D-III West roundup: November 8

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is on a four-game roll, but a season-opening loss to Lawrence lit the pilot light for the hot start, coach Wil Nichol said.

The Pointers’ fourth consecutive victory came Saturday in a 5-1 thumping of No. 15 Hamline in St. Paul, Minn. The team opened the winning weekend with a 2-0 road win over nonconference foe Bethel on Friday.

The four-game run also included back-to-back victories over Northern Collegiate Hockey Association-rival St. Scholastica, 7-1 and 4-3, on Oct. 29-30.

The 5-4 setback to nonconference opponent Lawrence on Oct. 23 is the lone blemish, which also happened to be the Pointers’ only home game so far. The team surrendered a 4-3 lead in the third period against the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association Vikings.

“It was a very good first game for us to play,” said Nichol, whose team was picked to finish third in an NCHA coaches poll. “We found out a lot about ourselves early in the season.

“Obviously, we wish we would have won the game, but we learned a lot about ourselves in that loss. We have to come to play and we have to play for 60 minutes.”

The Pointers have taken an egalitarian approach to scoring, with 20 players registering at least a point. Sophomore forward Alex Handy has a team-leading three goals and three assists for six points while Jon Madden (2 goals, 3 assists), Harrison Niemann (2 goals, 3 assists), Chad Boeckman (1 goals, 4 assists) and Max Bobrow (1 goal, 4 assists) are tied with five points apiece.

Bobrow is one of five freshmen who have all received considerable playing time.

“With our staff, we don’t really take into consideration whether they are freshmen or seniors,” Nichol said. “Monday through Thursday is everybody’s opportunity to show us who wants to play on Friday night.

“So far, we’ve had some freshmen who have stepped up to earn their spot in the lineup.”

In goal, it’s sophomore Nick Graves who’s garnering attention. Graves is 4-0, with a microscopic 1.25 goals-against average to go along with a sterling .956 save-percentage.

Graves was expected to share playing time with freshman Randy Wilcott, who started in the Lawrence loss.

UW-Stevens Point hosts St. Norbert on Friday and Saturday in NCHA action. The Green Knights (3-1, 2-0 NCHA) are coming off a 3-2 victory over Bethel Saturday.

MCHA battle of titans postscript
The weekend split between No. 10 Adrian and Marian left more questions than answers on how the MCHA race will shake out. Adrian (1-1) and Marian (4-1, 3-1 MCHA) were picked to finish one and two respectively in a preseason coaches poll.

On Friday, Adrian bested Marian, 7-3, reflecting the Bulldogs’ explosive offense and the Sabres’ inability to cope with it. Adrian’s Jordan Watts scored a hat trick while Marian’s Brendan Hull netted two goals.

Two third-period goals lifted the Sabres to a 5-4 victory in Saturday’s rematch at Arrington Ice Arena. Mike McCurtain nabbed the game-winner on a two-on-one with with 1:10 left after Hull’s goal knotted the game at the 6:32.

The setback was the Bulldogs’ first in MCHA play since Nov. 30, 2007 when they lost, coincidentally, to Marian, 7-2. The 30-game unbeaten string also started with a 7-2 victory over the Sabres Dec. 2, 2007.

“It was a great run there of conference wins dating back to 2007 when we started it against Marian,” Adrian Coach Ron Fogarty said. “They’re a great team. No question that Coach (Jasen) Wise (Marian) has done a great job of recruiting over the past couple of years.

“They have a solid team with a relentless work ethic.”