NMU Hockey 2013-14 Season Wrap Up: Penalty kill hurt Wildcats just as much, if not more, than loss of Ludwig

MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University head coach Walt Kyle agreed the loss of senior captain and defenseman C.J. Ludwig was devastating in 2013-14 and it potentially cost the Wildcats the three points necessary to finish in a tie for third with Alaska and Bowling Green in the WCHA.

But Ludwig’s loss could have also been overcome, Kyle said, had the team not been so “brutal” and “awful” on the penalty kill.

“Our penalty kill was a disaster,” Kyle said.

Ludwig, who suffered a season-ending knee injury 13 games into the season on Nov. 29, was of course a key part of the penalty kill, but one man can’t kill two or five minutes of a disadvantage by himself. It’s a team effort, and as a team, the numbers agree with Kyle that NMU was “a disaster” on the kill.

The ‘Cats gave up 42 power-play goals this season – including nine in six games to the league’s No. 1-ranked power play of Minnesota State – and finished second to last in the league with a penalty-kill percentage of 77.5 in league play. Overall, NMU only killed 76.1 percent of its opponents’ power plays, which ranked 54th out of 59 teams in NCAA Division I.

Five-on-five, the Wildcats were the No. 1 defense in the WCHA. Of the 108 goals allowed, 61 were even-strength goals.

“As a coaching staff, the single biggest objective has got to be to fix our penalty kill,” Kyle said.