With automatic bids for the NCAA Division III Tournament on the line next weekend, teams were making one last mad dash for the coveted spots in the conference finals.
Four teams will vie for the Harris Cup trophy as Adrian will host the MCHA finals next weekend. Lawrence and Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) will join Adrian and Marian, who had byes this weekend. MSOE survived a scare from Lake Forest, and Lawrence defeated a spirited Finlandia team.
As the fourth seed in the MIAC tournament, St. Olaf had to be considered a long-shot to make it to the finals next weekend, but the team that came back from deficits in both games it played, including an upset of No. 6 St. Thomas, will face Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC final.
St. Norbert will face an unlikely contestant in the Peters Cup final, as Wisconsin-Stevens Point continued its unexpected renaissance, making its first NCHA final in over a decade.
Lawrence scored four times in an 11-minute stretch of the second period and rolled to a 5-1 win over Finlandia Friday to open the series. Patrick Coyne scored twice for Lawrence, including the game-winning goal. Peter Emery made 28 saves for Lawrence. Alex Heinonen scored the lone goal for Finlandia.
Finlandia tried not to waste its first trip to the MCHA playoffs in four years, as it battled hard to earn a series-tying victory Saturday, but Lawrence battled back to earn a 2-2 overtime tie to win the series.
Heinonen started the scoring Saturday at 3:23 of the first period as Finlandia jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. Less than 10 minutes later, Matt Hughes tied the score at 1-1 for Lawrence. Finlandia took the lead once again at 16:06 of the first when Dmitry Antipin scored a short-handed goal to put Finlandia back on top 2-1. Phil Bushbacher tied the score for Lawrence at 7:34 of the second period after a faceoff in the Finlandia zone.
The other MCHA playoff series featured No 10. Milwaukee School of Engineering taking on Lake Forest. The series began on Saturday, with MSOE dominating play, defeating Lake Forest 7-2. Jordan Keizer had two goals and two assists, while Nathan Brunk added two goals for MSOE. Keizer’s second goal was his nation-leading seventh short-handed goal of the season.
Lake Forest pushed MSOE to the brink on Sunday, as it won the second game of the series by a 6-4 margin to force a mini-game to decide which team would advance to next round of the Harris Cup.
Lake Forest scored first with a goal from Mcauley Banning at 14:12 of the first period. In the second period, MSOE scored three times in the second to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Banning scored his second goal of the game on a power play to tie the game at 3-3. After exchanging goals, Tom Bark scored the game-winning goal for Lake Forest at 14:13 of the third.
The series went to sudden death after the 20 minute mini-game ended with no score. In the second overtime, West Bauman scored at 11:25 to send MSOE to next weekend’s games in Adrian for the MCHA finals.
St. Olaf overcame a slow start to defeat Hamlin, 3-2, in the first round of the MIAC playoffs.
The first game of the MIAC playoffs featured last season’s champion Hamline, as it looked to defend its tournament title, taking on St. Olaf Thursday. Hamline came out of the gate fast, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Austin Cihak at 7:24 of the first period. Jordan VanGilder extended Hamline’s lead to 2-0 with another first period goal.
Brian Hickey cut the deficit to 2-1 for St. Olaf in the first period. Kevin Harris tied the game at 6:48 of the second period with a power-play goal. While Hamline was on the power play, Ross Trousdale scored short-handed for St. Olaf with only 1:32 left in the second; that would be the game-winner.
St. Olaf rallied once again Saturday, as it upset No. 6-ranked and top-seeded St. Thomas 4-3.
Britton Smith scored twice for St. Olaf, and Rob Vanelli had two goals for St. Thomas in a game that featured three lead changes. Jeff Harris scored the game-winning goals for St. Olaf at 7:16 of the third period.
Steve Papciak made 32 saves in goal for St. Olaf.
Gustavus Adolphus used two goals by Ryan Johnson to defeat St. John’s, 3-1, in the other MIAC tournament semifinal game.
Johnson opened the game by scoring unassisted at 4:51 of the second period, after a centering pass behind the net hit a skate of a St. John’s defender and went into the goal. In the final minute of the period, Jascha Pettit evened the score for St. John’s. Early in the third period, Johnson scored the game-winning goal. St. John’s had one final chance on a power play in the final two minutes, as Gustavus was called for goaltender interference. A game-tying goal for St. John’s was called off by the referee, as it was decided that the puck hit the cross-bar, but did not go in the net. Adam Smyth sealed the victory for St. Olaf with an empty-net goal at 19:39.
St. Norbert shutout Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 2-0, Saturday to advance to the championship game of the Peters Cup for the fifth time in the last six years. Marian Fiala scored the game-winning goal midway through the first period on a power play for St. Norbert. Johan Ryd added an empty-net goal with seven seconds remaining for St. Norbert. David Jacobson picked up the shutout for St. Norbert, turning away all 19 shots he faced. St. Norbert outshot Wis.-Eau Claire, 30-19.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point continued its surprising resurgence this season by defeating St. Scholastica, 5-1, Saturday. It will be the first time Wis.-Stevens Point has made it the Peters Cup final since 2000.
Five different players scored for Wis.-Stevens Point as it built a 5-0 lead early in the third period. Jerry Freismuth scored the game-winner for Wis.-Stevens Point. It was also Wis.-Stevens Point’ fourth consecutive win at St. Scholastica.