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A no-score weekend: No. 5 Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks blank Northern Michigan University Wildcat icers again on Sunday, this time 4-0

Northern Michigan University forward Vincent de Mey, right, and Minnesota State’s Julian Napravnik battle for the puck in the Wildcats’ defensive zone during the first period of their WCHA game played at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Shannon Stieg)

“I just think the consistency through the top of the lineup isn’t where it needs to be.” — Grant Potulny, NMU head hockey coach, on the Wildcats’ back-to-back home

shutout losses to Minnesota State-Mankato

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MARQUETTE — After Saturday night’s shutout loss to No. 5 Minnesota State-Mankato, Northern Michigan University head coach Grant Potulny preached the importance of effort and said there would be lineup changes going into Sunday’s rematch.

Changes were made, including star forward Griffin Loughran sitting out, and the Wildcats even wore their gold jerseys for the first time this season.

Northern Michigan goalie Nolan Kent makes a save as teammates Ben Newhouse, top right, and Ty Readman watch during the first period of a WCHA game played against Minnesota State at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Shannon Stieg)

However, they still got handed another blanking by the Mavericks, this time 4-0.

Potulny was happier with his team’s effort on Sunday, but understandably not with the result of the game.

“I do feel like it was better,” he said about the second game of the series, though singling out the Wildcats’ special teams as a problem after MSU scored two more power-play goals Sunday along with another shorthanded.

“I’m disappointed with the special teams. The first one was just a tough bounce, but then we had some older guys kind of cover the wrong people on another one. Honestly, the power play was disjointed. So better, but none of what’s happening is acceptable.”

As far as the lineup changes, Potulny thought that some of his players who got a renewed chance to see ice time are improving, but isn’t happy with his top players.

“I think some of the guys that are playing at the bottom of the lineup are doing the things that we’ve asked them to do,” he said. “I just think the consistency through the top of the lineup isn’t where it needs to be. I thought Joe (Nardi) played hard tonight. Joe was trying, but again, just not enough.”

Unlike Saturday night, when Mankato exploded out of the gates, play was much more even between the teams as the Wildcats tightened up better defensively.

However, the Mavericks showed off their potent power play and eventually got on the scoreboard 6:47 into Sunday’s game. With Grant Loven in the box for holding, a shot by MSU’s Cade Borchardt was deflected past NMU goalie Nolan Kent to make it 1-0. NMU had a power play of its own shortly after that, but just like Saturday, it couldn’t get anything going on it.

Mankato had two good chances to pad its lead in the latter half of the period, but Chris Van Os-Shaw’s shot rang off the crossbar with less than seven minutes remaining. Then during 4-on-4 play with around three minutes left, Jake Jaremko had an open net by the right post, but Kent just got a piece of the puck with his stick to keep it out.

With Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay continuing to stifle the Wildcats, MSU skated into the break up 1-0.

Northern started to generate a little more offense the next period as Vincent de Mey tried to feed A.J. Vanderbeck on an offensive rush two minutes into the second, but McKay deflected it wide. Not long after that, defenseman Noah Ganske had a good look in the slot, but once again, McKay was there to block the shot.

The Wildcats also continued to do a good job controlling the Mavericks’ offense before being hurt again by a penalty.

As Mike Van Unen sat for a cross-checking call, Mankato’s Todd Burgess scored on a rebound in front of Kent to put the Mavs up 2-0. MSU almost got another tally on an Andre Ghantous penalty, but Kent made a nice save in front and then snatched away a one-timer from Julian Napravnik to keep Northern’s deficit at two going into the third.

Things remained the same in the final period. Kent made back-to-back saves early, including a nice one on a rebound attempt by Sam Morton, but at the other end of the ice, the Wildcats just couldn’t convert on their opportunities. As the game wound down, Mankato connected again, this time on 5-on-5 play with Akito Hirose deflecting a shot past Kent at 15:34. Ryan Sandelin capped off the win with a shorthanded empty-netter.

When asked if he saw any positives coming out of the weekend, Potulny took a long pause before responding.

“Not really, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t think that anybody had a weekend where they played two back-to-back games that they played well. It’d be a stretch for me to start saying that I thought there was some.”

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

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