Icers open at Northern

The Falcon hockey team will start regular season play this weekend by traveling to Northern Michigan for Friday and Saturday night games. It will also mark the beginning of CCHA play for them and a start to a season they are excited to get under way.

“It’s a very exciting weekend here with opening up our regular season and conference season as well,” coach Scott Paluch said.

“We are playing at a tough place to play hockey at and it’ll be challenge right off the bat for us. They swept some good teams there, like Michigan, and were 14-4-1 there on the year.”

Northern Michigan will come into this weekend off a 7-2 win in exhibition play against Waterloo. They return a solid core of young players and have added eight freshmen to their roster, which has only four seniors. It’s a team that finished tied for fifth in the CCHA last year, but had a good tournament run, finishing third.

Big returnees for the Wildcats are forward Dirk Southern, who is the top returning scorer for last year’s team along with forward Andrew Contois coming off a hat-trick against Waterloo. On defense, the Wildcats are loaded with experience returning Jamie Milam and Nathan Oystrick along with senior goalie Craig Kowalski.

Kowalski was one of the top goalies in the league last year and had a goals against average of 2.82, which put him at sixth in the league. His record on the year was 20-16-2 and he recorded 3 shutouts.

“They return a great goalie in Kowalski, who has played a lot of hockey for them the last four years,” Paluch said. “They also have a core of defensemen in Milam and Oystrick along with a couple others, who are all good players back on defense. I think their team will change their primary focus from being a scoring team last year to being a little more defensive this season.”

The Falcons will be coming off a 9-2 exhibition win over Windsor and the players are ready to start the season at Northern.

“We’ve had a lot of serious battles with Northern and looking around I don’t think there is a better place to start out than at Northern,” D’Arcy McConvey said. “It’ll be good for the team to go on a long road trip and get the conference season started at a place like that.”

In the exhibition win Friday, the Falcons’ youth showed off their talents and Paluch will look at their play in practice this week to determine if any will be making the trip to Marquette, Mich. with them.

“We had a good chance to see most of our freshmen play significant time on Friday,” Paluch said. “We also had good play out of our upperclassmen and as the week goes on here, we’ll have a chance to look at our players then put together a strong lineup up there.”

The beginning of the conference season will be tough for the Falcons having to play Northern Michigan, Notre Dame and Miami right off the bat. The team captain knows that getting off on the right foot is very important.

“Any way you look at it, we have to play good from the get go,” McConvey said. “Those three teams have been major rivals though, and we’ll have to be ready to come out and play. I’m anxious to get going and see how everyone does this year out there.”

The Falcons will play at Northern Michigan on Friday and Saturday night with a 7:30 p.m. start time for both games.