Northern Michigan Goes Out Standing Proud
by Emily Hack/CHN Reporter
DETROIT Despite the magic ending for Northern Michigan on Friday — a valiant 6-4 loss to Michigan pp the Wildcats showed a level of hope for next season's team, especially when considering no one ever expected them to get this far in the first place.
"It's definitely great to [overcome the low expectations]," NMU's Matt Butcher said. "We're all so proud of each other. We bonded together so well and really the season went pretty well."
Said NMU coach Walt Kyle, "At the beginning of the year we couldn't keep up with them (Michigan) and the last three games we've played with them, we showed we can stay with them. I'm really proud of our effort and I think we made a statement about who we are and where we're going. We just have to keep looking forward."
It was a back and forth game, with teams trading bounces and good chances. But Michigan is a team that takes advantage of those chances better than anyone.
"Playing the No. 1 team in the nation you have to get bounces and they ended up getting all the bounces we would have needed," Butcher said.
The Wildcats tied up the game at 14:54 as Mark Olver skated along the boards. He tripped Kevin Porter, but it went uncalled and allowed Olver to fake out Sauer on the right side and put it into the left corner.
Taking their first lead of the night with a power shot from Matt Siddall, the Wildcats showed that even though they don't take many shots on goal, they were still a team to consider.
Though the arena was filled with Michigan fans, it was surprising to see how many supporters the Wildcats had drawn in.
"It felt really nice when we were getting introduced because we thought we'd get drowned out by the Michigan fans but our fans broke through and we could hear a few cheers throughout the game," Butcher said.
A number of those bounces started catching up with NMU in the third period, when a couple shots went in off its defenders and in for Michigan goals.
"I thought we played the way we needed to and we're not going to beat a team like that when four pucks go in off your own guys like that," Kyle said. "We needed a little more puck luck and they made their luck and did the things they needed to do to win."
There was late drama, with NMU tying it with under eight minutes left, only to see the Wolverines pull it out down the stretch. That is what good teams do, and what young teams need to learn.
"One of the important things about us getting in this year was that our young guys, we have 14 freshmen/sophomores who play regular for us, have never been here and it gave them a chance, with a game like tonight, to see what it's about," Kyle said. "It's a great learning experience for us."
The Wildcats will face the defending CCHA Champs of Notre Dame in a battle for third place tomorrow; the 'Cats will be playing with two of their seniors for the last time. It's also a game that means a lot to Notre Dame, which is on the NCAA bubble, and to the teams that are affected by its fate.
"We want to give [Matt Siddall and Andrew Sarauer] a win tomorrow," Butcher said. "We can guarantee that they're going to play their hearts out and we want to play our hardest for them. We obviously want to go out with a win but giving it to them is a big part of it."