Hockey: NMU looks to break Mankato’s 26-game home win streak


Dallas Wiertella/NW

SHUTOUT – The ‘Cats earned their first shutout in two and a half years against the Beavers last Friday night. They head to Mankato this weekend to face off against Minnesota St.-Mankato.

Chris Anderson

NMU hosted Bemidji State this past weekend and the men’s hockey team came away with another split, putting them at 8-6 overall on the season.

The first matchup was a defensive battle for the majority of the game, but NMU was able to score two goals in the final minutes. Kristof Papp scored one goal and assisted on the other to give them the win. The shut out on the first night was the first for the ‘Cats in over two years as Wildcat goalkeeper Beni Halasz earned 25 saves in the match and now holds the fourth best save percentage in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) with a .923.

“In the league, I still think we’re in a pretty good spot,” Head Coach Grant Potulny said. “A little disappointed being two games over 500.”

The ‘Cats turned around and allowed the Beavers to bounce back and win Saturday night’s matchup 4-1. The match was tied 1-1 going into the third period after a goal from freshman standout Joey Larson tied it up for the Wildcats in the first period. Bemidji State opened the third period with a goal in 30 seconds, giving the momentum to the Beavers.

“Going six periods, and basically scoring two goals, that’s something that we have to kind of sort out, but … we’ve talked to the offense and stress defense,” Potulny said.

NMU will be looking to fix these problems this week during practice as they cannot seem to put all of their strengths into a full match and capitalize on the chances they have been creating for themselves. The ‘Cats are top 15 in the nation in three major categories: power play, penalty kill and save percentage.

“Areas you have to coach – power play, penalty kill and an area that you know is kind of an X factor. All check the box,” Potulny said. “That tells you, you should be a top 10 team. We’re just not clicking on all cylinders right now.”

Potulny feels the team is not playing up to potential and will be looking to pull the team together with the following weekend not getting any easier after the split with the Beavers. The offense seems to always be there but at the end of the day the team knows the defensive side needs to improve if they want to make some noise this year.

“I don’t think we’re playing connected hockey,” Potulny said. “We’re losing a little bit of speed.”

The Wildcats will head to Mankato, MN to face off against CCHA rival Minnesota State. The Mavericks hold the longest current home game winning streak at 26 games and the ‘Cats will look to snap the streak this weekend as they try to build some momentum leading into the second half of the season.

“They’ve never really played an off night against us,” Potulny said. “We seem to get their best effort. And if you’re going to beat them, they’re not lowering the bar. So, you need to get above the bar to win a game there.”