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The search is on: Advisiory committee aims to recommend its choice for Northern Michigan University hockey coach next week

Northern Michigan University’s Michael Mesic, front center, comes to celebrate his goal in front of the Wildcats student section after tying the game against Augustana on Dec. 1 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

MARQUETTE — Headed up by the man who will actually make the decision, Northern Michigan University has assembled an 11-person advisory committee in what it hopes will be a quick decision to find the replacement for head hockey coach Grant Potulny, whose resignation was announced by NMU on June 11.

Athletic director Rick Comley, who was the original Wildcats hockey coach and remained in the position for more than a quarter century, heads up a committee that the university said it hopes to reach a final decision next week.

The group met for the first time on Monday.

“I’m happy with the overall candidate pool,” Comley said in an NMU Sports Information news release about the committee that was released on Tuesday. “We have a good mix of candidates that includes head coaching experience at multiple levels, alumni and professional playing experience.”

Comley also added that public involvement, which had been announced originally as something that would be included in the process, will be limited due to the tight timeline and protection of the candidates.

Northern Michigan University’s Grant Slukynsky, left, tries to get to the puck against Augustana's Chase Brand after a faceoff during their game on Dec. 1 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

“Because of the nature of the timeline and to protect the applicants in their current positions, we are limited in the amount we can involve the public in regards to meeting candidates and providing input into the final decision,” Comley said.

Comley said at a press conference held at the Superior Dome last week that he will make the choice of a new coach with the approval of university President Brock Tessman, who also attended the conference.

Among those joining Comley on the advisory committee are current NMU hockey player Jakob Peterson and Wildcats’ swimming and diving team member Patrick Andrews.

From the NMU athletic staff are senior associate athletic director Robin Burke, assistant athletic director for compliance Holly Warchock and head women’s lacrosse coach Lindsey Majkrzak.

From the NMU faculty are interim faculty athletic representative Carol Johnson and faculty member Christy Hartline.

Northern Michigan University’s Grant Slukynsky celebrates teammate Andre Ghantous’ goal in the second period during the Wildcats’ CCHA game against Ferris State played at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Oct. 27. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

From the community are NMU hockey alumnus and current Marquette Senior High School head hockey coach Doug Garrow and area residents Bob Cowell and Tom Tourville.

Time is of the essence because, despite recruiting essentially being done, both current players and recruits from Northern are allowed to enter the NCAA transfer portal for 30 days following the announcement of the head coach’s departure.

In answer to a reporter’s question at last week’s press conference, Comley said he hoped the hockey roster would have 28 players on it for the upcoming season, though he added it might take some work to get the number to that level.

For all players, the regular time period that the portal was open for them to announce their intention to transfer from their current school lasted from March 31 to May 14.

There are other times permitted to enter the portal for special cases, including players who graduate from their school, players whose financial aid is reduced, or as in NMU’s case, players affected by a head coaching change at their school.

Northern Michigan University hockey recruit Anthony Cliche of Quebec waits for a faceoff during a game for the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League. (Photo courtesy NMU)

A college hockey reporter from the Grand Forks, North Dakota, Herald, Brad Elliott Schlossman, has reported on players across NCAA Division I hockey who have entered the portal and where they have transferred to. Grand Forks is the home to national hockey powerhouse University of North Dakota.

During the earlier six-week open time, 14 Wildcat players from last year’s team entered the portal, which included several who graduated but still had a year of eligibility left as the last holdovers of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA during the COVID pandemic year of 2020-21.

There were also several NMU freshman entering the portal who saw limited or no time on the ice last season.

But the group also included three of Northern’s goaltenders, including the only two who saw any ice time at all last season — sophomore Beni Halasz and junior Charlie Glockner.

Some observers had noted that the goalies’ departures may have been prompted by Potulny assembling an excellent recruiting class that included a netminder regarded as the No. 1 prospect in the country — Hampton Slukynsky, who was a fourth-round draft pick of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings in 2023.

He is also the brother of 2023-24 NMU freshman forward Grant Slukynsky.

But both Slukynskys are among a half-dozen additional Northern players and recruits who have entered the portal in the past week, making the total number in the portal this spring rise to 20 from Northern. Four of new players entering the portal are 2023-24 Wildcat players and two are incoming recruits.

Joining Grant Slukynsky as 2023-24 NMU players recently entering the portal are sophomore forward Connor Eddy, freshman forward Michael Mesic and senior defenseman Colby Enns, who apparently has a fifth year of eligibility remaining.

Eddy is already listed as having made the transfer to Massachusetts-Lowell, according to the Grand Forks Herald account, the same school that Halasz is transferring to.

In addition to Hampton Slukynsky, the second Northern recruit who entered the portal in the last week was Adam Pietila, who already is reported to have found a new school. The Hockey News reported online Monday that the downstate Howell native announced on social media Sunday that he will now attend the University of Wisconsin.

Right now, a count of Potulny’s listed recruits still shows nine of the original 11 coming to NMU — center Filip Sitar of Slovenia, NHL draft pick and defenseman Rasmus Larsson of Sweden, NHL draft pick and defenseman Vladislav Lukashevich of Russia, forward Jakub Altrichter of the Czech Republic, center Billy Renfrew of Alaska, defenseman Anthony Cliche of Quebec, defenseman Joe Schiller of Minnesota, forward Will Diamond of Illinois and goalie Julian Molinaro of Ontario.

Three of the Europeans — Sitar, Larsson and Lukashevich — played in the Midwest-based USHL last season.

Five players from other schools used the March-to-May transfer portal period to come to NMU. They are junior goalie Ryan Ouellette of Niagara, senior defenseman Artyom Borshyov of Lake Superior State and a trio of forwards — senior Garrett Dahm of Mercyhurst, sophomore Stiven Sardarian of New Hampshire and freshman Matthew Romer of Arizona State.

And there are six 2023-24 NMU players in the transfer portal who are still listed as uncommitted and could potentially return to Marquette. They are Enns, a defenseman, and forwards Grant Slukynsky, Mesic, sophomore Zach Michaelis and freshmen Brendan Poshak and Travis Hensrud.

Not including four players who were listed as “graduate student” in their eligibility on last year’s NMU team, and thus wouldn’t be returning this fall, last year’s roster contains 26 players with the potential to play this upcoming season.

But only eight aren’t on the transfer portal list — defenseman Jakob Peterson, Tyrell Boucher, Luke Gramer and Viking Gustafsson Nyberg; and forwards Rylan Van Unen, Tanner Latsch, Reilly Funk and Matvei Kabanov.

But add up the numbers — nine recruits, five incoming transfers, six outgoing transfers who haven’t actually transferred, and eight players remaining on the roster makes a total of 28 players who could return.

And if the numbers returning aren’t high enough, Schlossman’s story lists from all across college hockey well over a hundred transfer portal players who are still uncommitted — 55 forwards, 38 defensemen and 22 goaltenders.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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