Northern Michigan Preview

NMU Logo 2

Turn up the lights in here, baby
Extra bright, I want y'all to see this
Turn up the lights in here, baby
You know what I need
Want you to see everything
Want you to see all of the lights

Kanye West - All Of The Lights ft. Rihanna & KiD CuDi

The time has finally come. After nearly a six month haitus, the Wisconsin Men's hockey team is ready to turn up the lights and kick off another season of Badger hockey. Last season ended on a sour note with a post season loss in the first round of the WCHA playoffs at Colorado College, and you can bet that the players left over from last season have not forgotten that feeling.

Wisconsin opens up their season Friday night at the Kohl Center against Northern Michigan from the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Like the Badgers, Northern Michigan chose not to schedule an exhibition game so this will be the first time that either squad will be competing this fall against a team in a different color jersey. It's going to be a great test for two young teams that are looking to silence the critics.

Both teams come into the season with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. In the preseason polls, Wisconsin was predicted to finish 7th in the league according to the media, and 8th according to the coaches. The coaches predicted Northern Michigan to finish 6th in the CCHA and the media voted them 7th.

Offensively the Badgers return a talented but very young group of forwards. They are led by the all-sophomore top line of Tyler Barnes, Mark Zengerle, and Michael Mersch. That group is going to be heavily replied upon by the Badger coaches to set the trend for the rest of the forwards. Junior Derek Lee is another player that is going to be given some big time minutes for the Badgers this weekend.

Defensively  the Badgers return the face of the program, All-American Justin Schultz. He is paired up with a 17 year old freshman in Jake McCabe and that group will play in all situations against the Wildcats. Junior captain John Ramage is wearing the "C" for the Badgers for the first time and will need to step up and prove his worth on opening weekend.

As of the time of publish of this article, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves had yet to announce his starting goaltender for Friday night. The competition is believed to be between two freshmen, Landon Peterson out of the NAHL and Joel Rumpel out of the BCHL. Rumpel was more highly touted coming out of juniors but Peterson has been great in practice and is giving the staff a tougher decision than they had anticipated.

Northern Michigan brings back a talented trio of forwards themselves. Tyler Gron, Justin Florek, and Andrew Cherniwchan were the three leading scorers for the Wildcats a season ago and all return to the lineup. In addition to those three, Reed Seckel returns to the lineup after missing the year with an injury.

They also feature Matt Thurber, the Beaver Dam native and former Badger who transferred after being kicked off the team by Mike Eaves when he was charged with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct after a domestic dispute when Thurber choked his former girlfriend and threatened to throw her from a sixth floor apartment balcony.

On defense the Wildcats return a pair of juniors who are looking to break out this season in Scott Macaulay and Kyle Follmer. Both players have 20 point potential this season.

Northern Michigan's strength this year should be between the pipes. Reid Ellingson had a huge year for the Wildcats a season ago and Jared Coreau made a fairly smooth transition to college hockey as a freshman. From reports out of NMU's camp, it sounds like we'll see both goalies this weekend with most likely Ellingson taking Friday night.

COVERAGE

Friday's game was supposed to be televised live on FS Wisconsin but due to the Brewers/Diamondbacks game, it will be shown on tape delay after the post game show. I'm just speculating but I would expect that to air sometime around 8:30. The game will be rebroadcast on the Wisconsin Channel at 10 PM which you can find online at wpt.org/wisconsinchannel Radio coverage can be found on WTSO-1070 AM in the Madison area.

The Saturday game will be broadcast live on the Wisconsin Channel and on the radio at WIBA-AM 1310.

POLLS

The Badgers start the season ranked #17 in the USCHO.com poll and are "receiving votes" in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Northern Michigan is receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll and un-ranked by USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine.

INJURIES

From all reports the Badgers seem to be healthy. Jason Clark is returning off two hip surgeries this summer but Eaves said he's full go and ready for the season. Northern Michigan is at full strength.

PREDICTIONS

This one is a really tough call for me. Not only is it the first weekend of the season, but the Badgers have an extremely young squad this year and Northern has some youth as well. Given that we don't even know who's going to be starting in goal for Wisconsin, I don't feel right about making a prediction yet but I guess that's why they pay me the big bucks (joke).

Friday Night: Northern Michigan 4, Wisconsin 4

Saturday Night: Wisconsin 5, Northern Michigan 3

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For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)

Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at chuckschwartz@live.com

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