Top-15 Showdown Ahead For Wildcat Hockey

Top-15 Showdown Ahead For Wildcat Hockey

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- The 15th-ranked Wildcats hit the road for their longest bus trip of the season this weekend with a trip to No. 3 Minnesota State on the horizon. The two teams previously met in mid-December in Marquette where Northern Michigan University's hockey program earned the weekend split.

Puck drop for Friday night is set for 8:07 p.m. before a 7:07 p.m. start on Saturday. All times listed are Eastern.

WEEKLY NOTES

  AGAINST THE MAVERICKS

The two teams previously met in Marquette to end the first half of the year, skating to a weekend split with Minnesota State taking the first game before the Wildcats bounced back to a 4-1 win on Saturday. The win on Saturday was the Wildcats first victory over the top-ranked team in nearly a decade. All-time, the Mavericks lead the series 5-14-3 while the Wildcats have won twice in Mankato.

Following the Wildcats' weekend sweep, both teams have secured a berth in the 2020 WCHA Playoffs

  FOLLOW ALONG

Social Media: https://twitter.com/NMU_Wildcats and https://twitter.com/NMUHockey

Live Stats: https://msumavericks.com/sidearmstats/mhockey/summary

Radio: http://www.rrnsports.com/

Video: http://bit.ly/32loSGT

  LAST TIME OUT

The Wildcats are coming off a pair of 5-2 wins over Ferris State to complete the regular season sweep (4-0-0). Darien Craighead highlighted the night on Friday, posting his second career hat trick before five players found twine on Saturday night as NMU outscored their opponent 10-4 over the two games.

Mike Van Unen also tallied a career-high night with three assists on Friday night while Brandon Schultz picked up his first career goal in a Wildcat sweater.

  HOBEY HOPEFULS

Three Wildcats were named Hobey Baker Memorial Award nominees earlier this month in Philip Beaulieu, Vincent de Mey and Griffin Loughran. Loughran leads both his team and the nation in goals with 19 through his 25 games played while his classmate de Mey sits second on the team in both goals (13) and points (23). The senior captain from Duluth, Minnesota, Beaulieu ranks fifth on the team in points with 19 through three goals and 16 assists, tallying the most apples of any Wildcat this season. He also currently ranks as the top active defenseman-scorer, with an impressive 116 career points (24-92-116).

The fan vote for the Hobey Baker Award is now open and fans can cast their vote once per day here, now through March 8, 2020.

  SENIOR CLASS CANDIDATE

A role model both on the ice and in the community, senior captain Philip Beaulieu has been named a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award. One of 20 student-athletes selected, the Senior CLASS Award is presented to a senior who has made an impact both within his/her team as well as in their community. To be eligible, the student-athlete must be an NCAA Division I senior and present strong accomplishments in four categories: Classroom, Character, Community and Competition.

The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced at the 2020 NCAA Men's Frozen Four in Detroit, Michigan this April.

  FIRST HALF IN REVIEW

The Wildcats held a 9-7-2 record heading into the holiday break. After a hot start to the season which saw the team hold a 6-1-2 record, including an eight-game undefeated stretch, the Wildcats faltered slightly towards the end of November. Getting back in the win column with a 3-1 victory over Alabama Huntsville, the team went on to post a weekend split with then top-ranked Minnesota State to round out the first half of the season.

Once a question of the offensive power this year's team would bring, all doubts seem to be washed aside as the team's top two scorers hail from the sophomore class in Griffin Loughran (21 pts.; 13-8-21) and Vincent de Mey (16 pts.; 9-7-16). The Wildcats' third-highest goal scorer is Andre Ghantous, a rookie forward out of Glendale, California, who boasts eight goals and ranks tied for sixth on the team in total points (11). Over half of the team's goal total comes off the tape of Loughran, de Mey and Ghantous who have combined for 30 goals this season or 51.7 percent of the team's total. At the holiday break, Loughran's 13 goals ranks atop the nation while he is currently second in the country in goals per game, averaging 0.72.

In total, the Wildcats won eight WCHA weekly awards in the first half of the season, while de Mey was named Forward of the Month by the league for his stellar play through the first month of competition. De Mey has been named WCHA Forward of the Week on three occasions and Loughran has earned the honor once this season. Andre Ghantous (rookie) and Nolan Kent (goaltender) also earned a weekly conference recognition during the first half of the season. To close out 2019, Ben Newhouse (defenseman) and Michael Van Unen (rookie) earned their first conference honors following the team's weekend split with Minnesota State.

  NATIONAL RANKINGS

After three consecutive wins over ranked opponents, the Wildcats broke back into the national polls with a No. 19 ranking in the first USCHO poll of 2020. The team has continued up the ranks, reaching No. 15 in the last three consecutive polls. They also broke into the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll for the first time on January 20, with a No. 15 ranking after receiving votes for multiple weeks before receiving votes the first week of February.

  • Griffin Loughran's team-leading 20 goals leads the nation and is fourth in goals per game (0.74).

  • With 1.26 points per game, Loughran currently ranks 12th in the national standings.

  • Adding another game-winning goal to his season total, and third against FSU, Griffin Loughran's four ranks fifth in the nation.

  • With a season record of 11-3-1, sophomore netminder Nolan Kent owns a 0.767 win percentage for fourth overall.

  • Averaging 3.50 goals per game, the Wildcat offense ranks seventh in the nation in scoring.

  • Their .643 win percentage and 16-8-4 record ranks 10th nationally while their two-game undefeated stretch is the sixth longest in the country.

  • Their four game win streak is the third longest current streak in the country.

  AWARD WINNERS

After a 6-1-2 record over the course of the month, the Wildcats took home three monthly awards as Darien Craighead (forward), Nolan Kent (goaltender) and AJ Vanderbeck (rookie) all earned WCHA Player of the Month recognition.

Craighead picked up his second career WCHA Weekly Award as Forward of the Week following his hat trick performance against Ferris State to help his team to their regular season sweep of the Bulldogs. 

After their trek out to Alaska, the Wildcats came home with five of six points to take hold of third place in the WCHA standings. Two players highlighted the box score, accounting for nine points over the two game stretch in Vanderbeck (1-4-5) and Craighead (2-2-4). AJ net his first career game-winning goal to cap off an already impressive weekend as well as posting two assists on Saturday night for a career-high three-point game. Darien scored the first two goals for the Wildcats on Saturday night after adding two assists in the first period Friday night.

Kent and Vincent de Mey were named Players of the Week following their efforts in NMU's sweep of UAA. De Mey helped to spur the Wildcats' four-goal third period on Saturday night, posting three goals over a 6:51 span in the final frame to earn his first career hat trick. Kent backstopped the Wildcats to their second straight sweep and five-game win-streak with a league-high 56 saves on the weekend for a .938 save percentage. He now ranks fourth nationally among active goaltenders with a win percentage of .818 and a 9-2-0 record. Since the Wildcats' win over Minnesota State to end 2019, Kent is the only league netminder to start more than two games and post an undefeated record (5-0-0) while he is tied for first nationally over that stretch. Kent was also named Goaltender of the Week the week prior following his performance in net as NMU swept then-No. 11 Bowling Green. Making 77 saves over the two-game period, Kent stopped a career-high-tying 39 shots on Saturday to lead the team to a 4-3 overtime victory.

After a weekend split with Minnesota State, junior defenseman Ben Newhouse and freshman Michael Van Unen earned WCHA Player of the Week honors. Newhouse, named Defenseman of the Week, scored his first-ever game-winning goal as the Wildcats defeated the top-ranked Mavericks, 4-1, at home. He also led the league in blocks over the weekend, jumping in front of eight shots to keep Friday's game close before helping clinch the victory on Saturday by stepping in the way of the puck three times. Van Unen opened the scoring in Saturday's contest, breaking the 0-0 tie in the second period when he tallied his first goal in a Wildcat sweater. He went on to post an assist on Newhouse's goal for the first multi-point night of his career. Stepping in at forward, the offensive-minded defenseman jumped in front of four shots to preserve the lead and help the team to a weekend split with the Mavericks.

De Mey was named WCHA Forward of the Month for October. As the month came to a close, de Mey had found the back of the net in five different games while his three goals on the power play ranked second in the nation and his six goals and eight total points ranked tied for first among all Wildcats. Through the first four games of the season, de Mey had matched his rookie total of five goals, which includes recording his first career multi-goal game (two) in a 4-3 victory at then-No. 20/RV Boston University. 

Averaging 1.00 goals per game through the first month of competition, de Mey ranked third nationally and sat second in the league in overall point-scoring with 1.50 points per game. He led the WCHA in total goals (six) and recorded the most points on the power play of any WCHA member with three goals and an assist for four total points. His streak helped carry the Northern Michigan Wildcats to their first four-win opening month since 2017-18 (4-2-0) and strongest start by win percentage since the 2014-15 season (4-0-1).

Previous Wildcat honors include Vincent de Mey who was named WCHA Forward of the Week following his three-point weekend against Michigan State. He earned the honor for the second consecutive week after his three-goal weekend at Boston University. Griffin Loughran and Kent also earned WCHA recognition following the Wildcats' first weekend sweep of the season at Ferris State.

  ON THE RETURNERS

Seventeen members of the 2018-19 squad will lace their skates up again for the Wildcats this season. Nolan Kent looks strong in net as the last line of defense, taking over for all-time Wildcat program leader Atte Tolvanen who was named WCHA Goaltender of the Year in 2018-19. On the blueline, the Wildcats return three members of last season's team, including reigning WCHA Defenseman of the Year in senior captain Philip Beaulieu. He is joined by fellow senior Rylan Yaremko and junior Adam Roeder. Eleven Wildcats are back at the front, in two seniors, three juniors and six sophomores. The offense talent amassed 114 of the Wildcats' total 282 points last season.

  FRESH FACES

The Wildcats add nine newcomers to the team in 2019-20 as well as junior defenseman, Ben Newhouse, who sat out the 2018-19 season due to transfer requirements. The team also added three goaltenders in the offseason, two of which look to split time between the pipes with sophomore netminder, Nolan Kent

  MAKING UP POINTS

In the off-season, Northern Michigan lost 46% of their point-scoring to graduation but the 2019-20 squad seems poised to fill those shoes. Two rising seniors made up part of the team's top-five scorers last year in Philip Beaulieu (6-29-35) and Darien Craighead (10-10-20). The veteran duo now looks to lead the young team to even more time in the offensive zone

  PRESEASON RANKINGS

The Wildcats were pegged to finish fourth in the WCHA this season as voted on by the league's coaches in the 2019-20 Mankato Free Press WCHA Preseason Coaches' Poll. The media picked Northern Michigan to finish third through the regular season, behind only unanimous favorite Minnesota State and Bowling Green.

  2019-20 CAPTAINS

Having served as an alternate captain in 2018-19, senior defenseman Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minn.) was named captain of the 2019-20 squad prior to the season.

  YEAR THREE UNDER COACH POTULNY

The third head coach in NMU Hockey history enters his third season behind the bench in 2019-20. In two seasons with the team, Potulny has led the Wildcats to two 20+ win seasons and boasts a career head coaching record of 46-31-5. Last season the team went 21-16-2, which included a berth in the WCHA semifinals where they faced Bowling Green. In his first season at the helm of the Wildcats, Potulny's team recorded a 25-15-3 season, it's first 25-win season since 2001-02 and advanced to the WCHA Championship game. 

  50 YEARS OF WOMEN IN SPORT

Throughout the 2019-20 season, the Wildcats will celebrate the history of Women's Sports at Northern Michigan. Fans are encouraged to contribute with their favorite and most memorable moments and athletes of NMU women's sports. Please go to THIS LINK to contribute your favorite or most memorable moment and athletes. More information on this year's celebration can be found HERE.

  UP NEXT

The Wildcats will host Bemidji State University February 14-15 with a chance to lock down second place in the WCHA standings and home ice in the playoffs. This will be the only regular season meeting between the two teams.

Puck drop on Friday night is set for 7:07 p.m. before a 6:07 start the following night.