M Hockey: NMU, Michigan Tech to face off in heated rivalry


Travis Nelson/NW

PAST RIVALRY — The Wildcats celebrate a goal against Michigan Tech last year on Saturday, Nov. 13. The rivalry will continue this weekend on Dec. 2 and 3.

Chris Anderson

The ‘Cats went on the road to face off against the No. 11 ranked Minnesota St. Mavericks that had seen the last 26 games at home go their way for a streak that was the longest home game win streak in college hockey.

“I was yelling at the guys on the ice to keep it in their zone, keep it in there because if AJ [Vanderbeck] comes out of the box and he steps right out of the ice, he’s going to be hard to find,” Head Coach Grant Potulny said.

Down 2-1 with about 60 seconds left in the second period, Wildcat star forward Vanderbeck stepped out onto the ice after the ‘Cats penalty kill and sent it straight down the middle to tie the game. Eventually the game would end with Vanderbeck scoring his second goal on the night, giving NMU the win in a 3-2 overtime win and snapping the 26-home game win streak for Mankato.

“It was weird. Even though they scored first, and they were winning on the scoreboard, I felt like we were playing better, and I felt like we were controlling the game,” Potulny said.

The following night was a much different story for the Wildcats as they dropped the second match up of the weekend with the Mavericks 4-1.

David Keefer scored the lone goal on the night for the ‘Cats as they were tied for the first half of the match. Mankato scored the next three goals of the game as they controlled the entire second half.

“I probably went out twice … and there’s eight people that said, `Come on coach, got to beat Tech, it’s Tech Week’,” Potulny said.

NMU will host the Michigan Tech Huskies this Friday Dec. 2 for the first of two matches this weekend as they face off in one of the most heated rivalries in college hockey.

“The first probably three years it was kind of all of us, the last three years it’s been all of them,” Potulny said. “We have to find a way out of it … our senior class has been dominated by them.”

The Wildcats are 2-14 against the Huskies in the last 16 matches dating back to the 2019-20 season and the ‘Cats will be looking to sweep the 19th ranked Huskies and get themselves a spot in the top 20. The ‘Cats are on the outside looking in at the top ranks of college hockey and with a little consistency and discipline they have a chance at a strong season.

“The building’s going to be full, it’s going to be electric. Both fan bases are great, both teams are very good players,” Potulny said. “It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take everybody.”