Northern Michigan Wildcats men's ice hockey

Northern Michigan Wildcats men's ice hockey
Northern Michigan Wildcats
Northern Michigan Wildcats.svg
University Northern Michigan University
Conference CCHA
Head coach Walt Kyle
10th year, 176–153–39
Arena Berry Events Center
Capacity: 3,902
Location Marquette, Michigan
Colors Green and Gold


NCAA Tournament Champions
NCAA Tournament Frozen Four
1980, 1981, 1991
NCAA Tournament Appearances
1980, 1981, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1999, 2010
Conference Tournament Champions
1980, 1981
Conference Regular Season Champions
1979–80, 1980–81, 1990–91

The Northern Michigan Wildcats men's ice hockey team is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college ice hockey program that represents Northern Michigan University. The Wildcats are a member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). NMU has won one national title and has made three Frozen Four appearances. They play at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Michigan.[1]



Early History

The NMU men's ice hockey program began in 1976. The team competed as an independent NCAA Division I team and probationary member of Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) for the 1976-77 season. During the 1976-77 season as a probationary member NMU competed against CCHA teams but did not count for league standings. Northern Michigan became a full member of the CCHA for the 1977-78 season.[2]

In the first two season as a full member of the CCHA Northern Michigan finished with back-to-back 19 win seasons before a historical season in program history in 1979-80. During the 1979-80 season the team won its first CCHA regular season championship and CCHA Playoff Tournament championship.[1] The Wildcats advanced to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and won their first game 4-3 against Minnesota. NMU advanced to the National Championship game with a semifinal win over Cornell 5-4. Northern Michigan finished as the runner-up to North Dakota.[3] In addition to the tournament being the first tournament and National Championship appearance for Northern Michigan, it was also the highest NCAA Tournament finish for a CCHA team. NMU head coach, Rick Comley became the first CCHA coach to receive the Spencer Penrose Award given to the NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Coach of the Year.[2]

The success of the 1979-80 season continued for the 1980-81 season. The Wildcats again won the CCHA regular season and playoff championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.[4] The Wildcats won the quarterfinal game against Cornell 10-7 but fell to Wisconsin 1-5.[4]

WCHA Years

On January 5, 1984 Northern Michigan announced the program was leaving the CCHA after seven seasons two league and playoff championships and two NCAA Tournament berths for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). The following day it was announced that rival Michigan Tech was also leaving the CCHA for WCHA.[2] The 1988-1989 season marked the first time NMU qualified for the NCAA Tournament as a member of the WCHA.[1] Unlike previous NCAA appearances Northern Michigan fell in the first round to Providence 4-5.[5]

Northern Michigan qualified for the 1991 NCAA Tournament after winning the WCHA regular season championship. Northern Michigan won two games to none in the quarterfinal round against Alaska-Anchorage, 8-5 and 5-3.[6] NMU advanced and beat Maine 5-3 in the semifinal round. The Wildcats matched up in the National Championship game in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 1, 1991 against Boston University and won 8-7 in three overtime periods.[6] The 1990-91 season also set a program best record of 38-5-4 and a winning percentage of .851.[1] It also marked the program's first and only NCAA Championship. The Wildcats returned to the National Tournament in 1992 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament as the 4th seed of the West Regional held in Detroit, Michigan. NMU picked up a first round win over Clarkson 8-4 before losing in the quarterfinal round 6-7 to Michigan.[7] The 1992-93 season marked the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. NMU won a close game in the opening round of the 1993 Tournament in the East Regional in Worcester, Massachusetts against Harvard. The Wildcats won a close game 3-2 in two overtime periods but fell 1-4 in the second round to Boston University in a rematch of the 1991 National Championship.[8]

During the following seasons NMU remained competitive in the WCHA but by the mid-1990s the program fell into the bottom half of the standings.[1] After six 20+ win seasons from 1988-89 season through the 1993-94 season, the Wildcats failed to reach 15 wins in their last three seasons in the WCHA. The 1995-96 season marked a program low record of 7-30-2.[1] On August 19, 1996 the CCHA approved Northern Michigan's application to rejoin the league for the 1997-98 season after 13 years in the WCHA.[2] During the years in the WCHA the Wildcats accumulated a record of 263-243-30.[1]

Recent History

The return to the CCHA reinvigorated the program after several underachieving seasons and rebuilding years. In the 1996-97 season, the first back in the CCHA, the Wildcats finished with a record of 19-15-4. The season was the first winning record since the 1993-94 season.[1] And in the following season NMU reached the NCAA National Tournament for the seventh time in program history. Northern Michigan entered the tournament as the 5th seed in the West Regional. Northern Michigan's playoff run was ended early by Boston College in a low scoring game 1-2.[9]

On June 13, 2002 it was announced that Walt Kyle would take over as head coach for the Wildcats to become the second coach in program history. Rick Comley left to take over the head coaching position at Michigan State after 26 seasons behind the bench of the Wildcats.[10][11] Kyle won his first game as head coach of Northern Michigan on October 5, 2002 against Upper Michigan rival Michigan Tech, 4-1.[12][13] Kyle's first CCHA victory came on October 18, 2002 10-4 against Rick Comley and his Michigan State team. [13][14] Kyle led the Wildcats to four straight 20+ win seasons from 2002-2006 and six of his first eight seasons behind the NMU bench.[1]

One of the most successful seasons in recent history came in the 2009-10 season. Northern Michigan finished the regular season ranked fourth in the CCHA and ranked 16th in the nation. The Wildcats received a first round bye in the CCHA tournament and matched up against Alaska Fairbanks, coming off first round sweep of Western Michigan. Northern Michigan swept the Nanooks two games to none with 4-3 and 5-1 victories,[15] advancing NMU to the semifinal round. Northern Michigan took on Ferris State looking to overcome the semifinal losses the previous two seasons.[1] The Wildcats came out on top of their seventh appearance in the CCHA Semifinals in the last eight seasons with an overtime goal by Greger Hanson to give Northern Michigan the 5-4 OT win.[16] The win was the first time Northern Michigan advanced to the CCHA Championship game since 1999, under Rick Comley.[16] The Wildcats run in the CCHA playoffs ended in the Championship game, when Northern Michigan fell short in a close game to Michigan.[17] The Wildcats 1-2 loss to the Wolverines did not end their season as NMU received an at-large bid to the 2010 NCAA Men's Division I Ice Hockey Tournament, their first tournament appearance since 1999 and fist under Walt Kyle.[15][1] Northern Michigan's first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 seasons took them to the West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota and first round matchup against St. Cloud State.[18] The Wildcats battled hard in front of a pro-SCSU crowd.[18] Northern Michigan found themselves down early 0-2 in the first period but picked up a late goal by sophomore forward Justin Florek.[19] St. Cloud answered in the second period on the powerplay but Northern Michigan kept within one goal when senior forward Ray Kaunisto scored late in the period.[19] St. Cloud was held scoreless in the third while Northern Michigan tied the game with an even strength goal under four minutes left in the third period by junior defenseman Erik Spady.[19] The Two team battled hard through the first overtime before St. Cloud State's Tony Mosey scored 23 seconds into the second overtime.[18] Senior goaltender Brian Stewart stopped 50 SCSU shots in the tough loss.[19]

In the summer of 2011, the Big Ten Conference announced intentions to begin sponsoring men's ice hockey in 2013,[20] followed by Miami (OH) announcing the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference for 2013 with and five other schools breaking from the WCHA.[21] The realignment continued on July 20, 2011, when Northern Michigan was approved for membership in the WCHA beginning with the 2013-2014 season.[22]

Season-by-Season Results

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Bulldogs.[1] For the full season-by-season history, see Northern Michigan Wildcats men's ice hockey seasons

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses

Records as of March 23, 2011.

Season GP W L T Finish Playoffs
2006–07 41 15 24 2 10th, CCHA Lost in CCHA Quarterfinals, 0–2 (Michigan)
2007–08 44 20 20 4 6th, CCHA Lost in CCHA Semifinals, 4–6 (Michigan)
2008–09 41 19 17 5 6th, CCHA Lost in CCHA Semifinals, 1–2 (Notre Dame)
2009–10 41 20 13 8 4th, CCHA Lost in NCAA Regional Semifinals, 3–4 2OT (St. Cloud State)
2010–11 42 15 19 2 6th, CCHA Lost in CCHA First Round, 1–2 (Bowling Green)


The Wildcats are currently coached by Walt Kyle. Kyle is currently in his 9th season behind the NMU bench and is the second coach in program history. He was hired on June 13, 2002 to replace Rick Comley who left to take over the head coaching position at Michigan State.[10] In his tenure with Northern Michigan Kyle has led the Wildcats to six 20+ win seasons and one NCAA Tournament appearance.[23] Kyle played for Northern Michigan for two seasons from 1979-1981. He became assistant coach for NMU under Rick Comley from 1985-1992 before moving on to head coaching positions with the Seattle Thunderbirds and later with the San Diego Gulls, Baltimore Bandits, and Hamilton Bulldogs.[24] Kyle also spent time as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and New York Rangers.[24]

All-time coaching records

As of the completion of 2010–11 season[1]

Tenure Coach Years Record Pct.
2002–present Walt Kyle 9 176–153–39 .531
1976–2002 Rick Comley 26 542–435–69 .551
Totals 2 coaches 35 seasons 718–588–108 .546


Current Roster

As of November 27, 2010.[25]

# State Player Catches Year Hometown Previous Team
31 British Columbia Jared Coreau L Freshman Perth, Ontario Lincoln (USHL)
35 Minnesota Reid Ellingson L Junior Cloquet, Minnesota Cloquet HS (USHS-MN)
44 Idaho Devan Hartigan L Junior Boise, Idaho Port Hope (OJHL)
# State Player Shoots Year Hometown Previous Team
2 Manitoba Scott Macaulay R Sophomore Winnipeg, Manitoba Dakota College (NJCAA)
3 Michigan Ryan Kesti R Freshman Red Wing, Minnesota Sioux City (USHL)
6 Ontario Andrew Fernandez L Senior Thunder Bay, Ontario Selkirk (MJHL)
12 British Columbia Erik Spady R Senior Deroche, British Columbia Salmon Arm (BCHL)
24 Texas CJ Ludwig R Freshman Little Elm, Texas Omaha (USHL)
25 Michigan Austin Handley L Freshman (RS) Clarkston, Michigan Des Moines (USHL)
27 British Columbia Wade Epp L Freshman (RS) Chilliwack, British Columbia Victoria (BCHL)
33 Minnesota Kyle Follmer L Sophomore St. Paul, Minnesota Lincoln (USHL)
# State Player Shoots Year Hometown Previous Team
8 Michigan Chad Pietila R Sophomore Milford, Michigan Marquette (NAHL)
9 Sweden Greger Hanson L Senior Lidingö Sweden Djurgårdens IF Hockey (J20 SuperElit)
10 Michigan Nicholas Kosinski R Senior Marquette, Michigan Marquette (NAHL)
11 Minnesota Phil Fox R Senior Stillwater, Minnesota Fargo-Moorhead (NAHL)
14 British Columbia Brian Nugent L Sophomore Victoria, British Columbia Victoria (BCHL)
16 Minnesota Jake Johnson R Freshman Duluth, Minnesota Penticton (BCHL)
17 Alberta Tyler Gron R Junior Spruce Grove, Alberta Fort McMurray (AJHL)
18 Michigan Justin Florek L Junior Marquette, Michigan US NTDP (NAHL)
19 Michigan Kory Kaunisto R Sophomore Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Lincoln (USHL)
22 Michigan Mike Maltese R Senior Eastpointe, Michigan Mahoning Valley (NAHL)
23 Alberta Andrew Cherniwchan L Junior Hinton, Alberta Nanaimo (BCHL)
26 Texas Erik Higby L Freshman New Braunfels, Texas Topeka (NAHL)
40 Nova Scotia Stephan Vigier L Freshman Notre Dame, Manitoba Sioux City (USHL)
62 British Columbia Sam Muchalla R Freshman Prince George, British Columbia Prince George (USHL)
73 Michigan Reed Seckel L Freshman Melvin, Michigan Green Bay (USHL)

Notable Alumni

Over 170 NMU alumni have gone on to play professionally, including a number of current and former NHL players:[26]


The Wildcats play at the 3,902-seat Berry Events Center on the NMU campus in Marquette, Michigan.[27] The arena has been the home of the Wildcats since 1999, replacing Lakeview Arena which had been the home to NMU hockey since the program began in 1976. The Berry Events Center is one of two Olympic-regulation sized ice surfaces in the CCHA,[28] the other being Alaska Fairbanks' Carlson Center.



The Puckheads are a group of fans of the Wildcats hockey team. The group is made up of students as well as residents from around the community. In the words of a Michigan Daily feature article, "The Puckheads have created an atmosphere that makes the Berry Events Center one of the most entertaining and frustrating road trips for other teams in the CCHA."[29]

The Puckheads were founded in November 1996 at Lakeview Arena. The Puckheads travel and follow the team on many occasions, and have established rivalries with other teams' fan groups, notably the "Red Army" supporters of the Nebraska–Omaha Mavericks.[30][31]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Northern Michigan Men's Hockey Team History". U.S. College Hockey Online. 1996-2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Moments In CCHA History". CCHA. 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2010. 
  3. ^ "1980 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "1981 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  5. ^ "1989 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "1991 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  7. ^ "1992 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ "1993 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ "1999 NCAA Tournament". Inside College Hockey. 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Walt Kyle: Head Coach, Men's Hockey". Northern Michigan University. 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  11. ^ Weston, Paula C (1996-2010). "2002-03 Northern Michigan Season Preview". U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  12. ^ Staff (October 5, 2002). "Northern Michigan Opens With Win Over Michigan Tech". U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "2002-2003 Statistics Game-by-Game". College Hockey News. 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  14. ^ Jensen, Chris (October 18, 2002). "Scary Return to Marquette for Comley, Spartans". U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Northern Michigan Wildcats: 2009-2010 Men's Hockey Schedule/Results". U.S. College Hockey Online. 1996-2010.,nmu/season,20092010/gender,m.html. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Denny, John (March 19, 2010). "Hanson's OT Goal Delivers Northern Michigan Long-Sought Spot in CCHA Title Game". U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  17. ^ Weston, Paula C (March 20, 2010). "Caporusso Scores 2, Michigan Earns Spot in NCAA with CCHA Final Victory". U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b c Buckentine, Tyler (March 26, 2010). "Mosey's OT Goal Ends St. Cloud State's NCAA Drought". U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  19. ^ a b c d "St. Cloud State 4, Northern Michigan 3". U.S. College Hockey Online. March 26, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Big Ten Officially Announces Hockey Conference". College Hockey News. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  21. ^ "Collegiate Hockey Conference Joint Statement". North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  22. ^ "Northern Michigan granted full approval to join WCHA in 2013". U.S. College Hockey Online. July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Walt Kyle Historical Record". College Hockey News. 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b "Walt Kyle". 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  25. ^ NMU Wildcats men's ice hockey roster
  26. ^ "Alumni Report". Internet Hockey Database. 2008. Retrieved November 27, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Berry Events Center". Retrieved March 24, 2011. 
  28. ^ "U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University". United States Olympic Committee. 2009. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  29. ^ "'Puckheads' add to Icers' challenge", Michigan Daily, November 14, 2005.
  30. ^ Curt Kemp, "Carp-eh Diem? UN-O, NMU rivalry’s special, The Mining Journal, November 20, 2009.
  31. ^ Chad Purcell, "Fish fight: Whopper of a brawl leads to a friendly rivalry", Omaha World-Herald, January 21, 2010.

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