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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With Northern Michigan Head Coach Walt Kyle

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, January 2 at 1:00 p.m. ET, Northern Michigan Head Coach Walt Kyle pays a visit to "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. The Wildcats host Ferris State on Saturday, January 6 on CSTV at 8 p.m. ET

Walt Kyle

Walt Kyle is in his fifth season as Northern Michigan University head hockey coach. He was named the second head hockey coach in NMU history on June 13, 2002. Kyle has led the 'Cats to four straight 20 win seasons.

Kyle has guided the 'Cats to four straight appearances in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Championship Tournament at Joe Louis Arena and is 87-60-15 in Marquette. He was the head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team which placed fourth at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

Prior to his NMU return, Kyle was an assistant coach with the NHL's New York Rangers for two years (2000-02). He was the coach of the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, the Oilers' top affiliate club, from 1998-00. He has also coached with with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (1996-98), the AHL's Baltimore Bandits (1995-96), the IHL's San Diego Gulls (1994-95) and the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds (1992-94).

Kyle was a two-time NMU letterman after transferring from Boston College. He captained the 1980 and '81 Wildcat squads that advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four. Following graduation, he became a graduate assistant coach and was promoted to assistant coach in 1982, a position he held until 1992. He was the program's top assistant in 1991 when Northern won the NCAA national title.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Walt won't be stopping by until 1:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 2, and his time will be limited, so feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Welcome to the first "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats of 2007, presented by CSTV.com and USCHO. Let's get this new year started right! We're joined now by Northern Michigan head coach Walt Kyle.
Coach Kyle: Fire away. I'm ready to answer your questions.
Coach Kyle: Fire away. I'm ready to answer your questions.

Dallas(Marquette): what are you going to do to try and turn around this years season
Coach Kyle: I think the biggest thing that we have to do is work with the people that we have. We knew going into the season that there would be ups and downs, but we didn't think we'd lose seven in a row. We're not doing anything differently than we've done in the past when we were successful, and I think that we certainly still believe in all the same things. We have a number of guys right now that are a little bit behind where we'd like them to be developmentaly, and we need to continue to work to make those guys grow and develop. The keys to coming out of this will be the growth of our young guys, and some of our veteran players re-emerging and having the years we expected them to have.

Anthony: With a young team like this one, how hard is it on your seniors, who might not be that reassured by the talk of building for the next couple of years?
Coach Kyle: Anytime we talk about building and growing for the future, we don't do that at the expense of having success today. These guys understand that. We're committed to the players who are here and the fans who support us to win each and every night, and anything that we do to build a team in the future, we never do anything in that regard that prostitutes us right now. Development of young players is important, but part of that development process is understanding that you have to be ready to impact the game and help your team win each and every night, and we try to make all of our players understand that.

Julian (Marquette): Obviously, you have a young team at NMU this season. How has their development compared to your expectations, since that's something that doesn't necessarily show up in the record book?
Coach Kyle: I think there's some very positive develpoment in our young players, and when you look at guys like Nick Sirota and T.J. Miller, who are showing up regularly in game sheets, their contribution and growth is easy to see. There are a number of other young players that we feel are growing and progressing that, day in and day out, don't show up in the box scores. I wouldn't be totally truthful if I didn't say we had hoped for more from certain individuals, but I also know from experience that different players are ready to impact the game in different ways at different points in their career. We certainly believe in these young guys, we believe that they're growing, and we have to stay the course if they're going to be successful.

Mark (St. Louis): Coach Kyle, you coached the World Junior team last year and went through some of the same problems the current team is going through. What are some of the problems coaching an "all-star" team.
Coach Kyle: I think first of all, I think all of us should be extremely prouid of the job Ron Rolston is doing. To start the tournament and lose your first two games, it's a very difficult task to keep your team positive and focused, and he was able to do that. There are a ton of returning guys on that team, not only with experience in the World Juniors, but internationally, and I can tell you that I'm certainly cheering for them in their game today. I think the biggest problem when you're coaching a group of guys like that is making sure that they understand two things. One, that there's only so much ice time to go around, and the coaching staff needs to distribute that ice time in a manner that they best feel gives the team a chance to win. This is certainly not going to be the same amount of ice time individuals get on their normal teams, and they have to accept that. Number two, these guys may be asked to fill different roles on a national team, and if the team is going to be successful, they need to accept those roles, and flourish in them.

John (Detroit): What do you think was the biggest positive you can take from the first half of the season?
Coach Kyle: I think there's several things. For the most part, we have competed extremely well each and every night. Many of our losses have been by a single goal (or an empty net), and we've been in each and every game we've played. If we can find a way to turn those one-goal losses into one-goal wins, we can easily have a successful second half. I think we've had some real positive performances individually. Mike Santorelli is certainly having an all-league or All-American type of year, and has emerged into one of the country's top players, and I would also say that Matt Maunu has had a quiet year because of the way he plays, but an exceptional year. We've already talked about it, but T.J. Miller has shown that he's an elite young defenseman, and that's certainly a positive thing for the future.

WM (SW Michigan): Coach, Can you tell us more about the upcoming Superior Showcase/Showdown next year? All the best to the 'Cats from a Tech fan/alum.
Coach Kyle: We're excited about the Showcase. I think it puts four regional rivals in an environment where we get the opportunity to play each other, and hopefully will create fan interest throughout the Upper Peninsula and the Duluth area.

Adam: Coach, Mel Pearson made a comment a couple of weeks ago about the OHL expansion drying up recruiting ground for the CCHA. Do you agree, and how do you adjust?
Coach Kyle: We do not do a lot of recruiting in Ontario. However, major junior and their ability to recruit young players certainly has had an impact on the available recruiting pool. I think the short-term key to having success recruiting against major junior is education of players in the recruiting pool and their parents, and personally, I believe the long-term solution is to find a common ground between NCAA eligibility and players who choose to go major junior, and try to make these players eligible.

Ed (Big Rapids): Coach, what would you say are some of the big keys in this weekend's series with Ferris?
Coach Kyle: Whenever you watch Ferris play, one of the things you always see is that they are a very well-coached team that plays with a lot of speed and a lot of dynamic offense, and I think that you have to be prepared to play against that. I think that you have to be able to take advantage of any turnovers that they may give you, because they are going to generate offense. I think you need to be aware of their rush and counter-offense, and I think that you have to be able to match their work ethic.

Ron (Detroit): Of the teams you've faced so far this season in the CCHA, who has impressed you the most and why?
Coach Kyle: I would say clearly, Notre Dame and Miami are the best two teams that we've played, not only in the CCHA but nationally, and I think both teams have a large pool of talented players. They both have the ability to generate offense, but they both play a stingy defensive game, and they're difficult to have offensive success against. I think that both of these teams will be in the national picture at the end, and both teams are among the top teams in the country.

Jim (Detroit): Coach, how important is the 20-win mark for continuing to build at NMU? It seems like a tall order to continue that streak into a fifth season.
Coach Kyle: I don't think 20 wins has any significance at all. I think that certainly, right now, we want to finish as high as we can in the standings. We want to get back on track in regards to winning games and moving ahead. I would agree that it looks like 20 wins is going to be a tough task. However, right now, I'm worried about Friday night, not 20 wins, and we're trying to convey that attitude to our guys: let's take it one night at a time. I would also say that over the last four years, we've found a way to be playing our best at the end of the year, and to have some degree of playoff success, and I would tell you that as a coach, we're focusing now on getting our team to finish as high as we can in the standings and to be prepared to continue with that playoff success.
CSTV.com Moderator: That's all the time we have with Coach Kyle today.
Coach Kyle: We certainly know that we're not performing at the level people hoped. However, we understand that this was going to be a process this year, and we're going to continue to be patient and grow and develop. I'd like to thank everyone for their continued support.
CSTV.com Moderator: That will do it for the first of today's chats. Remember that you can see the Wildcats take on Ferris State on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET on CSTV. See you at the top of the hour for our second chat with Wisconsin goaltender Brian Elliott.

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