MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (10-8-2, 8-4-2-2 WCHA) returns to Western Collegiate Hockey Association play after a week off for the holidays. The Wildcats will head to Mankato, Minnesota, Friday and Saturday for a series with No. 7 Minnesota State University (13-5, 11-3 WCHA) scheduled for 8:07 p.m. both nights.
Coverage of the contest can be found at nmuwildcats.com, while there will also be in-game updates on Twitter at @NMU_Wildcats.
For complete game notes, click HERE.
Wildcats Have FSU's Number. For the second time this season, NMU earned a WCHA sweep of Ferris State University with a pair of victories in the Berry Events Center. The weekend began a trio of players recording three points in Friday's 6-1 victory. Senior defenseman Jordan Klimek (Langley, British Columbia) recorded two goals for the first time in his career and added an assist, while senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) and sophomore defender Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minnesota) also three points. A hat trick from sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) on Saturday helped secure a 4-2 win in Saturday's contest. The hat trick was the first of Craighead's and the second of the season for the Wildcats.
Hat Trick. Darien Craighead's hat trick last Saturday against the Bulldogs was the first of his career and was his fourth multi-goal game. Robbie Payne recorded a hat trick on the road at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on November 17. Just eight players in the WCHA have recorded hat tricks this season, while NMU is one of two teams with multiple hat tricks in the conference.
Klimek Comes Alive. For the second time in three weeks, Jordan Klimek was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week after recording two goals and two assists in the FSU series. His two goals in last Friday night's game were a career-high and just the second and third of his career. He also earned a career-high three points in the contest, adding an assist. It marked the fifth weekly WCHA award for the Wildcats this season with Robbie Payne also earning the offensive honor twice and sophomore goaltender Mathias Israelsson (Ytterby, Sweden) earning one weekly award.
Tolvanen's Return. Missing the previous six games with an injury, junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) returned to guide the Wildcats to a pair of victories. Tolvanen recorded 31 saves in the series en route to improving his season record to 8-4-0. In his absence, Mathias Israelsson improved to 2-4-2, including a shootout win to secure an extra WCHA point over Bemidji State University.
Shorthanded, No Problem. NMU is tied for the national lead with five shorthanded goals this season. Tied with Niagara University for the top spot, the Wildcats also scored a shorthanded goal in an exhibition overtime period against BSU with an extra WCHA point on the line. Junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) is one of 11 players in the country with multiple shorthanded goals.
National and Conference Rankings. After scoring a pair of goals in the last series, Robbie Payne leads the conference and is second in the nation with 15 goals. He also leads the WCHA in plus/minus with a plus-11 and is tied for second in points with 21. Junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) leads NMU and is tied for third in the WCHA with 14 assists, while Troy Loggins owns the conference lead in shots with 79.
Potulny in his First Season. Grant Potulny is in his first season at the helm of the Wildcats. Potulny owns an 10-8-2 mark overall and 8-4-2-2 record in WCHA play at NMU. As an eight-year assistant coach at his alma mater, Minnesota, Potulny helped the Gophers to a 182-105-26 (.623) record and two Frozen Four appearances.
NMU versus Minnesota St. The series will mark the third and fourth games of the season between the Wildcats and Mavericks. Both teams earned a victory in a split series held in Marquette, Michigan the first weekend in November. Overall, MSU owns a 3-10-3 overall record in the series.