A Season In Review: 2019-20 Hockey

A Season In Review: 2019-20 Hockey

In 2019-20 the Wildcats went 18-16-4 while peaking as high as 15th in the national polls. 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.

The team then boasted a 7-1-2 record to start the new year, including a 4-0-1 run at the start of January. Their six-game unbeaten streak ended with a 3-1 loss at then-No. 1 Cornell after a 2-2 tie the night prior in the top-20 matchup. Between January 3 and February 1, the Wildcats completed sweeps over three WCHA opponents and earned 23 of a possible 24 points in league play during the stretch. A late season skid put hopes of home ice in the playoffs in question but the Wildcats were able to bounce back in their final three games, posting a 2-1 record to end the season and secure home ice through the first round.

Their season was cut short however in a triple overtime loss to U.P. rival Michigan Tech as the two teams played the longest game in NMU hockey history, and second longest for MTU. At 4:41 of the third overtime, and exactly four hours and 30 minutes after the puck was first dropped, the Huskies net the game winning goal to take the best-of-three WCHA Quarterfinal series and end the Wildcat's impressive season.

After the Wildcats picked up eight WCHA weekly awards to start the season and Forward of the Month recognition in October for sophomore Vincent de Mey, NMU went on to earn nine more awards, including three Player of the Month nods in January. Darien Craighead's five multi-point games and seven games with his name on the box score warranted him Forward of the Month honors for the first month of the new year. His 13 points to open 2020 off eight goals, including a hat trick on the final day, and five assists led both his team and the league while ranking third nationally. Craighead also reached the 100-point mark during the month of January with his second goal in a win over Alaska. He also earned recognition as Forward of the Week by the WCHA on two occasions.

A newcomer to the team for the second half of the season, AJ Vanderbeck made his presence known early as he lit the lamp twice while adding another seven assists in just eight games played for the green and gold. Following his strong start to collegiate hockey, Vanderbeck was named Rookie of the Month by the league after earning Rookie of the Week honors once.

The sophomore netminder in Nolan Kent picked up his second and third weekly honors as Goaltender of the Week in January en route to being named Goaltender of the Month by the league at the end of January. He backstopped the Wildcats in eight contests to start the new year before earning the monthly award, the first of his career. Over the course of the month, he posted a 5-1-1 record while owning a .919 save percentage over that stretch. He turned aside 217 shots in January and averaged 2.58 goals against as his save total was second-best in the league during that time frame and 11th in the nation.

In total, the Wildcats were recognized by the league on 18 occasions in 2019-20 with eight individuals picking up weekly and/or monthly awards. Vanderbeck, along with Ben Newhouse (defenseman), Michael Van Unen (rookie), Andre Ghantous (rookie) and Griffin Loughran (forward) were all named players of the week once this season while Craighead (2x; forward), Kent (3x; goaltender) and de Mey (4x; forward) earned multiple weekly honors.

On top of league honors, three individuals garnered national attention as Loughran, de Mey and Philip Beaulieu were nominated for the prestigious Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Loughran led his team and ranked second in the the nation in goals with 23 while his classmate de Mey sat second on the team in goals (15) and third in points (28). The senior captain from Duluth, Minnesota, Beaulieu ranked fifth on the team in points with 25 through six goals and 19 assists, tallying the most apples of any Wildcat this season. He concluded his career as the second-highest scorer among active players through the 2019-20 season (26-95-121).

Beaulieu was also named one of 20 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award in mid-January, awarded annually to a student-athlete who excels in the community, competition, classroom and character.