Wildcat Hockey falls flat in 3-1 loss to Alabama-Huntsville

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FRUSTRATED ‘CATS—NMU Hockey Head Coach Grant Potulny wasn’t pleased after Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Alabama-Huntsville. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

Coming into Tuesday night’s game, the NMU Hockey team had all of the momentum with five wins in their past six games. The momentum came to an abrupt halt when Alabama-Huntsville came into the Berry Events Center and defeated Northern, 3-1.

This result wasn’t expected nor did anyone on the ‘Cats bench see coming. Certainly with Head Coach Grant Potulny’s postgame press conference on Zoom, he didn’t either. What Potulny didn’t see coming was his team’s effort being an issue, the result of the game was earned, he said.

“You get what you earn. We didn’t respect our opponent. We were definitely not ready to play. You get what you earn and I don’t care what the shots say, poor performance,” Potulny said.

Everything was going against the Chargers; their jerseys were abandoned back home in Huntsville. They instead wore uniforms from a Marquette car dealership, but it was the Wildcats who didn’t play like themselves. Alabama-Huntsville struck first with a breakaway goal from freshman forward Tyron Bronte just four minutes into the game to take a 1-0 lead, and the Chargers didn’t trail again.

UAH took the one-goal lead into the second period, and added to it two minutes in when sophomore forward Adrian Danchenko knocked in a goal after a scrum in front of the net. A nearly 14-minute scoring drought by both teams was ended with another Huntsville goal, this time from junior forward Bauer Neudecker to extend the lead to 3-0. NMU got on the board less than two minutes later with a goal from sophomore forward Andre Ghantous towards the end of the second period. However, the Wildcats couldn’t claw any closer than their 3-1 deficit. NMU outshot Huntsville 37-16, but what the game down to was simpler than that, Potulny said.

“Hockey comes down to this and I’ve talked about this before. There’s a puck four feet away and we both want it. We didn’t win near enough of them,” Potulny said. “It’s as disappointed as I’ve been in the group the entire year because you work and you work and you work and you work, and you get on a little bit of a run, and you’re building momentum and then you don’t respect the game.”

Freshman goaltender Rico DiMatteo has been thrusted into the starting role after a season ending injury to junior goalie Nolan Kent, and had 13 saves in Tuesday afternoon’s outing. Potulny thought DiMatteo played fine, but there’s nothing more to be said about the game than that NMU didn’t respect the game, he said. As frustrating and disappointing as the game was for Northern, Potulny couldn’t go without giving Alabama-Huntsville credit for their effort.

“Give that team credit. They beat us, they played better than we did, they played harder, they played better, we didn’t,” Potulny said.

Going forward into Wednesday’s game with Huntsville and the remaining four games in the regular season afterwards, Potulny said he needs some guys to turn the corner and get out of their struggles. But what he couldn’t get over was the effort, and it comes down to if you’re willing to win that puck, he added.

“We’ve shown we can be a very good team and we’ve shown we can be a very poor team. The most important muscle is between the ears and when you don’t have that ready to go, you put yourself in danger of what happened tonight,” Potulny said.

NMU looks to avenge its series-opening loss to Huntsville in the second game on Wednesday night. Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m.