‘Cats collapse down home stretch, fall 3-2 in overtime to Lake Superior State

COLLAPSING+CATS%E2%80%94NMU+was+in+complete+control+of+Saturdays+night+until+penalties+and+a+furious+Lakers+comeback+did+them+in.+Travis+Nelson%2FNW

COLLAPSING ‘CATS—NMU was in complete control of Saturday’s night until penalties and a furious Lakers’ comeback did them in. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

Starting strong has been a problem all season for the NMU Hockey team, and they did that on Saturday night against Lake Superior State University. After leading 2-0 with 13 minutes left in the third period, the Wildcats couldn’t close the game out, and lost 3-2 in overtime in a series sweep.

The losing streak continues for Northern (2-6, 0-2 WCHA), losing four in a row and six of its first eight games to begin the season. For 50 minutes, the Wildcats were in control of the game and the Lakers (6-1-3, 0-0 WCHA) took advantage late to get the win. LSSU outshot NMU 16-3 in the third period after the ‘Cats dominated that category for the first two periods. Tonight was a role reversal for the Wildcats, they started well and came out with great energy. That was their best game through 50 minutes, but you have to play 60 minutes and they didn’t, Head Coach Grant Potulny said.

“For two periods, I have never been more excited about our team than I was at that point. Every single player was playing, with the exception of a couple but the guys on their line were playing so well that they were pulling them along,” Potulny said.

Penalties continued to do the Wildcats in, including an interference penalty on senior forward Brandon Schultz in the final seconds of regulation that set up the Laker’s game-winning goal 26 seconds into overtime. A five-minute major and game misconduct late in the second period on junior forward Grant Loven changed the course of a game that NMU was in complete control of, Potulny said.

“We were on the penalty kill for seven minutes in the third period, we had to kill eight penalties. The same guys are playing, and the same guys are not playing because they’re on the power play,” Potulny said. “Then we get an interference penalty in the middle of the neutral zone with 14 seconds left on the clock, it’s a penalty. The five-minute major is a five-minute major. I’m distraught, I’m heartbroken for 95% of the guys, [they] played so hard and so well for so long.”

The Wildcats were excellent on the penalty kill unlike recent games, killing seven of the eight penalties. Unfortunately, the one goal given up was the game-winner scored by sophomore forward Louis Boudon. After the game, Potulny had to ask his team if he was talking to himself, and he’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t know how to change the ‘Cats’ penalty issues.

“It is [our] penalties; I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve sat the leading scorer in the conference,” Potulny said. “I’ve sat guys, individual other guys for penalties.”

NMU was in search of a good start and scoring first, and it did just that when junior forward Ty Readman scored on the fast break at 7:43 in the first period to take a 1-0 lead. The Wildcats took that lead into the first intermission, and extended it with a power play goal from new transfer sophomore forward Alex Frye less than two minutes in the second with assists from Nardi and junior forward Vincent de Mey. Loven’s penalty at 18:28 in the period gave the Lakers a chance to get back into the game, and even though the Wildcats killed it, it had ill effects. 

The Lakers cut the deficit in half with a short-handed goal from junor forward Pete Veillette with 12:27 left to play in the game while the Wildcats were on the power play. Junior goaltender Nolan Kent made big save after big save in the next 10 minutes before Veillette scored his second goal of the game with 2:33 left after a deflection sent the puck into the back of the net. LSSU carried the momentum into overtime while having a power play, and Boudon finished off the game and the series sweep.

“Every mistake we make seems like it ends up in our net right now, they get magnified. Again, I’m heartbroken for 95% of the guys,” Potulny said. “That being said, I told the players, ‘Nobody’s going to help us, there’s no magic potion to help what’s happening. It’s only us’”.

Potulny has had to coach effort and attitude recently, but if the Wildcats sustain that level of play from the majority of the game last night, he can coach the team, he said. That was a positive for NMU, and there were a lot to take from this game, Potulny said. 

“There’s a whole lot of positives, but you’ve got to finish the game. There’s no such thing as a moral victory. Was there some progress made? Yes,” Potulny said. “But that’s not good enough, it’s just not. And we have to keep pushing.”