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The loss of key contributors left the Northern Michigan offense in limbo ahead of the 2019-20 season, but the youth has taken full advantage of the increased opportunity — and now the offense flows through Griffin Loughran.
The 20-year-old leads the nation with nine goals, while his 15 points are good enough for third among national scoring leaders. The sophomore has already eclipsed his rookie goal total and is just three points shy from his 15-point campaign last season.
Loughran’s development since the end of last season has made the difference for a team that lost three of its top four scorers from 2018-19, a trio that accounted for nearly 50 percent of the team’s total goals scored last season (50/104).
The Wildcats’ 6-2-2 record is their best mark through the first 10 games of a season since 2014-15, and the diminutive forward is making sure the team leaves no points on the table ahead of its trendy winter semester pushes.
Even in the small, fast game of collegiate hockey, Loughran’s 5-foot-6, 145-pound frame (via Elite Prospects) is still considered small. Even if he’s not racking up the points on a given night, he’s still filling up the scoresheet with an agitating persona, one that dates back ahead of his days in Marquette.
“Aggravate as many people as possible and put the puck in the net,” Loughran told Chris Murphy of Inforum.com back in May of 2018. “That's really my go-to.”
The comment came just days before Loughran’s Fargo Force was set to take on Youngstown for the USHL’s Clark Cup. The Force would claim the three-game series, in which Loughran recorded three goals and an assist, in addition to four penalty minutes that would bring him up to 122 total through all 63 games played that season.
On the outside, he’s a liability, but a closer look shows he knows just what it takes to truly agitate his opponents. It’s why he recorded a team-leading 72 PIM as a rookie with the Wildcats, 26 more than his next-highest teammate.
This year, Loughran is adding more of an offensive side to go along with his offensive side, and beating opponents on the scoresheet is just as frustrating as beating them with a quip.
As one of coach Grant Potulny’s first recruits, Loughran’s development is another signal that the bench boss is taking the program in the right direction. In his third season behind the bench, Potulny is eyeing a third consecutive 20-win season, with Loughran and fellow recruits are leading the way.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.