Yost Ice Arena is one of the most intimidating college hockey
venues in the country. Teams seem to have trouble drowning out the
deafening chants that insult anyone from the opposing goalie to
opposing players’ girlfriends. And most importantly, opposing teams
often come out on the losing end of a weekend series when visiting
Ann Arbor.

Then there is Northern Michigan.

The Wildcats (2-1-1 CCHA, 3-1-1 overall) actually boast a
winning record on Michigan’s hallowed rink. While the Wolverines
are behind 14-17-3 in their series with the Wolverines, Northern
Michigan is 8-7 when playing at Yost.

“(Since they’ve been in the CCHA) they’ve still done well (in
Ann Arbor),” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They’ve been a good
team at Yost Ice Arena.”

The Wildcats joined the CCHA in 1997 after they defected from
the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Since that time,
Northern Michigan has been on a tear. There was a stretch from 1998
to 2001 where the Wildcats won four of five games in Ann Arbor,
including the last three contests during that span.

Many of those wins were under former head coach Rick Comley, who
took the helm for Michigan State last season. Current coach Walt
Kyle has a different feeling about how his team plays in Yost.

“They kicked our ass at Yost last year,” Kyle said.

Indeed they did. After dropping the opening two games in
Marquette, the Wolverines (1-1, 4-1) made amends by handily beating
the Wildcats in both contests. These wins ended a five-game losing
streak.

This year’s Northern Michigan squad is vastly different from
last year. The top four scorers from last year have departed, and
defenseman Juha Alen was drafted and signed by the Mighty Ducks of
Anaheim. Senior winger Lucas Drake has picked up some of the slack
so far this season, notching a team-leading five points and scoring
two goals. In addition, Northern Michigan returns senior goalie
Craig Kowalski, who played in 38 of 41 games last year.

Kyle noted that while his first experience in Yost was not the
most pleasant experience of his life, he was impressed with the
crowd, noting that he thinks it’s a “great venue.”

Berenson himself has been pleased with the energy that Michigan
fans have brought to Yost so far this season. He also noted that he
thinks things are going to get more intense now that the CCHA
season is beginning.

“I think (the environment at Yost) is just going to get better,”
Berenson said. “The environment at Yost and the fans and the games,
now that we’re coming into … mostly conference games against
well-known opponents … brings some special atmosphere to the rink
because they bring their fans, and certainly our fans are into
it.”

But in the end, Berenson noted that the team just has to take
care of its own business, and things will fall into place.

“There’s going to be a lot of energy going around this campus
this weekend, and we have to be really focused on playing the kind
hockey that we need to play,” Berenson said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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