The busiest goalie in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League during the 2021-2022 season has earned himself a Division 1, American Collegiate Hockey Association commitment.
Michael Nickolau, who was a workhorse between the pipes for the last-place Cochrane Crunch, is headed to West Virginia in the fall to play for the Mountaineers, who are an up and coming young team.
The 6-foot-4 Nickolau, who has a 2001 birth date, faced an average of a whopping 54 shots per game for Cochrane during the 2021-2022 season and came away with an impressive .896 save percentage in 2,011 minutes of action on a Crunch team that won only two of 48 NOJHL games.
Thus, Nickolau was pursued by a number of Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association programs as well as Division 1 and 2 ACHA schools — including Sault College — before settling on West Virginia.
West Virginia is coached by 32-year old Shane Buckley, a former NOJHL goalie with the Blind River Beavers who also tended twine in the Greater Metro Hockey League with both the Espanola Kings and Elliot Lake Bobcats. And Buckley, who was born and raised in the small Highway 17 town of Iron Bridge — which is about 70 miles east of Sault Ste. Marie — not only did his homework on Nickolau but was able to get the big goalie to commit to West Virginia for the 2022-2023 campaign.
“We received a lot of good reports on (Nickolau) and he is a big kid who weathered the storm and played a lot of minutes and faced a ton of shots in Cochrane,” Buckley told Hockey News North. “We have a returning goalie and we expect (Nickolau) to come in and see his share of action for us and be a big part of our team.”
Buckley, a qualified school teacher who played at the NCAA Division 3 level at Northland College in Wisconsin, will begin his second full season as West Virginia’s head coach in the fall.
(Photo above: Michael Nickolau with West Virginia head coach Shane Buckley.)