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Season Preview: Northern Michigan

Contrary to popular belief, I haven't given up on the CCHA season previews. Like I said, the CCHA previews will be a little slower in coming since I didn't write them over the summer, and they're getting a little delayed because news is actually happening now, but I will get to all of them before the season starts. Here is my pick for 6th place in the CCHA, Northern Michigan.

Projected Depth Chart


LW Pat Bateman C Darin Olver RW Mike Santorelli
LW Matt Siddall C Dusty Collins RW Matt Butcher
LW Rob Lehtinen C Nathan Sigmund RW Andrew Saraurer
LW Nick Sirota C Tim Hartung RW Ray Kaunisto
LD Zach Tarkir RD Bobby Selden G Bill Zaniboni
LD T.J. Miller RD Matt Maunu G Brian Stewart
LD Spencer Dillon RD Alan Dorich


Overall:

Northern Michigan always seems to find themselves in the spot of being right on the cusp of being a good team, but not quite there. This year’s Wildcats team has a lot of talent and could challenge as one of the best teams in the league, but also has the potential to finish low in the standings. I’ll split the difference and pick them right in the middle of the pack.

Strengths:


The Wildcats return an experienced, and very good top line with Darin Olver, Mike Santorelli, and Pat Bateman. Olver is a slick playmaker while Santorelli is an excellent finisher. They also have a talented freshmen in future CCHA star Matt Butcher. They also have experience in goal with Bill Zaniboni, and a talented young freshmen in Brian Stewart.

Weaknesses:

The Wildcats look to be a little thin on defense this year after losing top defenseman Nathan Oystrick and Geoff Waugh, who took up a lot of icetime, and 6th defenseman John Miller. The Wildcats will have to hope some of their incoming defenseman can contribute immediately on the blueline.

Question Marks

Bill Zaniboni was good in goal for Northern Michigan, but can he make the jump to being an elite goalie for the Wildcats? Will the Wildcats be able to replace the defensive presence of Nathan Oystrick and Geoff Waugh?

Key Player: Matt Siddall. The Wildcats can’t just be a one line team this season, meaning they’ll need the big forward to step up and help provide some scoring on the second line.

Breakout Player: Mike Santorelli. Santorelli scored 16 goals as a freshmen and 15 as a sophomore, but he’s still rarely recognized as one of the best scorers in college hockey. I expect him to score over 20 goals this season and get recognized as one of the CCHA’s most dangerous goal scorers.

Bellwether: Northern Michigan was only 1-7 against the top three teams in the CCHA last season. If they can perform better against the likes of Michigan and Michigan State this season, they could finish higher than projected.

Did You Know?
Northern Michigan has the second most draft picks (9) of any school in the CCHA, behind only Michigan’s 12.

Northern Michigan’s Superior Dome, affectionately known as Da Yooper Dome, is the world’s largest wooden dome.

The town of Marquette was originally Worcester, after the city in Massachusetts,

If You Go There:

(Since I haven’t been to Marquette in years, faithful reader Bob Cowles will be pinch-hitting for me on this part. –Ed.)

Places to eat: If you're looking for a pregame drink, look no further than Overtime Sports Bar on Presque Isle Avenue. Located right near the athletic complex, you can stop in and enjoy a couple of draft beers for under $6. If you're hungry, go to Vango's, which serves up an excellent gyro and is noted for their waffle fries with ranch, all for $10 or less. Also check out the Casa Calabria, which offers great Italian for around $15 a person. And if you're lucky, you just might be able to find the Puckheads tailgating in the Berry Events Center parking lot before the game.

Places to see: If you have time, check out the Marquette downtown with a distinct Main Street feel to it, or the Lower Harbor park, or Presque Isle Park. You might want to tour the NMU campus while you're there.

NMU home games are usually easy to get a ticket to, unless rivals Michigan Tech or Michigan are in town. If you sit near the student section, you'll hear the Puckheads leading all sorts of chants, from "SIEVE!" to "It's all your fault!" to the infamous "See ya bitch!" when an opponent committs a penalty.