MINNEAPOLIS — Augsburg won the battle, but Bethel won the war.
Augsburg claimed a 5-4 victory over Bethel and a split of the two-game MIAC series on Saturday night at the Augsburg Ice Arena, but Bethel earned a trip to the four-team MIAC postseason playoffs.
The two teams entered the weekend series in a tie for the fourth seed in the playoff chase, and with the split, the teams went to tiebreaker criteria to determine which squad would receive the spot. With Bethel’s 7-3 win on Friday night, the Royals claimed the second tiebreaker — total series goals — by an 11-8 margin, and thus earned a postseason bid. Augsburg misses the MIAC’s postseason tournament or the first time in three years.
Augsburg finishes the season 12-11-2 overall (9-6-1 MIAC), while Bethel finishes the regular season 11-13-1 overall (9-6-1).
Bethel will face top-seed St. Thomas in a two-game/minigame MIAC playoff semifinal series next Sunday and Monday (Feb. 25-26), both games at the State Fair Coliseum in St. Paul, Minn. Game times are 4 p.m. next Sunday and 7 p.m. next Monday.
It is Bethel’s first appearance in the MIAC playoffs since the 1985-86 season.
In Saturday’s Auggie victory, Brad Holzinger paced the Auggies with a goal and assist, while Andy Ness, Nick Murray and Shawn Smith had two assists apiece.
Four different Royals scored goals, including three unassisted tallies — by Chad Anderson just 1:14 into the game, David Vidmar early in the second period, and by Jesse Geroy early in the third period.
Augsburg outshot Bethel by a 46-30 margin, but for nearly every Augsburg score, Bethel had an answer, combined with a sterling goaltending performance by Royal goalie Steve Witkowski, who made 41 saves. Augsburg outshot Bethel by a 96-63 margin in the two-game series, but Witkowski made 88 saves to gain the split.
Ryan McIntosh, playing in his final game in goal in a four-season Auggie career, made 26 saves to score Saturday’s win.
McIntosh was pulled for an extra attacker in the final two minutes, as Augsburg, ahead 5-3 at the time, needed to score two goals to extend the tiebreaker to the MIAC’s third criteria — total goal differential in conference play, for which Augsburg would have had a two-goal advantage on Bethel. However, Dennis Gould scored an empty-net goal for the Royals with six seconds remaining to secure the series split and Bethel’s trip to the playoffs.
Jaro Cesky, Mike Jackson, Joe Pontrelli and Joe Johnson had the other Auggie goals.