Northern Michigan University hockey player Troy Loggins just a California kid at heart

Northern Michigan University’s Troy Loggins races to the puck against Michigan Tech on Dec. 7 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Hockey players tend to have similar origins and the Northern Michigan University roster isn’t that different.

Almost all of the Wildcats hail from either the northern United States, Canada or Scandinavia, the hockey hotbeds of the world.

Senior forward Troy Loggins is an exception. Loggins, as well as freshman Vincent de Mey, hails from sunny southern California, where snow is a rare occurrence.

It may seem odd to some people that hockey would be popular in a place where winter is almost nonexistent, but Loggins said the interest in the sport has increased since California’s NHL teams started hoisting the Stanley Cup.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a ton (of interest), but I would say it’s gotten bigger ever since the (Los Angeles) Kings won their Stanley Cups and the (Anaheim) Ducks when they got theirs,” he said. “Ever since then, I think hockey has been growing out there. I think we’ve got some really good players from California right now. I also would probably credit some of that to the roller hockey scene out in California, because that’s where I started playing hockey, on rollers.”

Northern Michigan University’s Troy Loggins, left, and Michigan Tech’s Keegan Ford race for the puck in their Dec. 7 game at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

Loggins said there’s roller hockey leagues and tournaments around southern California, but there are high school ice hockey teams as well. Not surprisingly, he said there’s a big difference in the style of play between the two sports.

“It’s definitely a different game,” he said. “You’re focused more on controlling the play and controlling the puck, not giving up any opportunities to the other team.

“Ice hockey is more rushing up and down the ice and make plays on odd-man rushes and that kind of stuff. Roller hockey is more hold the puck, wait till you get a clear chance and then try to go score.

“I think switching back and forth is definitely interesting to do, but I think it really helps with the skill part of my ice hockey game as well.”

Loggins’ start to his hockey career may have been unusual compared to the experiences of his teammates, but his time in juniors was pretty typical as he saw significant time away from home.

Troy Loggins

He spent a year in Washington with the NAHL’s (now BCHL) Wenatchee Wild and then the 2014-15 season with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, which Loggins said was a great year.

“It was pretty awesome,” he said about Sioux Falls. “I knew a couple of guys on the team already. They just built a brand-new rink for us to play in that year, so that was pretty exciting.

“That team was really special. We ended up winning the Clark Cup championship. We didn’t start off the year as hard as we wanted to and we went into the playoffs as the last seed, but then everything kind of fell into place. We came together as a team and took out the top two teams in our conference and ended up sweeping Muskegon in the finals. It was a pretty awesome year.”

Loggins was Clark Cup MVP after notching 16 points in 12 playoff games and came to Northern as one of then-head coach Walt Kyle’s most touted recruits. Once here in Marquette, he was reunited with some other Californians in Shane Sooth, Darren Nowick and John Siemer, the latter two being former roller hockey opponents.

“I talked to Walt a lot and it seemed like it would be a good opportunity for me to come play at Northern,” Loggins said. “Obviously we had a coaching change, but I think Grant’s (Potulny) been doing a great job. Another thing that led me to come to Northern was that there were also some players from California that I knew growing up. So it was kind of an easy decision to go there, playing with some guys that I already knew.”

After suffering a season-ending injury his freshman year, Loggins started to grow as a player in Kyle’s last year as head coach before exploding last season under Potulny’s fast-paced offense.

Loggins was tied for ninth nationally in goals and was second on the Wildcats in goals and points and made the All-WCHA First Team. Not only that, but he scored the overtime winner in the deciding third game against Bowling Green State in the WCHA semifinals to put NMU in the playoff championship game.

Loggins also led the nation in shots with 186, and according to Potulny, Loggins is encouraged to shoot whenever he touches the puck.

“Guys who have confidence in their shot at any level, high school hockey to the NHL, they seem to shoot more because they have confidence that they can score from anywhere,” Potulny said. “Troy definitely has the confidence, and the other side is that he’s encouraged to shoot.

“We continually talk to him about making sure to get pucks on net. One, it kind of gets him going in the game and he’s scored a lot of goals from places that other guys just can’t. That’s part of who he is and that’s part of his game. When he’s shooting, he’s at his best.”

That doesn’t mean that Loggins isn’t willing to pass up a shot if needed. In the Wildcats’ last series against Ferris State, Loggins fed Adam Rockwood with a pass for a goal, surprising just about everybody in the press box as it;s usually the other way around.

“It was kind of funny,” Loggins said with a laugh. “After the game, we were chatting about it how it was a little role reversal. It was nice to give him a nice dish for him to get a goal because it’s usually the other way around.”

Loggins’ chemistry with Rockwood is evident as the two were linemates last season and had an impressive connection offensively that has carried over to this season, even though they’re currently not on the same line.

“I think playing together last year built some chemistry,” he said. “I think he’s just a really gifted passer and he always kind of knows where I am on the ice. He’s a passer and I’m more of a shooter, so I think our styles just fit perfectly.

“He’s definitely one of my closer friends on the team. We sit together in the locker room and we have a good relationship off the ice. I think that also helps us with our play as well.”

Loggins connects well with his teammates, but he also continues to bring the easy-going California way to the team that started with Sooth, Nowick and Siemer.

“I think he brings a little California up here,” Potulny said. “There are times where you see him walking around in his Dodgers jersey. When you see him in the summer, he’s got his Miami Vice-look going, but he’s such a fun-loving, full-of-life person that I think you could put him anywhere. Whether it is California or Marquette or New York City, people are going to gravitate to him because of his personality. He’s the epitome of California cool.

“The thing about Troy is that he’s determined to be a hockey player. Earlier in the year, he was having some struggles. Lots of times, a coach will seek a player out and he came to me and said how can I get out of this.

“I think he’s had a pretty good first half. He has more goals than he did last year at the same time. He’s kind of got that demeanor away from the rink, but when he’s here, he really works. He’s competitive in games, he’s physical and he doesn’t have any of that California cool when he’s within the confines of the rink.”

But at his core, that’s how Loggins describes himself — just a laid-back hockey player from California.

“People probably already know this, but I’m just a California kid who grew up surfing and just ended up making my way here to play hockey,” he said.

The Upper Peninsula may be a blue-collar area, but based on the career Loggins has had, NMU fans are probably OK with some California cool.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.