Northern Michigan Hockey: A work in progress

Leader of the Wildcats of Northern Michigan, Grant Potulny, made no excuses for where his team is in the standings. He knows that his team has dealt with a lot of challenges this year due to the pandemic to start. From starting late, to having multiple games in rapid succession, to dealing with a league that has some of the top goaltenders in the country, the Wildcats have already faced a lot of adversity.

Oh, and all of that is true before them dealing with injuries to four of their top eight scorers from last year, so far only having one of them, defender Andre Ghantous return to the lineup. His speed and ability to score from the back end is something the team needs now.

First, on dealing with the pandemic, Potulny was effusive in offering praise to all coaches in the WCHA. All of them are working to reschedule games and play as many as possible. We conducted this interview on Friday morning. Friday afternoon, the Wildcats found that they were playing Michigan Tech in a Saturday/Monday home-and-home series to make up for the postponed series against Alabama Huntsville. In game one, the Wildcats lost 2-0 despite outshooting the Huskies 32-31 on the evening, including a 15 shot flourish to finish the game.

Coming into the season, the Wildcats had higher expectations than their record. But so far, they have not gotten what they wanted out of this year, despite fielding a relatively fast side optimized for their bigger ice sheet. Things changed quickly with multiple injuries occurring, and the team having a very haphazard start to the season due to Covid-19 cases ravaging their program. Due to the pandemic, the Wildcats could stand to benefit from the extra year of eligibility afforded all student athletes. Potulny and his staff have had initial discussions with all three seniors in the program about staying next season.

Going back to this team, one thing that has to change is team goaltending. To Potulny’s credit he put the burden on everyone to improve, not just those in the net for him. To help Nolan Kent and his two partners in the net have a better chance, Potulny is working on his system, along with developing the individual talent needed to ensure that the Wildcats do not let up copious high percentage shots each night. In general he said of their statistics ” “they know where they’re at.” To get their goaltending back on track, all of the goalies have been working on some things individually to help sure up their fundamentals.

Finally, Potulny had some nice things to say about Joseph Nardi, the captain of Northern Michigan, and a player looking to earn a professional contract after his time as a Wildcat is done. Potulny said “he;s a guy that coaches love to have on their team because you cant play him enough.” Nardi’s speed and skill will make him an underrated option for an NHL team looking to get a little faster whenever Nardi ends up leaving the program.

As to the Wildcats, well, there is a lot of season left, and if they get their goaltending handled, have more than enough speed to compete in this league.

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