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NMU hockey postpones first two weeks of the season

MARQUETTE — After months of waiting and wondering when and if it will have a season this fall, it turns out the Northern Michigan University hockey team will have to wait a little longer for the games to be begin.

The Wildcats’ season opener was scheduled for Wednesday at home against Lake Superior State, but due to some recent COVID-19 testing results, NMU announced Monday that all of its games through Dec. 5 are either postponed or canceled. These postponements/cancelations also include this weekend’s home-and-home series against Michigan Tech as well as next week’s game at LSSU on Dec. 2 and the weekend home series against Bemidji State on Dec. 4-5. All of those games are nonconference games except the Dec. 2 contest, which will be rescheduled after consulting with the WCHA and the Lakers according to a NMU press release.

“At Northern Michigan, the health and safety of our student-athletes is always of the upmost importance,” Wildcats head coach Grant Potulny said during a Zoom press conference. “Following some results of testing, from the recommendation of our medical staff, we have, as you saw in the press conference (release), have canceled the games.”

When asked about how many players tested positive, Potulny said that would be better answered by the school’s medical staff. He also said that he informed the players of the postponements/cancelations in a Zoom meeting earlier that afternoon.

“I had a chance to talk with them over Zoom about it probably about an hour ago,” Potulny said. “Actually, the timing of some of these things is always up in the air. But we were starting a little bit of a team builder and we’re kind of reading the book that all the guys are about to get. So we’ll have a chance every day, I’m going to see them every day, whatever it is. But we have a set time. I have some things planned for us. So we’re gonna use this to continue to try build our team.”

As far as practice goes, Potulny said he didn’t know and that they’re still “working through what the proper protocol will be.” In regard to rescheduling the games, he said they haven’t gotten that far in the discussion, but he did have a comment on that topic.

“What I will say is this,” he said. “Our student-athletes have been off for a very long time. Our coaches have been off. There’s nothing that we want to do more than play. And if you kind of looked at the way the schedule was set up, how it was Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, you probably see some of that where we come out of this to try to get as many games in as we can.

“To this point, like even last weekend watching Tech and Lake State, you could tell that first games of the year are usually pretty helter-skelter. You could tell the coaches have had three months to sink their teeth into their players and they were very well-played games. So we’ve had a lot of practice. Conditioning will be something that is gonna have to get back up, but based on systematic stuff, we’ll be able to come out, and within a week of practice, be able to be right where we were that way.”

Potulny was also asked how he plans to maintain that enthusiasm on the team with the postponements, he said he has some ideas.

“It goes back to from the beginning of the year and kind of our mantra as our team has been to control what you can control,” he said. “I’ve talked about, I call them inconveniences because that’s just all they are. As an athlete, you have to remember socially kind of what’s happening around us. So this is just another opportunity for us to continually build our mental toughness. And I told them today, I said ‘Guys, I understand we’re all disappointed and you’re disappointed, but I’m just so proud of you how responsible you’ve been socially and how mature you’ve been.’ This is just another bump for us, but just the way they’ve handled everything, and the positive attitude they’ve had, like that’s the biggest thing. You can control your attitude every single day. None of us know what’s gonna happen when we wake up that day. Some days are great and some days aren’t, but you can control your outlook on the day. Obviously, this is gonna be really important in the way we approach it. That’s why like I want to see them every day. I want to have to schedule a call with them to kind of help drive through that. The book we’re reading is a perfect book for right now. I actually told the guys, I read a ton of books. Whether it’s history, or biographies, or true stories, or whatever it is. And I had them read one my first year here that I thought was a really good book for kind of our team. This is a book for more of an individual, and your outlook on life, and how you get through things. The timing of starting it is great. So it’ll be a good time for it.”

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

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