As the MCHA concludes its 14th regular season this weekend, the league can no longer be considered an upstart in Division III hockey. Two teams have been ranked for most of the season, and there are many players who will finish the season near the top of the Division III stat columns.
Since joining the MCHA in 2007, Adrian has been top dog. The school could win its fifth straight MCHA regular season title this weekend by taking three-of-four points on the road at Finlandia. Adrian has represented the MCHA well in the postseason, making it all the way to the Division III NCAA national championship game before losing to St. Norbert, 4-3, last season.
Currently ranked No. 8, Adrian is led offensively by Zach Graham. Graham is the MCHA’s leading scorer along with Northland’s Kraig Wright. Both players have 37 points on the season, which ranks them in third place in Division III scoring.
“He should be MCHA player of the year, and is very deserving,” Marian coach Jasen Wise said of Graham. “He is a great player with a great attitude; I love watching him play and hate coaching against him.”
Josh Cousineau and Chris Stansik have also contributed to another successful season for Adrian. Both players have 27 points. Time in goal has been split between freshmen Scott Shackell and James Hamby. Shackell has a .934 save percentage on the year, which is good for third in the nation. Both goalies have had shutouts on the season as well.
No. 10 Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) was one of the few teams to frustrate Adrian this season. It went 2-1-1 in the season series against Adrian, and is two points behind in the standings going into the last weekend.
When discussing MSOE, it begins in the net with goaltender Conner Toomey. The record-setting senior has had quite a career at MSOE. Toomey has 59 career wins, set the MSOE record for shutouts last weekend, and has a .929 save percentage, good for No. 8 among Division III goaltenders. He has also played over 1,346 minutes, which is the second most in the country.
“Connor Toomey comes to mind as the one goaltender that we would rather avoid,” said Lawrence Coach Mike Szkodzinski.
Jordan Keizer leads MSOE offensively. He has 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points on the season. Six of those goals have come short-handed, and he leads the nation in that category.
Four other players in the MCHA have scored multiple times short-handed this year: Collin Saint-Onge of Finlandia, Louis Laabe of Northland, Josh Ranalli of Adrian, and Tom Glomski of Marian each have scored two short-handed goals.
“It’s more of a philosophy than anything else,” Wise said. “Teams are being more aggressive on the kill, which leads to scoring chances; it’s not so much the players as it is the team approach to the penalty kill. With that said, the players are still able to score on breakaways, and that’s a credit to them.”
Last season’s leading scorer in the MCHA was Marian’s Dakota Dubetz, who leads the league in power-play goals this season. He had 39 points last season, but his offensive output has been limited due to an injury and adjusting to new team chemistry this season after the graduation of Brendan Hull, the MCHA’s second leading scorer last season.
“Dakota needed to adjust to life without Brendan, who had 21 and 22 goals the last two seasons,” Wise said. “He’s done very well, especially considering he played much of the first half of the season with a broken bone in his hand. He’s shooting more and working hard to lead by example. We have a young team, so his leadership has been needed more than ever”.
One of the new players for Marian that has had an impressive first season has been freshman Brian Berger. Berger has 14 goals on the season, which is good for third in the MCHA, and the most goals scored by any freshmen in the league.
“Brian is having a great year, and it’s directly related to his great work ethic and positive attitude,” Wise added. “He is easy to coach, absorbing everything like a sponge, and he never stops working. He goes full speed at all times, and he’s been rewarded on the score sheet.”
Another player who also has 14 goals on the season is Lawrence’s Matt Hughes. The senior has been a leader both on and off the ice for Lawrence.
“Matt Hughes has done everything any coach could ask of a student-athlete,” Szkodzinski said. “He has been instrumental off the ice, creating a tight-knit locker room and developing a strong campus connection between our program and the students outside of our program. There has never been a time when we didn’t feel that Matt was giving us everything that he had to give. He is a leader by example, and seems to have found a touch around the net the past two years.”
Hughes’ teammate and fellow senior, Jameson Raymond, has contributed good numbers in a defenseman’s role to add to Lawrence’s success this season.
“Jameson Raymond certainly has become the leader of our defensive corps,” Szkodzinski added. “He is now second in the MCHA in scoring for defensemen, but more importantly, Jameson brings a competitive edge each time he steps on the ice. He will be missed following this season.”
A problem to begin the season for Lawrence was to replace Evan Johnson, who had graduated, in goal. One of the solutions has been Peter Emery, a freshman originally from Goleta, Calif. He has logged the majority of minutes for Lawrence this season, and has recorded two shutouts already in his young collegiate career.
“We had followed Peter at some different stops along his junior hockey path, including his time in Traverse City and Flint,” Szkodzinski said. “He has been exposed to a few different programs and persevered through some rather difficult times, which led us to believe he was ready to make an impact in our program. His maturity and demeanor in the pipes have a calming effect on our entire team.”
Northland’s Colin McIntosh has 35 points this season, which is the eighth best total in Division III.
“Colin McIntosh comes to mind as a player who makes a difference in the offensive zone and we need to watch closely.” Szkodzinski added. “The MCHA has grown dramatically over the past few years.”
The first round of the Harris Cup, the MCHA league tournament, will begin February 24.
Player of the Week: Josh Cousineau, So., Adrian. Cousineau had a five-point weekend with three goals and two assists in Adrian’s sweep of Concordia (Wis.). He finished a plus-four for the weekend.
Defensive Player of the Week: Connor Toomey, Sr., Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Toomey earned his 12th Defensive Player of the Week award in his career by stopping 59-of-60 shots against Lake Forest last weekend.
Freshman of the Week: Anton Olsson, Lawrence. Olsson earned his first collegiate win for Lawrence, as he stopped 38 shots in a 4-2 victory over Finlandia.
Athlete of the Week: Beau Christian, Sr., Hamline. Christian finished off his final regular season weekend by stopping 68-of-70 shots he faced against Concordia (Minn.). Christian recorded his 50th career win in a 1-0 shutout Friday. He has been in goal for all 10 Hamline wins this season.
Player of the Week: Colin Rundell, So., St. Scholastica. Rundell was solid in goal last week to help St. Scholastica secure the second seed in the upcoming Peters Cup playoff. Rundell helped shutout Wisconsn-River Falls, 1-0, Friday night in River Falls. On the road again Saturday, he made 35 saves in a 5-3 victory over Wisconsin-Eau Claire.