Loggins at 100 percent, leading the way at Northern Michigan University
There are several reasons why Troy Loggins has found his footing during his junior season at Northern Michigan University.
He and the resurgent Wildcats have been one of college hockey’s feel-good stories for the 2017-18 season.
For one, Loggins is fully healthy.
For another, the Wildcats favor an up-tempo style under first-year coach Grant Potulny, one that is a nice match for Loggins’ talents and one that has them in the mix for the WCHA lead.
“Troy is the perfect hockey player for the way we want to play,” said Potulny, who took over NMU last spring after an eight-season run as an assistant at the University of Minnesota. “He has the skill set, he can skate well, and he has a good stick and a good brain. We want to push the pace.
“I was familiar with him from his days in junior (with Sioux Falls of the USHL), but what I didn’t know was how competitive he is. He works hard every day in practice and every day in the weight room, and he’s seeing success because of it.”
Loggins sits first on the Wildcats in scoring through 32 games with 34 points, two goals behind goal-scoring machine Robbie Payne, who has 18 goals.
Loggins has relished the quicker pace under Potulny.
“He wants us to play much more of an offensive, speed-type game,” the Huntington Beach native said. “We have more freedom in the offensive end, and I’ve been fortunate to play with a good linemates in Adam Rockwood, who is a good playmaker, and Denver Pierce.”
Loggins came to Northern Michigan fresh off an MVP performance at the Clark Cup championship in 2015. He tore up the USHL playoffs with 16 points, including 10 goals, in 12 games.
Just 16 games into his freshman season, however, he suffered a devastating knee injury at the University of Alabama Huntsville, tearing an ACL and MCL. The recovery took nine months and limited his training entering his sophomore campaign, one in which he had 16 points in 38 games. Compounding things were NMU’s struggles in a 13-22-4 season.
“Between the learning curve for college hockey, getting back into playing shape and trying to regain my confidence, it wasn’t easy,” he said.
This past summer was a different story.
Loggins met with Potulny after the coach’s hiring and learned what was expected and the opportunity that awaited.
“He’s made a big commitment to his training, and it shows,” Potulny said.
Part of Loggins’ training always includes one of his favorite pastimes, inline hockey.
“That’s how I started, and that definitely built most of my skills and ability to make plays,” the former Jr. Ducks and LA Hockey Club player said. “It gets my confidence up a bit more. There are a lot of 4-on-4s and 3-on-3 overtime in the WCHA, so it’s helped in that way, too.”
The influence is obvious to his coach, who deems it a positive.
“Troy has great spatial awareness,” Potulny said. “Any young player spending time handling a puck will benefit, then add in the roller element where you have to create time and space, and it helps you.”
Loggins also has developed into a player his coach trusts in any situation.
“He plays as many minutes as he can handle,” Potulny said. “He’s on our first power play, our first penalty kill and 4-on-4s. I play him when we’re up a goal and down a goal.
“I have to manage his ice time because I don’t want to wear him out.”
That could be a hazard with a 5-foot-9, 160-pound player, but so far it hasn’t been. In fact, Loggins is one of the better hitters on the team.
“He packs a lot of pop,” Potulny said. “He has as much functional strength as anyone on our team. His timing on delivering blows and his force at impact is excellent.”
It’s one more reason why after two seasons of struggle, Loggins has been a hit for the Wildcats.
— Chris Bayee
(Feb. 8, 2018)