Oct. 20, 2005
By Matt Wellens North Wind
MARQUETTE, Mich. (U-WIRE) - Wildcat hockey fans hoping to catch the battle between two of the U.P.'s most heated rivals may want to start planning a trip to Houghton on Saturday.
Friday's contest at the Berry Events Center originally sold out on Monday night and the 100 additional standing-room-only tickets released on Tuesday afternoon disappeared by noon the next day.
The 2005-2006 Ramada Cup series between the Northern Michigan Wildcats and Michigan Tech Huskies will be decided in only two games this season. In the event of a tie after both games, a shootout will decide the champion.
Wildcat head coach Walt Kyle, who couldn't get tickets to Friday's game after purchasing a season ticket package late, said the rivalry comes at a great time for the team after playing a disappointing series with St. Cloud.
"We need to play in a game with some passion and we need to play with a lot of emotion attached to this game," Kyle said. "It's one of the targets on our schedule."
Last year's Ramada Cup series, which NMU won with a 2-0-2 record, was packed with emotion. In game three at Marquette, a skirmish between the 'Cats and Huskies at the end of the second period resulted in 114 penalty minutes combined for both teams and five men in each penalty box to start the third.
Junior forward Pat Bateman, who was involved in another scuffle during the third period of that game, said Tech has played Northern in the past tougher than anyone.
"Every game against Tech is an absolute, all-out war," Bateman said. "We have to be ready or they are going to take it to us."
After splitting last weekend with St. Cloud, Bateman said two wins against the WCHA's Michigan Tech this weekend are essential to reaching their goal at the end of the year -- reaching the NCAA tournament.
"These are detrimental to our season," Bateman said. "We need these points more than anything because we didn't pick up that win against St. Cloud."
The Wildcats have had its U.P. rivals by the tail over the years holding a 5-2-3 record over the past 10 games and 55-43-10 all-time record.
"No matter what paper says or no matter what other people say, these two games are always huge for us," senior defenseman Nathan Oystrick said. "It's a U.P. rivalry. It's two teams that don't really like each other."
Michigan Tech has found itself in a slump over the past few years, but Kyle said second year MTU head coach Jamie Russell has the Huskies moving in the right direction.
"People in the community and people at the university don't always see the work they are doing on the road," Kyle said. "We do. We see him out recruiting. We know the level of kids they are talking to."
The Husky roster contains 17 underclassman this season, including two freshmen goalies who will split time this weekend.
Mike Teslak, who will start Friday, was in net for Tech's lone win this season against Mercyhurst before losing to Vermont last weekend.
Russell said his 6-foot-2-inch goaltender is poised in net and controls rebounds well.
Rob Nolan will be getting the start on Saturday night in Houghton.
Nolan is currently 0-2 this season losing to Mercyhurst and then to Rensselaer in Anchorage.
"Rob Nolan struggled in his first start, but bounced back and played very well on Saturday night up in Alaska," Russell said.
The biggest loss for the Huskies over the off-season was the nation's eighth leading scorer, Colin Murphy.
Russell said junior forward Taggart Desmet and senior forwards Chris Conner, Nick Anderson and Brandon Schwartz have been able to fill the gap left by the graduate.
"I think those four players with what they bring to the table together combined will certainly help ease the loss of Colin from last year," Russell said.
Another noticeable absentee on the ice this weekend will be Tech's 6-foot-7-inch, senior defenseman John Scott, who was suspended 14 games for a drunk-driving incident in the spring, Russell said.
"John made a mistake and he's paying for those consequences right now, but we'll be excited to get him back in December," Russell said.