MARQUETTE - It's a cliche that applies at almost every level of hockey from house leagues to the professional ranks.
"The team will go as far as the goaltender will take it."
That couldn't be more true for the Northern Michigan University hockey team and junior netminder Jared Coreau.
Northern Michigan University goaltender Jared Coreau watches play from his own crease against Michigan Tech on Dec. 16, 2011 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Coreau finished with a .928 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average in 23 appearances last season. (Journal file photo)
Northern Michigan University goaltender Jared Coreau smothers the puck against Bowling Green State on March 2 of last season in Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"I don't want to put all the responsibility on me," Coreau said. "Obviously we are a team and we need to play as a team, win or lose as a team. But, I think if I have a good year, I'm going to help the team. I'll do the best I can to help them win and everyone will have a good year."
The 6-foot-4, 208-pounder out of Perth, Ontario, and the Lincoln Stars of the USHL split his time in net the past two seasons with the now departed Reid Ellingson.
This year will be different, however. For the first time in his collegiate career, Coreau will be the Wildcats' go-to-guy in goal.
If he can carry the team toward the top of the CCHA standings in the league's final season and into the NCAA tournament for only the second time during the Walt Kyle era at NMU, Coreau will see himself well beyond the college ranks after the final horn sounds.
"I think Jared is one of the best goalies in the country returning," said Kyle, who is entering his 11th season as head coach of the 'Cats. "I think if Jared has the year he's capable of, we can go a long way if we provide him the correct support.
"And if Jared has the year he's capable of, Jared won't be around here after that. I've always said it and I believe it. If you dominate a level and you are ready to go, you're ready to go.
"He knows that he needs to become a dominant starter at this level before he's ready to be a dominant starter at the next level."
While Coreau failed to catch the attention of those who hand out college hockey's preseason accolades, he was very much on the radar of the National Hockey League this summer.
Coreau, an undrafted free agent, participated in the Edmonton Oilers summer development camp in late June and less than two weeks later, was in hostile territory at the Calgary Flames camp.
"They do not like each other," Coreau said. "I did an interview in Edmonton and I was kind of hesitant. I checked around the room to make sure there were no big time Edmonton guys in there. I told (the reporter) I was going to Calgary's camp too and his eyes lit up. It's like our Michigan Tech.
"It was pretty cool to see both sides of that rivalry."
It was the second summer in a row that Coreau was invited to two NHL summer camps as a walk on. In 2011, he worked out for the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks, who don't happen to be as fierce of rivals as the Alberta franchises.
"The times you're not doing extra work or putting all your effort into practice, someone else is," Coreau said. "At that level (NHL), you see other guys and the competition is pretty tough. At that level, it all comes down to who is going to work harder than the other guy. Who wants it more and who is going to take better care of the details."
Coreau said there was no pressure from Edmonton - Kyle used to coach the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Hamilton - to sign over the summer, though Calgary did bring up the possibility of turning pro on the second-to-last day of camp.
Coreau said both he and the Flames agreed Northern would be a more stable environment to develop in 2012-13. With the lockout then only looming over the NHL, Coreau could have landed in the anywhere between the ECHL and AHL had he signed and forgone his last two years of college eligibility.
"The big thing for me was it's pretty much home," Coreau said. "I've been here for so long, and the plan was since the end of last season all the way until this season, I'm the guy and I obviously need to still prove myself."
Coreau has appeared in 38 games as a Wildcats and started 33 of those. His career record sits at 17-12-4 with a goals against average of 2.74 and save percentage of 2.74.
Last season, Coreau appeared in 23 games with 20 starts, going 12-7-2 with a 2.22 GAA (fifth in the CCHA) and .928 save percentage (third in the CCHA).
Among returning CCHA goaltenders, no one has a better 2011-12 winning or save percentage and only Western Michigan sophomore Frank Slubowski has a better GAA at 2.03.
"As the season goes, you'll see him emerge as an elite goaltender in college hockey," Kyle said. "He's ready to do that."
The Wildcats only have one option behind Coreau this season in freshman Michael Doan out of Sault. Ste. Marie, Ontario. Another freshman goaltender, Mathais Dahlstrom of Sweden, is also on campus but not eligible this season.
Kyle's confident, however, that Coreau can endure an entire college hockey season of hopefully more than 40 games. The last time the junior goaltender played in 30-plus games was the 2009-10 season in Lincoln, Neb., when he went 38 games for the Stars, but had a mediocre save percentage of .882.
Coreau worked with a personal trainer, Mike Koskiniemi at Motions in Marquette, over the summer not only on building strength, but on muscular endurance and injury prevention.
Nutrition has also a become a large part of Coreau's year-round training, though he admits to the occasional McDonald's and Tim Horton's - his vices.
Kyle said besides former center Mike Santorelli - now with the Florida Panthers in the NHL - he hasn't coached a player more focused on training and nutrition than Coreau.
"He knows he's going to be our guy going night after night," Kyle said. "If Jared stays healthy, we provide him the correct support and Jared plays the way he's capable of, he's going to have a hell of a year."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.