ASHWAUBENON, Wis. — It was another case of Wisconsin-Superior postseason magic.
Down 3-2 after two periods to a team that hadn’t lost this season in such a situation, the defending national champion Yellowjackets rallied for four third-period goals in a 6-3 victory over Wisconsin-River Falls in the semifinals of the NCHA Peters Cup Championship on Friday at the Cornerstone Community Ice Center.
Beau Moyer evened things at 3 and sophomore forward Randall Smisko broke the tie with his second goal of the game for Superior, which will play St. Norbert on Saturday night for its fourth straight NCHA playoff title.
River Falls was 18-0 when leading after two periods entering the game. Its loss was the first for the NCHA’s final four teams this season in that situation — they’re now 65-1.
Ryan Kalbrener scored with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left and Reed Larson added the final blow for Superior (21-5-2), which is unbeaten in its last 13 playoff games (11-0-2), with an empty-net goal with 56.7 seconds left.
“We didn’t want to go in there and raise our voice [after the second period],” said third-year Superior coach Dan Stauber, who is 18-1-3 in the postseason. “It was a good game at that point. … We just wanted to stick with our game plan and keep working hard in keeping the puck down low. And that’s what we did.”
River Falls (22-5-1) fell to 0-6 at the Cornerstone. Any hope the Falcons have of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is predicated on a win in Saturday’s third-place game against Stevens Point.
“We ran out of gas, it seemed to me a little bit,” River Falls coach Steve Freeman said. “They just came at us and we were on our heels. Halfway through that game, we had so many good chances — open nets, hit the post and all that kind of stuff — and could have blown the game open. We didn’t, and those things come back to haunt you.”
Moyer’s tying goal came at 6:30 of the third period. Just past the halfway point of the period, Smisko tapped in a Kyle Nosan wraparound pass. The officials discussed the play with the goal judge before awarding Superior the goal.
The teams traded goals in the first two periods, with River Falls grabbing a one-goal lead three times. Aaron Degerness, Jamie Steinert and Matt Elsen gave the Falcons 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads, respectively.
Superior’s first two answers were on the power play. Smisko scored on UWS’ first power-play chance, and Chris Hackett scored on the second.
Nathan Ziemski made 18 saves for Superior. Jacque Vezina stopped 21 shots for River Falls.