NMU hockey notebook: Siemer sparks offense, but power play struggling

MARQUETTE – After scoring his first collegiate goal in his first game at the Berry Events Center a week ago today, Northern Michigan University freshman forward and WCHA Rookie of the Week John Siemer said it was nice to get the monkey of his back early.

“I feel like it opens things up for me,” Siemer said. “I can stop worrying about it now.”

Things sure opened up for Siemer, who in his second game in Marquette the following night, finished with a goal and what head coach Walt Kyle called two “major league assists.”

The first assist came on a give-and-go, two-on-one breakaway with senior forward Erik Higby. Siemer then went coast-to-coast on the second to set up Higby again.

“He’s a guy that keeps good control of the puck. He’s got good poise with it,” Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson said about Siemer. “On that second goal, we kind of backed off on our forecheck and he has some good ice awareness. He skated all the way up the ice and the next thing you know, he made a great play.”

The Wildcats have been in search of a dynamic offensive force after senior forward Stephan Vigier cooled off. He began 2013-14 by scoring 10 goals in 10 games, but has only one goal and five assists since.

Prior to Siemer’s goal and two assists on Saturday, Vigier had been the only Wildcat to score three points in a game, tallying three assists on Nov. 23 against Alabama-Huntsville in Marquette.

Saturday was the second time Higby scored two goals in a game this year. The first time on Nov. 9 at Western Michigan, Vigier did as well. Sophomore Cohen Adair also scored twice on Nov. 1 at Alaska.

Heading into this weekend’s 11:07 p.m. games tonight at Saturday at Alaska-Anchorage, Northern’s offense ranked eighth in the WCHA, averaging 2.45 goals per game.

In WCHA play, that average spikes to 2.50 goals per league game and NMU jumps to a tie for sixth.

Northern is averaging 3.75 goals in each of its first four games of 2014 with Siemer having scored in three of those four games.

“I think the more confident he gets, the more you are going to see. He’s certainly dynamic,” Kyle said about Siemer.

“He’s legit. He’s going to score a lot of points here. He may be our single biggest offensive dynamic guy.”


Slumping power play

The Wildcats’ power play ranks second among WCHA teams converting at a 20.4 percent rate. In league games, NMU’s power play is third with a 19.3 percent success rate. In 2014, however, NMU has only converted on three of its 16 chances, or 18.75 percent of the time.

The Wildcats went 2 for 8 in their first series back from the holidays at Bemidji, then went 1 for 8 last week against Alaska.

“We weren’t very good getting into the zone,” Kyle said. “We were trying to make too many cute plays. We weren’t putting pucks on the net from the point.”

Siemer had the lone power play goal against the Nanooks, scoring on the second of two NMU power plays. The following night, the ‘Cats went 0-6 with just six shots on goal during the advantages. Higby said he liked how much pressure the power play generated in the first period, but after that, things went awry Saturday.

“Later in the game we couldn’t get into the zone,” Higby said. “We were turning pucks over everywhere and had no pressure.”


17 years later

Only four teams carried over from the 2012-13 WCHA to the 2013-14 WCHA, but of those four, only two – Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage – were in the WCHA when Northern was last a member in 1997.

While NMU kept up its rivalry with Tech, it traded its games against the Seawolves for trips a little farther north to play CCHA foe Alaska-Fairbanks.

This weekend, the Wildcats and Seawolves play for the first time in 17 years and first time in 18 seasons in Anchorage, where UAA is 9-2-1 this season.

“They are a very good team at home and we’re going to have our hands full,” Kyle said.

NMU and UAA last met at Lakeview Arena in Marquette on Jan. 17-18, 1997, with the Seawolves sweeping 5-1 and 1-0. UAA also swept its last two home games against Northern on Feb. 2-3, 1996, 5-2 and 3-2.

The Wildcats and Seawolves history doesn’t end with regular season meetings, however.

NMU swept UAA 5-2 and 5-1 in a 1994 WCHA playoff series in Marquette and en route to the 1991 NCAA Championship, the Wildcats beat the Seawolves in an NCAA Quarterfinal series at Lakeview Arena, 8-5 and 5-3. NMU leads the all-time series 11-9-1, but is 3-6-0 in Anchorage.