Philip Beaulieu and the Northern Michigan Wildcats are working on putting a regressive first half of the season behind them after stealing the WCHA spotlight in 2017-18.
Beaulieu paced all NCAA defensemen last season with 42 points (11 G, 31 A) in 43 games as a key piece in the Wildcats’ impressive breakout. In his first year as head coach Grant Potulny’s high-flying offense carried the team to a 25-15-3 record and earned him WCHA Coach of the Year honors.
It was the Wildcats’ first 20-win season since 2009-10 and after coming a win away from claiming the WCHA title and earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament, expectations rose in Marquette.
But those expectations — coupled with some roster turnover — saw the Wildcats struggle out of the gate, posting a 9-10 record at the halfway mark following a sweep of Ferris State that took them into the semester break. They’ll look to recapture some of last season’s second-half magic, when they went 11-4-1 through the winter term after a bleak 10-8-2 start.
Northern Michigan carried that confidence into the 2018 WCHA Tournament, claiming two straight series before a finals loss to Michigan Tech, concluding its late-season run at 15-7. The Wildcats are eager to get back to that success, and while goaltender Atte Tolvanen has been a staple in the crease, Beaulieu’s recent play is proving to be the key to earning consistent wins.
Beaulieu, a junior, has posted a modest four goals and 14 assists for 18 points through 20 games, but only recently jumped to third in WCHA defensive scoring. The Minnesota native has registered three goals and four assists during the Wildcats’ four-game win streak dating back to Dec. 14.
“We’ve been playing pretty good hockey lately, and we’ve been playing on our toes,” Potulny told Brad Joyal of The Daily News-Miner. “We want to pressure people and stay on people. I’ve always felt like you can have a little paralysis by analysis if you’re thinking about being in the right spots all the time.”
Beaulieu scored a hat trick in just over three minutes versus Alaska over the weekend, powering his team to a 4-2 win for a second-straight series sweep and 2-0 start to the winter semester. His reliable two-way play has helped steady the backend while simultaneously pushing the offense as the Wildcats’ leading scorer and playmaker.
All four goals and 15 of Beaulieu’s 18 total points have come against WCHA opponents. His play has helped lead the Wildcats to a 10-4 divisional record and maintain within striking distance of the top spot in the division. Currently, the team sits just three points back of No. 8-ranked Minnesota State.
Beaulieu and the Wildcats visit Alaska Anchorage this weekend, which they swept by a combined score of 5-1 in mid-November. You can catch the series live, right here on FloHockey along with every other WCHA, Big Ten, and other big matchups.
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