MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (11-9-2, 9-5-2-2 WCHA) will take a break from Western Collegiate Hockey Association action for the final time this season to compete in the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats will compete in the second semifinal contest Friday at T-Mobile Arena against Arizona State University (4-12-4, Independent) at 11:30 p.m. (EDT). The first semifinal matchup will feature Michigan Technological University (10-7-5, 7-6-5-2 WCHA) against Boston College (10-7-2, 10-3-0 HEA).
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.
Weekend Recap. In the second series of the season against the ranked Mavericks, NMU split a pair of games with No. 7 Minnesota State University over the weekend on the road. On Friday, the Wildcat's freshman forward Joseph Nardi (Edmonton, Alberta) scored his fourth goal of the season with 36 seconds remaining to secure a win for NMU. Four goals for MSU in the third period on Saturday propelled the Mavericks to a victory, forcing a series and season split between the programs. The split also moved the Wildcats into second place in the WCHA standings behind the Mavericks.
Inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational. The inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational is set to be held at T-Mobile Arena, home of the National Hockey League's Las Vegas Knights. The first semifinal matchup will feature Michigan Tech and Boston College, while the second while be the NMU-ASU contest. The losers will face-off at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, while the winners will hit the ice at 11:30 p.m.
Season Stat Leaders. NMU's offensive leader this season, senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) is now tied for the national lead with 16 goals. Payne has also added six assists for 22 points. Junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) leads the Wildcats with 16 assists and is tied for seventh national in the category. With 86 shots on the season, junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) is second in the nation, while Payne is tied for 10th with 75. With 14 players owning a plus/minus at even or better, the Wildcats are lead in the category by sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) at plus-seven.
Between the Pipes. After missing six contests due to injury, junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) returned for his second-consecutive series over the weekend in a series split. Tolvanen owns a 9-5-0 record with a save percentage of .912 and goal against average of 2.46. He ranks highlight in the WCHA for all three categories including second in win percentage (.643), third in save percentage, and fifth in GAA. Sophomore goaltender Mathias Israelsson (Ytterby, Sweden) has also seen action in 10 contests this year, earning a 2-4-2 mark. With 518:05 minutes of action, Israelsson sits at seventh in the conference with a 2.66 GAA.
WCHA Standings Surprise. After being predicted to finish seventh in both the preseason Mankato Free Press Coaches' Poll and UAHHickey.com Preseason Polls, NMU enters the new year ranked second in the standings. Just five points behind the preseason favorite, MSU, the Wildcats own a three-point advantage over Bowling Green State University and Michigan Tech University with 12 conference contests remaining.
Potulny in his First Season. Grant Potulny is in his first season at the helm of the Wildcats. Potulny owns an 11-9-2 mark overall and 9-5-2-2 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 the Ice Vegas Field. Friday's matchup between NMU and ASU will be the first between the two programs with the Sun Devils in their second season as full NCAA Division I members. The Wildcats own a 71-61-14 mark against WCHA foe Michigan Tech, including having split a series earlier this season. NMU has not competed against BC since 199 with the Golden Eagles leading the all-time series, 5-4-0.