Checking Back In
When we last looked in on the MIAC, it was still two weeks before Christmas. Since then, several games have been played, and more big matchups are looming next weekend.
Coming into their series against the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), St. Thomas had lost four games in a row. Over that stretch the Tommies had only been able to muster three goals while giving up 17.
When asked if he was going to focus on trying anything new on defense or offense, head coach Terry Skrypek made it clear he was focused on one thing only.
Were going out there to try to win, he said. Were on a bit of a bad streak right now, and the most important thing is to go out there and break it, and get back into a winning mindset.
The Tommies did indeed break their losing streak in the first game, winning 3-2 in a game they never trailed, despite being outshot by MSOE. On Saturday, St. Thomas again were never behind, but had to settle for a 2-2 tie after a third period power-play goal for MSOE evened things up.
It was certainly a good time for the Tommies to get back on track, as this coming weekend they host the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire as the MIAC finishes its crossover series with the NCHA.
One of the more intriguing series over the winter break was St. Marys heading out to Rhode Island to participate in the Bison Classic. The Cardinals faced off against host Nichols in the opening game on Saturday, and saw themselves down 4-1 after two periods.
The Cardinals scored a shorthanded goal just 20 seconds into the third period, followed by another tally just three minutes later, and were suddenly down only 4-3.
With just under five minutes left, Anthony Bohn scored his third goal of the year and knotted the score at four. Neither team was able to score in the remainder of the third period nor overtime and the game officially ended as a 4-4 tie. But since this was a tournament, the game then went on to a shootout, with St. Marys winning, 1-0.
In Sundays title game St. Marys were up against another group of Cardinals in Wesleyan University. Despite being outshot over the first two periods, St. Marys entered the third period with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately, Wesleyan would dominate the third period on the scoreboard, scoring three times to take a 4-3 lead before scoring an empty netter to seal the game and win the tournament.
Despite the disappointing finish, St. Marys has to be pleased with how they performed at the tournament, and hopefully can continue to challenge teams when they return to MIAC play. While their 1-9-1 record may not look pretty, they are only three points out from a playoff spot, and with some hard play, can still bring themselves into the thick of the playoff hunt down the stretch.
The biggest series over the break was easily Adrians visit to Hamline.
Now in their third year of existence, the Adrian Bulldogs had amassed a stunning 63-4-1 overall record and had won all 10 of their games this season. The Pipers came in with a very respectable 8-1-2 record, and were riding a 10 game unbeaten streak.
Its rare that I have absolutely no idea what to expect, especially when Ive seen one of the teams play several times already this season. But coming into this series I had almost no idea what was going to happen. Id never seen Adrian play, although I knew they could be explosive offensively as they were averaging a ridiculous 8.20 goals per game.
It ended up being a hard fought series that rarely saw a lull in the action.
Both teams came out skating fast and focused, and the goals followed. Adrian did indeed end up living up to their billing as an offensive powerhouse.
They were extremely quick in breaking out of their own zone, did a great job both creating and using open space, and generated scoring chances out of what appeared to be nothing. Conversely, Hamline came out playing their solid brand of team defense, skating hard, cycling the puck in the Adrian zone, and were backed up with outstanding goaltending.
Nearing the end of the second period in Fridays game, Adrian held a 4-2 lead, and it looked like it would be a tough road for the Pipers to come back in tie the game. But in a span of just 36 seconds, Hamline scored twice to even things up. Both goals were in the final minute of the period, and despite outshooting Hamline 32-15 over two periods, Adrian would have to settle for a tie going into the third period.
Spencer Anderson was playing his first game as a Piper, and his first goal of the season was a big one. Seven minutes into the third period, he found the back of the net, giving Hamline their first lead since the game was 1-0. Hamline scored again to go up 6-4, and was able to withstand a furious charge from Adrian and win 6-5.
Saturdays matchup started off the same way as Friday, with Hamline jumping out to a 1-0 lead. However unlike on Friday, the Pipers were able to add to the lead, and held a 3-0 advantage in the closing minutes of the first period. A bad defensive turnover led to Eric Miller scoring for Adrian in the final minute of the period, and the teams would head to the locker rooms with Hamline leading 3-1.
The first goal of the second period went to Adrian, and suddenly what looked like a blowout was suddenly a contested affair again. Hamline would go up 4-2 on a power- play goal, but Adrian would come storming back with a shorthanded tally near the end of the period, and we would head to the third with Hamline up only 4-3.
On Friday the game was tied 4-4 after two periods, and Hamline ended up winning 6-5. On Saturday, the Pipers again won the third period, this time scoring three unanswered goals en route to a 7-3 win.
The biggest difference between these two teams was in net. While the numbers may not look pretty, Hamline goaltender Beau Christian put in a great performance, making several incredible saves to rob Adrian of sure goals, while doing a good job of controlling rebounds and smothering shots to slow things down. On the other end, Brad Fogal played well at times, but let in a few questionable goals, and was temporarily pulled on Saturday after Hamlines third goal.
When asked about his performance, Christian gave all the credit to his defense.
Its great playing behind a defense like this, he said. They do a great job of letting me see shots and clearing out rebounds when I need them to.
Hamlines team defense is tough to crack, as all players do their share of backchecking, tying up sticks, and keeping shots outside.
If the Pipers can keep playing like this to finish out the season, they have a shot to be one of the top teams in the western region come playoff time.
MIAC-NCHA Crossover . . . Round Two
For most fans, its been a long few weeks without D-III hockey, but the winter break is drawing to an end and it is time to drop the puck for the second half of the season.
Coming into this weekend, the NCHA holds a record of 12-4-1 against the MIAC. Fourteen more games are on the schedule for this coming weekend, with MIAC squads hosting every game. Below is a preview of the interesting storylines and matchups coming on the horizon.
Both River Falls and St. Thomas started off the year well, with records of 5-1-1 and 4-1-2, respectively. Since then, both have struggled. Both teams are 2-4-0 in their last six games, and have seen their records slip to around .500.
After this weekend, both teams only have conference games left, so this is their last chance to right the ship before the games carry much more weight. These two teams meet on Friday, with no chance to shake off any rust from the winter break. With both teams looking to start off the second semester on the right foot, look for both of them to come out playing hard.
Fresh off their matchup with Adrian, there is no letup for Hamline, as they face off against St. Schola