Wildcats end weekend with second straight shutout loss to Mankato


TAKING THEIR LUMPS—The Wildcats had a tough time handling the fifth-ranked Mankato Mavericks, losing a combined 9-0 in the two-game series. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

Head Coach Grant Potulny paused for a while in his postgame press conference after the NMU Hockey team lost 4-0 to fifth-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato to try and think of any positives from the weekend. He couldn’t think of any.

“Not really to be honest. I don’t think that anybody had a weekend where they played two back to back games that they played well,” Potulny said. “It’d be a stretch for me to start saying that I thought there was.”

The Wildcats (2-4, 0-2 WCHA) were plagued on Saturday night due to their effort, but Sunday’s game was determined by penalties. NMU only had four total penalties for the game, but the Mavericks capitalized by scoring two goals on its three power plays. On the other end, the ‘Cats went 0-5 on its power play, and it left Potulny frustrated. 

“I do feel like it was better [effort], disappointed in the special teams. The first one was just a tough bounce but then we had some older guys kind of covering the wrong people on another one,” Potulny said. “Obviously, the power play was disjointed. So better, but none of what’s happening is acceptable.”

The combined score of 9-0 in the series isn’t acceptable because Potulny expects his team to be as good as MSU, he said. The Mavericks are ranked in top-five in the country, and their performance contributed to NMU’s tough weekend. MSU only outshot the Wildcats 25-21 for the game, but still won by four goals. It has been disheartening with the same mistakes appearing, Potulny said, and they’re trending at the top of the lineup.

“I think some of the guys that are playing at the bottom of the lineup are doing the things that we’ve asked them to do. I think the consistency through the top of the lineup isn’t where it needs to be,” Potulny said. “I think Joe Nardi played hard tonight, [Nardi] was trying, but again, it just wasn’t enough.”

Nardi, the ‘Cats captain senior forward, was happy with how the team started off the game only holding MSU to four shots in the first period. Back to the penalty issues, is where he felt the game got out of hand.

“Then again you take some penalties and they have some great sticks on their team so they’re going to make them count on the power play,” Nardi said. “I think that was kind of the downfall of today.”

Struggles in all three phases can be pointed to the two decisive losses for the Wildcats, but now after playing six games, Potulny knows where his team is at.

“Now that we’ve had six [games], I’ve got a pretty good idea on things that need to be adjusted, and we’re going to get them adjusted,” Potulny said. “A little adversity can make you tougher, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

NMU returns to home ice on Friday, Jan. 8 when they host U.P. rival Lake Superior State at the Berry Events Center with puck drop at 7:07 p.m.