Welcome back hockey


READY FOR ‘DAT PUCK—The preseason exhibition is out of the way and now the `Cats season begins Friday, Oct. 11 against MSU. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics

Travis Nelson

Head Coach Grant Potulny took his NMU Men’s Hockey team to its first exhibition game in his three-year tenure last Saturday, Oct. 5, where they defeated the United States National Team Developmental Program (USNTDP) U-18 team 4-3.

The Wildcats’ attack was looking well, and Potulny was pleased with both the shots on goal and special team efforts. 

This season’s team is mostly based on youth and question marks, but NMU answered a couple of them in the preseason match-up.

“All in all, I was really happy. I thought that some of the sophomores took some steps, I thought our defenseman who are freshman played very well,” Potulny said. “[I thought] our freshman forwards played well, and the most important position with the least experience on our team is goaltending, and I thought both of our guys played pretty good.”

Potulny and his staff remain unsure of goalie situation, but he wants to get them both in early against Michigan State this weekend. Goaltender is a position where players need game experience, and that they really can’t be evaluated in practice. 

Potulny added that he wants to figure out the starter before conference play, but if not then that’s good because that means they’re both playing really well.

The Wildcats welcome in the Michigan State Spartans on Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday Oct. 12. Both of these teams opened up the season last year against each other, when they split a doubleheader at Munn Arena in East Lansing. 

Both teams had plenty of turn over in the offseason, but that’s not where the simularities- or challenges end.

“They’re a lot like us, they’re deeper than they’ve ever been,” Potulny said. “They do have returning two goalies that both played and they play hard, it’s going to be a challenge. They’ve got experience playing against some of the best teams in the country week in and week out.”

Even though the Spartans will give NMU a run for its money, with it being so early in the season, Potulny still knows where his team’s focus must be.

“I do think we’re going to worry a lot about us this week, which we do typically but early in the year there’s just not enough sample size to know what they really do well and what areas you might have success,” Potulny said. “So you kind of focus on what you can do and what you do well.”

The Wildcats will once again face a tough nonconference schedule, playing teams in multi-bid leagues such as Cornell, Boston University (BU) and MSU. It will only help the team prepare for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) schedule.

 However, there’s something else Potulny wants his team to learn from the hard schedule.

“If we want to be at the end of the year where we want to be, these are the teams that you have to beat,” Potulny said. “I do think last year that we had a little bit of stars in our eyes when we played some of these teams, so hopefully now we’ve been through that. You understand that they put on their skates the same way we do and at the end of the day, the team that plays the hardest and executes the best is going to win.”

The 2019-20 season has fast approached, and the Wildcats will skate on its home ice for the first time. NMU hosts Sparty in a non-conference doubleheader of epic proportions, with puck drop at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11. The second game will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12.