21-22). The ‘Cats won Friday night and tied with a shootout loss on Saturday. The final series of the month was at Western Michigan (Oct. 28-29) where the Broncos swept.
The winless streak continued in November with two ties and shootout wins against Notre Dame (Nov. 4-5) at home and a sweep by Ohio State (Nov. 11-12). During the final series of November, Michigan State (Nov. 18-19) split at the BEC. Saturday’s win was the start of a four-game win streak.
The ‘Cats were 4-1 in December with a sweep of Miami (Dec. 2-3) at home a split at Lake Superior State (Dec. 9-10) and a nonconference win over Michigan Tech (Dec. 16). The Russian Red Stars came to Marquette for an exhibition game on Dec. 30 (W, 3-2) to round on 2011.
Gron was named December’s CCHA Offensive Player of the Month after leading the league in points with three goals and five assists. Sophomore goaltender Jared Coreau was the CCHA Goaltender of the Month in December with a 3-1-0 record, a 1.35 goals against average and a 95.6 save percentage.
The New Year opened with a home series against Alaska (Jan. 6-7). The ‘Cats tied and lost in a shootout on Friday and bounced back with a win on Saturday. The next five games were played on the road. A tie and a loss at Michigan State (Jan. 13-14), a win at Michigan Tech (Jan. 21) and a split at Miami (Jan. 26-27) ended the month.
A tie and loss to Ferris State (Feb. 3-4) opened February. The final two road series were a sweep at Bowling Green (Feb. 10-11) and two losses at Michigan (Feb. 17-18). In the final series of the regular season, the ‘Cats swept LSSU (Feb. 24-25) to clinch the sixth spot in the league and earn home ice for the first round of the CCHA Tournament.
The No. 11 seed Bowling Green Falcons ended NMU’s season for the second year in a row in a three-game series from the Berry Evens Center. The ‘Cats took game one (March 2) 4-1 but were defeated 5-3 on Saturday (March 3) and 4-1 on Sunday (March 4).
Gron led the team in scoring with 17 goals and 20 assists. Florek led the team in goals (19) and had 17 assists. He also had nine power-play goals and three game-winners to lead the team. Junior defenseman Kyle Follmer had 22 assists.
Junior forward Matt Thurber had 11 goals and 19 assists in his first year on the ice for the ‘Cats. He scored two shorthanded goals and was a +9 on the season. Sophomore Stephan Vigier had 13 goals and 13 assists. Senior forward Andrew Cherniwchan also was in the double digit goal column with 10 goals. Redshirt freshman forward Reed Seckel had eight goals and 12 assists in his first full season.
Coreau and senior Reid Ellingson split time in the pipes. Coreau was 12-7-2 with 23 appearances. He had a 2.22 goals against average and a 92.8 save percentage. Ellingson appeared in 19 games and was 5-7-4. He had a 3.00 goals against average and a 90.4 save percentage. Ellingson was 3-for-4 in the shootout, stopping 11-of-12 chances. Senior Devan Hartigan appeared in one regular season game and was the winning goaltender in the exhibition game.
Walt Kyle finished his 10th season as the head coach. His overall record is 193-167-45 and 127-120-56 in the CCHA. NMU played the least amount of games (37) in the 2011-12 season during Kyle’s tenure.
Four ‘Cats were honored in the CCHA Weekly Honors. Florek was the Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 24 after five points against Michigan. Ellingson was the goaltender of the week on Nov. 7 after two ties and shootout wins over Notre Dame. Gron earned the offensive player of the week award on Dec. 3 after five points against Miami. Junior defenseman Scott Macaulay was the defenseman of the week on Feb. 27 after five assists against LSSU.
Cherniwchan, Ellingson, Florek, Gron and Hartigan were the five seniors.
Northern returns a ton of experienced players for next year and hopes will be high for the final CCHA season.
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