NMU hockey: Wildcats complete weekend sweep with back-to-back shutouts of Alabama-Huntsville

MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University head hockey coach Walt Kyle admitted during Friday’s Blue Line Club luncheon that series against winless teams like Alabama-Huntsville are the ones he fears.

He also said he was comfortable this year’s team wouldn’t let those fears come to fruition.

“We have a good culture right now and I think these guys didn’t allow us to overlook a team that you could potentially based on their record,” Kyle said.

Despite an early flurry by the Chargers, the Wildcats confirmed their coach’s comfort with a 4-0 victory over UAH in WCHA play on Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

NMU redshirt freshman Mathias Dahlstrom made 17 saves – one more than he did in Friday’s 3-0 win – to complete the back-to-back shutouts and lead the ‘Cats (6-5-1 overall, 4-2-0 in WCHA) to their first sweep of the season.

“The thing I think I was most pleased about throughout the weekend was I asked our guys to play good defense, not get caught up in playing racehorse hockey,” Kyle said. “Mathias gets back-to-back shutouts and played in a difficult environment for a goaltender, but the reality is the guys really limited the opportunities.”

After peppering the Huntsville (0-12-0, 0-8-0) net with 41 shots on Friday, the Wildcats were held to 33 shots on goal Saturday, but got four goals from two senior defensemen and a pair of junior forwards.

NMU senior defenseman C.J. Ludwig, who had a goal and assist, scored on the power play via a one-timer from the blue line with 26 seconds left in the first period to put NMU up 1-0 at the first intermission.

His defensive partner, Wade Epp, then ripped a similar shot in a similar spot, but on the opposite end of the ice, at 12:21 of the second period to put Northern up 2-0.

“If they play college hockey, they’re a good team,” Ludwig said. “Any team in our league is going to be good, so we just have to go out and be ready to play.”

Junior forwards Reed Seckel and Ryan Daugherty both scored for the Wildcats in the third period with Seckel scoring his fourth goal in four games at the 11:44 mark and Daugherty finding the back of the net during a delayed Huntsville penalty just over two minutes later.

For Kyle, it was nice to have four upperclassmen score Saturday with senior forward and leading scorer Stephan Vigier recording assists on three of the four goals as well.

“That tells you the kind of leadership and character they provide,” Kyle said. “We had two defensemen score. We did a very, very good job. We had a couple other guys that could have (scored), they just couldn’t find the back of the net or missed opportunities.”

Seckel missed the first four games of the regular season with an undisclosed upper body injury and while he was able to pick up a pair of assists in his first four games against Michigan Tech and Alaska, he couldn’t find the back of the net like he did a year ago when he scored 13 goals and 25 total points.

Now the Wildcats third leading goal scorer behind Vigier and Ludwig said he’s back in the swing of things

“The first couple games I kept it simple, wanting to make plays and give the puck to Vigier. He was on a tear,” Seckel said. “I was out there trying to get the puck to him, let him do the work. Now I’ve taken the next step and progressed as the season goes on.”

Up next for the Wildcats is a Thanksgiving series Friday and Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette against No. 10 Ferris State.

The Bulldogs are unbeaten in their last nine games and comfortably lead the WCHA at 7-0-1 in league play.

“We’re going to have to take our game up a level from where it was this weekend.,” Kyle said. “I thought we played hard, I thought we did a good job executing, but we weren’t quite as sharp as I’d like around the net. Some of our zone entries weren’t as sharp. That was very much expected after a week off.”

NOTES: NMU junior defensemen Mitch Jones and Luke Eibler both had assists in the game. … UAH freshman goaltender Carmine Guerriero made 29 saves. … The Wildcats had a goal by Seckel waved off in the second period due to goaltender interference to keep the score 2-0. Seckel’s goal in the third period was also reviewed, but upheld. … NMU drew 1,937 fans on Saturday and 1,873 on Friday. Both are regular-season lows for the five home games, but topped the attendance at both exhibitions. … NMU senior forward Erik Higby was not in the lineup Saturday after injuring his wrist on Friday.