Marquette, Mich. (WJMN) – A new era of hockey begins for the Northern Michigan Wildcats in 2021 as a member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association conference.
“I’ve never been in the league. So I’m really excited to be a part of it,” said Grant Potulny, head coach for the NMU Hockey team. “My time as a player and coach has been a majority in the WCHA and there is a small window into the Big Ten. I remember when we were going into the Big Ten, it was forming and there was excitement around the league. I feel that same excitement with the C.C.H.A, Commissioner Lucia, and some of the upgrades that we’re making.”
The new hockey landscape will be a challenging one. The Wildcats will be battling with teams ready to prove their worth in a brand new conference.
“As a player, you’re always excited to play top programs,” Said Potulny. “Our schedule next year, we don’t have any games that you can look at and say, ‘That program is down or that program is struggling.’ The eight teams that have moved into this have made a significant contribution to their hockey program and investment in it and our non-conference game are some of the best teams in the country.”
The Wildcats will play 22 of their 34 regular-season games at home next season including a handful of marquee non-conference matchups.
“With the number of people vaccinated and how the virus is starting to calm a little bit, we’re really hopeful that we’ll have fans here and that we can come close to capacity,” said Potulny. “I know that as a player the teams that you want to see the Notre Dame’s, the Boston University’s, and the Duluth’s, the top teams in your league. I’m hopeful as a fan, that they’ll be excited to see those games too and we can get the Berry back to being a really hard place to play in.”
The Wildcats will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 91′ championship victory with a home series against Boston University in early November. Potulny says he expects Marquette to be buzzing during what he believes will be a special time for the program.
“I don’t think Boston University has ever come to Marquette. So, it’ll be their first trip here,” said Potulny. “Obviously, there is going to be excitement in the building and excitement in town, but you have to play well and you know, we’ve played them a couple of years ago and we know their skill set, we had some success against them out there. So, they’re going to come in here and they’re not going to take us lightly. “
Along with the new foes, the Wildcats will continue to look for the upper hand on old rivals as well. The new C.C.H.A schedule may even make the Cats’ most heated rivalry more intense.
“The thing that I kind of like about how the C.C.H.A has changed the scheduling is there were years when we would play Michigan Tech and the first weekend fell on Thanksgiving and then we always played them at the end of the year and even though the building was full, the students were on spring break,” said Potulny. “So, it always fell on Spring break. So, this year the games are at different times of the year, so the students will be able to be there.”
The Wildcats open their 2021-22 regular season at home against St. Thomas on October 8th.
The full schedule can be found HERE.
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