Circle-the-date encounter here in MCHA

No. 8 Adrian holds a 14-0 series advantage over No. 9 Milwaukee School of Engineering heading into this weekend’s clash of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association titans.

“The record speaks for itself,” MSOE coach Mark Ostapina said.

Said coach Ron Fogarty: “What’s happened in the past is irrelevant.”

While stating the obvious, both coaches are right. The series at Adrian’s Arrington Ice Arena Friday and Saturday will likely chart the course of how both squads fare in the run up to the MCHA playoffs.

Yes, the Bulldogs (10-3, 7-1) have dominated the four-year series, but the Raiders (11-2, 8-0) are a former shell of the past, especially compared to last season’s injury-riddled campaign.

The Raiders’ torrid 8-0 start this season, coupled with the Bulldogs’ three-year MCHA title run, made this a circle-the-date-on-the-calendar encounter in November.

In sophomore Jordan Keizer (14 goals, 9 assists, 23 points), MSOE boasts one of the more lethal scorers in D-III. Keizer’s 1.08 goals-per-game ranks second in the nation, while his 1.77 points-per-game is tied for fourth. He’s complemented by junior forward Todd Krupa (10-7-17).

In MSOE’s two losses (2-1 St. Thomas, Dec. 10; 4-1 to then-No. 12 Hamline, Jan. 1), Keizer was held scoreless while Krupa only mustered an assist in each game.

“If they are going to be successful, (we have) to force them to go 200 feet,” Fogarty said. “We can’t turn the puck over or they will capitalize on it.

“We just look to play a hard physical game and slow them down.”

MSOE is also getting production from the point, ranking third nationally in scoring defense (23 goals in 13 games, 1.77 points-per-game). Freshman Michael Thompson (4-6-10) leads team defensemen in scoring.

The Raiders have been buoyed by the superlative play of junior netminder Connor Toomey (9-2, 1.58 goals-against, .934 save-percentage).

“Obviously with his numbers, he has been Steady Eddie,” Ostapina said. “It’s just been incredible in what he’s been doing.”

MSOE’s goalie will have to repel Adrian’s sizeable arsenal, which includes proven scorers in seniors center Brad Houston (9-11-20) and winger Shawn Skelly (9-11-20).

The Bulldogs offense (59 goals in 13 games, 4.54 goals per game) ranks fifth in the nation among D-III schools. The team’s power play (23 of 72, 31.9 percent), led by Skelly’s five man-advantage goals, registers third nationally.

While scoring 14 goals in its last two wins (7-3 Nichols, Jan. 1; 7-5 Buffalo State, Jan. 7), Adrian has been letting a few slip in.

Senior goalie Brad Fogal (10-3, 2.70 GAA, .901 save-pct.) was pulled briefly in the second period after surrendering three goals on 13 shots in the Buffalo State victory. He returned after 22 seconds and finished the game with 27 saves to earn the win.

“I just brought Fogal in to talk to him a bit,” Fogarty said. “…It was just a case of Fogal being focused.”

Despite first place being at stake, the respective coaches are down-playing the weekend series.

“It’s big for us to keep turning the corner and play our style of game,” Fogarty said. “I think we come in as the underdog. They are in first place and have things rolling over there. We just have to be ready to counter punch.”

Said Ostapina: “We’re excited. It’s youthful enthusiasm in regards to looking forward to this weekend just like every weekend.”

MCHA Player of the Week
Shawn Skelly, Adrian: The senior winger netted two goals, including his 200th career point, in the No. 8 Bulldogs’ 7-5 victory over Buffalo State Jan. 7. The Wolverine Lake, Mich., native also had a three-assist performance in his team’s 7-3 win over Nichols in the Northfield Bank Tournament Third Place game Jan. 1. Skelly (9-11-20) is tied for the team scoring lead with center Brad Houston (9-11-20).

MIAC Player of the Week
Brian Arrigoni, Hamline: The junior forward went on a seven-point scoring tear during the No. 11 Pipers’ 2-1 stretch to ring in the new year. The St. Paul, Minn., product scored twice in the team’s 4-1 triumph over then-No. 9 Milwaukee School of Engineering on Jan. 1 and collected two assists and a goal in a 4-1 victory over Wisconsin-Superior on Friday. The former USHL Indiana Ice player capped off the weekend with a goal and an assist in Hamline’s 3-3 tie with St. Scholastica Sunday.

NCHA Player of the Week
Alain Joanette, St. Norbert: The junior forward had a five-point weekend in leading the No. 1 Green Knights to a weekend sweep over nonconference foes St. John’s, 6-0, and Concordia (Minn.), 5-1. In Friday’s victory, the Chelmsford, Ontario, product snagged a pair of goals, including the game-winner, and an assist. He assisted on two goals in Saturday’s win over the Cobbers.