N. Michigan’s move causes mixed feelings

by Michael Rand

When Northern Michigan officials announced this summer that the school’s hockey team was leaving the WCHA to rejoin the CCHA next season, few people were shocked.
Athletics director and head hockey coach Rick Comley said the move will strengthen Northern Michigan’s ties to other schools in Michigan. Enrollment at the school has dropped over the past few years, and Comley said the move to the CCHA might help attract students.
It’s hard to argue with his logic. When the Wildcats join the CCHA, half of the league’s 12 teams will be from Michigan. Northern Michigan was a member of the CCHA from 1976-1984.
Although the move will probably help the school, one Northern Michigan player will be personally affected in a negative way.
Brad Timmons, a sophomore on the Wildcats hockey team who is originally from Circle Pines, Minn., said he’s disappointed that his dad, Pat, won’t get as many chances to see him play.
Pat Timmons made the trip to Marquette, Mich., this weekend, but next season that’s about the shortest trip he’ll make to watch his son play.
“My dad used to be able to come and see us at St. Cloud or Wisconsin or (Minnesota),” Timmons said. “It’s kind of too bad in that way.”
No love for Northern
Timmons may be disappointed to see Northern Michigan leave the WCHA, but he won’t find too many concurring voices in the Gophers locker room. Minnesota is 1-4-3 at Marquette in its last eight games.
“If there’s one place I know I’d never want to play again, it’s Northern Michigan,” Gophers forward Nick Checco said. “It doesn’t break my heart that they’re leaving.”
And that’s coming from a senior; Checco wouldn’t have had to play there again anyway.
Some of the players who have a year or two left aren’t losing any sleep, either.
“It’s a dump,” junior Ryan Kraft said. “Half of the high school rinks I played in are better than that.”
But playing at Northern Michigan is only part of the battle — getting there is a completely different matter.
The team took a bus to Northern Michigan, a transportation choice that conjured up bad memories for some seniors. Three years ago, the team got caught in a snowstorm on the way there and the trip took 13 hours — five or six hours longer than usual.
When snowflakes began to fall during the bus trip back to Minneapolis Saturday night, Checco had visions of the nightmarish trip from three years ago.
“I was sitting at the front of the bus for the first time since my freshman year, and I saw the bus sliding around,” he said. “I decided to head to the back so I would stop worrying about it.”
Old time hockey
Neither Minnesota nor Northern Michigan committed many penalties this weekend, which may seem surprising because they are two of the most frequently penalized teams in the WCHA.
But the shortage of penalties called was certainly not because of a lack of trying.
“It brought me back to my junior league days,” said Gophers freshman Nate Miller, who sports a scrape on his neck courtesy of a Wildcats player’s stick blade.
The most controversial play of the series came with less than a minute left in the third period on Saturday, when Northern Michigan’s Roman Kompis checked Minnesota’s Mike Crowley from behind. There was no penalty called on the play.
“Obviously, that should have been a penalty,” Comley said. “It’s something we’ve talked to (Kompis) about before, and we’ll have to talk to him about it again.”
After the hit, Gophers coach Doug Woog stepped up onto the boards by Minnesota’s bench and began to protest.
Obviously, guys don’t want their best player hit like a fly,” he said.