Thursday, March 25, 2010

West #3: Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan University Wildcats

3 seed vs. St. Cloud State, West Regional (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN)
At-large bid from CCHA
Record: 20-12-8
Coach: Walt Kyle

Northern Michigan has many hockey traditions. As USCHO noted this past weekend, until last Saturday, one of NMU's longest standing traditions was an appearance in the CCHA consolation game. However, with their win over Ferris State at the Joe on Friday night, Northern made its first appearance in the CCHA title game since 1999 (when they lost to…Michigan) and put up a valiant effort*, falling 2-1 for just their second loss since January 23 (both losses came at the hands of…Michigan). Northern Michigan's lone NCAA title came in 1991 when they won the epic, shown in every NCAA selection show highlight reel and why not, 8-7 triple overtime showdown with Boston University at the old St. Paul Civic Center (home of the legendary clear acrylic glass dasher boards.) (The Civic Center was also the filming site of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video.)

Mark Olver. Know this name. Know this name is missing an "i". Know this name because he is the rare Hobey finalist for the boys from Marquette and he is playing like it, averaging better than a point a game. He centers a second line that is as strong as Northern's top line and will potentially give opponents fits, provided the Wildcats can stay out of the penalty box. One potential positive for NMU will be no CCHA or WCHA refs in their regional, it'll be interesting to see if Northern can play physical yet clean in the eyes of the officials and give themselves a number of chances to score on even strength. If Northern is going to make the most of their first tournament appearance since 1999 and cross the Mackinac Bridge down to Detroit one more time this season, they'll need goalie Brian Stewart to be at his best. If he is, it would be, in the words of Northern Michigan alumnus Lloyd Carr, tremendous.

* - Old Man Soapbox for a moment. Michigan student hockey fans, I sincerely appreciate your passion and generally I will allow most of what you say slide because I was once like you. But the chant of "Stupid Yoopers" at the CCHA Final on Saturday night was untoward and out of line. It's Northern Michigan, and yes, I know they stood in the way of Michigan making the NCAA tournament and another CCHA championship, but really "Stupid Yoopers"? Did NMU deserve that? Even "Silly Yoopers" would have been far more acceptable. Save the true vile for those who would denigrate the name of Michigan, please? OK, off the soapbox as I have to go shoo some kids off my lawn.

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