Wildcats drop non-conference home matchups

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Senior Wildcat defenseman Tony Bretzman sends the puck up the ice past two Cornell forwards. Photo by Jacob Darner

Alex Skinner

One of the nation’s top-ranked teams, the Cornell University Big Red visited the Berry Events Center and walked away with two points against the Northern Michigan University Men’s Hockey team.
Cornell came into the matchup ranked No. 18 and climbed one spot to No. 17 in the newest edition of USCHO polls, released this past Tuesday.

The Big Red heavily outshot their opponents coming into their meetings with the Wildcats, a trend that continued during the games.

Friday’s game was dominated by Cornell who managed to put a goal on the board three minutes into the contest when Cam Donaldson rifled home a wrist shot. The puck was evenly controlled by both teams throughout the first period with NMU firing four shots on goal and Cornell shooting five shots.

With just over three minutes to go in the first period, Wildcat sophomore forward Mitchell Slattery intercepted a puck in the Big Red zone and beat the Cornell goaltender on a powerful wrist shot, sending the packed home crowd into a frenzy. The score would remain tied heading into the first intermission.

Cornell opened the floodgates in the second period and showed why they were one of the best teams in the nation. Big Red forward Michael Regush scored on the power-play midway through the period to put Cornell back on top. Just over a minute later, Beau Starrett grew the Big Red lead to 3-1, burying the Wildcats on the scoreboard. The ’Cats only attempted two shots throughout the period.

The Wildcats doubled their second period shot totals in the third with six but were unable to score a goal. Senior goaltender Atte Tolvanen played well to finish the game but the score finished 3-1 in favor of Cornell.

Saturday’s matchup again saw the Big Red strike first, a power-play goal from Alex McCrea five minutes into the game. Ten minutes later while again on the power-play, Morgan Barron netted a goal for Cornell to give the visitors a 2-0 lead at the intermission.

Wildcat senior forward Troy Loggins sparked new energy into the Wildcats, scoring a power-play goal two minutes into the second period for his second goal of the season. For the first time all weekend, NMU finished the period with more shots than the Big Red, firing nine shots on goal compared to their seven.

Power-play opportunities were the difference all game long. With three already being scored before the start of the third period, it would make sense to add a few more. Cornell scored on the power-play midway through the third period and held on to a 3-1 lead.

The Wildcats, seeking a comeback, sought solace in the form of a power-play and scored off the stick of Loggins for his second goal of the game.

Despite a frantic finish and a shot by NMU that rang off the crossbar, the Big Red would skate away with a 3-2 victory and the weekend sweep against the Wildcats.

Head coach Grant Potulny knows these are tough matchups but likes to schedule these teams to better analyze his team.

“I think if you want to be there at the end of the year, these are going to be the teams that are standing,” Potulny said. “It gives you a barometer on where you’re at and what you need to work on…The teams that are successful and have been successful over time are willing to do, sometimes, the dirty things that it takes to win.

Looking ahead to this weekend, the Wildcats will welcome the Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) Seawolves to the Berry Events Center. UAA comes into the matchup with a 1-6-1 record and is 0-5-1 in WCHA conference action.

Although the ’Cats have found themselves in positions to win in close matchups, Potulny sees an area for his team to improve.

“You need to work the spots on the rink and you’ve got to get to where you need to be and I just don’t know that we’re getting to those spots, getting there fast enough,” Potulny said. “Did we play good enough to win Saturday? Yeah, absolutely. But playing well enough to win and winning are two different things. We’ve got to generate more offense.”

Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. on both Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17.