M Hockey falls short in back-to-back games against St. Thomas

Wildcats look ahead to home games against Lake Superior State Lakers this weekend.
HOME ADVANTAGE — Cats take on the Lakers at home this weekend and hope to bounce back after two losses.
HOME ADVANTAGE — ‘Cats take on the Lakers at home this weekend and hope to bounce back after two losses.
Molly Birch

The Wildcats traveled to Saint Paul, Minnesota over the weekend to take on Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) opponent the St. Thomas Tommies in a series of back to back games, ultimately falling short in both games with final scores of 2-4 in game one on Friday, Nov. 3 and 1-8 in game two on Saturday, Nov. 4.

In the first game, the Wildcats had a promising start but the Tommies managed to score and take an early lead in the first period. As the Wildcats fought back from a 2-0 deficit, they found themselves on the powerplay where senior Artem Shlaine blasted home a power play goal to bring the ‘Cats within one goal.

The Wildcats shutout the Tommies in the second period. NMU started the third period on the power play and were able to quickly tie the game up 2-2 with a goal from senior Kristof Papp. Even as the ‘Cats went six for six on the penalty kill they still weren’t able to top the Tommies, eventually losing with a 2-4 score. 

The second game proved to be another test for the Wildcats as they lost with a score of 1-8. While the ‘Cats had their moments of hope which included freshman Grant Slukynsky’s goal midway through the second period, the Tommies simply overpowered them, responding quickly with a pair of goals of their own increasing their lead. This stands as the Wildcats largest loss in terms of goal margin since March 12, 2023 where they lost 1-8 to Minnesota State Mankato. The ‘Cats are now 1-6-1 overall and 1-3-0 in the conference. 

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Although the weekend may not have shown winning results, the Wildcats were able to display a strong penalty-kill going nine for nine on the PK, which had been a problem for the ‘Cats in recent games.

“[Following the weekend] I think we finally got the PK fixed. We’ve got the power play. Now, there’s some issues five on five that we have to address,” said Assistant Coach Byron Pool.

Pool continued emphasizing on the importance of finding positives even after a tough loss. Despite the ‘Cats less than ideal start to the season, he noted the strengths and the belief within the group speaking about the core group of players that was able to reach the CCHA championship game the year prior and how it’s still intact. 

“It’s still here. The belief within the group, the belief within the talent. I think that’s one of the things you look at positively. It’s like it’s bringing us closer together,” said Pool.

Pool also made mention to the style of hockey the Wildcats are known for playing and they recognize the importance of having each other’s backs. Pool acknowledged the challenge of bouncing back after a mistake, especially for a team that may lack confidence. The ability to put a stop to negative momentum and regain control is something the Pool and coaching staff is working on with the team.

“We believe that they’re good players, but we can only give them so much confidence … It’s something that we’ve kind of been struggling with and still trying to find an answer to,” Pool said.

The Wildcats will look to bounce back against the Lake Superior State Lakers at home this weekend in game one of the Cappo Cup. The Lakers are currently 5-3-0 overall and 2-0-0 in the conference. LSSU stands at No. 3 in the CCHA above NMU at No. 4. Puck drop is Friday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. followed by game two, Saturday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.

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