Hockey sweeps Ferris

BRING+OUT+THE+BROOMS%E2%80%94NMU+forward+Andre+Ghantous+plays+defense+in+the+Wildcats%E2%80%99+season-opening+5-3+loss+to+Michigan+State+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+11.+The+Wildcats+are+on+a+three-game+winning+streak+after+sweeping+Ferris+State+University%2C+clawing+a+No.+20+national+spot+on+the+USCHO+poll.+The+Wildcats+now+have+their+sights+on+the+Alabama-Huntsville+Chargers.+Puck+drop+is+set+for+7+p.m.+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+1.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics

BRING OUT THE BROOMS—NMU forward Andre Ghantous plays defense in the Wildcats’ season-opening 5-3 loss to Michigan State on Friday, Oct. 11. The Wildcats are on a three-game winning streak after sweeping Ferris State University, clawing a No. 20 national spot on the USCHO poll. The Wildcats now have their sights on the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics

Travis Nelson

NMU is now 4-1-1 on the season, and for the first time on the campaign, is ranked at No. 20 in the United States College Hockey Online (USCHO) national poll. 

The Wildcats brought out the brooms on the road in Big Rapids, Michigan, sweeping Ferris State University (FSU) in a two-game series, 4-3 and 6-4 on Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26. 

“[We played] okay, I think our goaltending, even though we gave up three and four, was very good. They’re a good team, and they’re building is tough to play in. They’re very good at home,” Head Coach Grant Potulny said. “When I say ‘okay’ or ‘poor,’ it’s no disrespect to them because I think we probably out-goaltended them, I don’t think we outplayed them. I think we made some crucial saves in crucial moments to allow us to make a play and score a goal. We probably gave up more scoring chances this weekend then we have in as long as I can remember.”

The ‘Cats pulled out with a 4-3 victory during Friday’s match-up, as Griffin Loughran scored the game-winning goal with under seven minutes left. After a scoreless first period, both teams got it going offensively in the second period, as the score was tied 2-2. Andre Ghautous and Ty Readman scored the second period goals for the Wildcats. 

The third period brought more scoring to the contest, as Garrett Klee gave NMU a 3-2 lead. The Bulldogs responded quickly as Lucas Finner scored a minute later to tie the score at 3-3 with 16 minutes left. Loughran’s goal would put the Wildcats on top for good, surviving in a game full of offensive highlights. FSU outshot NMU 35-26 and also won 36-30 in the face-off battle. Wildcat goalie John Hawthorne had another strong outing, where he finished with 32 saves.

The second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, Oct. 26 was a completely different game for Northern. The Wildcats raced out to a 4-1 lead in the first period, beginning with a goal 42 seconds into the game from Mitchell Slattery. Adam Roeder, Loughran and Vincent de Mey added scores to the statsheet in the period, but FSU came back. The Bulldogs killed a five minute major penalty, and Jason Tackett added a shorthanded goal to cut the lead to 4-2. The lead was then down to 4-3 when Marshall Moise scored on the powerplay halfway through the second period. 

NMU held the one-goal edge through the second intermission until Moise scored his second goal of the day, tying up the score with under three minutes left. The Wildcats were in trouble until Loughran called his own name once again, scoring his second game-winning goal in as many games just a minute later. Loughran then put on the finishing touches with an empty net goal in the final minute for the hat trick, and gave the ‘Cats a 6-4 win. 

After scoring four goals total on the weekend, Loughran was named WCHA Forward of the Week. Goaltender Nolan Kent got the start in this one for NMU, and didn’t disappoint with a 39-save performance. Kent’s efforts earned him WCHA Goaltender of the Week.

“I thought we were oppourtunistic to start the game, out of our six games, I thought that was the poorest we’ve played. The danger in those games is when you get up 4-1, they’re [opponent] isn’t going to stop playing, they’re competitive and they’re at home,” Potulny said. “You get lulled into a little bit of sleepiness, and I thought that happened to us, but again we found a way in the end to win.” 

Potulny said that the team will need to work on defense this week in practice, but added it is better to learn lessons during a win, rather than a loss. He also added that both goalies have played well so far, but Kent deserved goalie of the week. 

The Wildcats are ranked for the first time of the year, just clawing into the final spot at 20. Potulny said it is nice to be rewarded, and it is a product of winning. With conference play continuing this weekend in a match-up with University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH), the Wildcats are entering a crucial part of the schedule.

“You have to continue to bank points in your league, you have to continue to win your home games. We’ve played well on the road so far, but we’ve only played two home games, and we split,” Potulny said. “Probably the next eight games is going to be maybe the most important stretch of our season, and seven of the eight are at home, we’ve got some real quality opponents. I think if we can hold serve at home, we will be in excellent position to be able to control our fate down the stretch.”

The tough eight-game stretch begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Berry Events Center against the UAH Chargers. Puck drop for the second game is at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2.