MCHA, MIAC and NCHA wrap: Feb. 14

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference faces the prospect of a four-way tie for first place as the regular season concludes this weekend.
St. Thomas’ two-game sweep over Bethel pulled the Tommies into a first-place tie with Hamline (13-5-5, 8-2-4) on 20 points. However, St. Thomas (14-9-2, 9-5-2) is idle this weekend, which means the Pipers only need a point from its series at Concordia (Minn.) to reclaim top spot.
If Concordia (10-9-4, 6-4-4) takes both games from Hamline though, the Cobbers will join the Tommies and Pipers at the MIAC summit. A Cobbers sweep, coupled with a Gustavus Adolphus (13-8-2, 7-5-2) sweep over Saint Mary’s (5-16-2, 4-8-2), would then produce a four-way deadlock.
The MIAC concludes regular season play this weekend. Playoffs start Friday, Feb. 25, with the No. 4 seed hosting the No. 5 seed, with the winner playing the No. 1 seed on Saturday, Feb. 26.
The MIAC playoff winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The conference employs a series of tiebreakers to determine playoff seeding, starting with results from head-to-head competition between the log-jammed teams.
“Obviously we have the bye this week, so we just sit back and see how it plays out,” St. Thomas coach Jeff Boeser said. “You do the math and it could be a four-way tie.
“I think it is due to the (competitiveness) of our league and the parity. … It’s a dog fight, that’s for sure. There’s no easy four points in a weekend anymore.”
On Friday, senior Andrew Kappers’ hat trick powered the Tommies to a 8-3 victory over the host Bethel (4-15-4, 3-7-4), which clinched a playoff spot for St. Thomas. Kappers finished the weekend with seven points on five goals and two assists.
Kappers, who was playing in his 100th career game, scored during a two-man advantage 15 seconds into the second period. The centerman added goals No. 9 and 10 in the third period. Riley Horgan, Rob Johnson scored twice, while Riley Horgan had a goal and three assists for the Tommies.
“It’s been really a pleasure to coach Andrew,” Boeser said about his senior center and captain who has been accepted into St. Thomas’ law school. “I’ve seen him grow both as a man and a hockey player as our captain.”
Kappers scored twice and added career assists No. 62 and 63 in Saturday’s 7-2 win. Tom O’Donnell, Bryce Walker, Travis Baker, Matt Lipinski and Evan Mackintosh also scored for St. Thomas. Chris Fiala and Jack Paul replied for Bethel (4-15-4, 3-7-4).
Freshman goalie Geoff Sadjadi (9-5) stopped 47 of 52 shots to earn victories in both games.
NCHA playoffs set
Wisconsin-Stevens Point earned home ice advantage in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs by grabbing a crucial point with a 1-1 tie at Wisconsin-River Falls in its regular-season finale Saturday. The Pointers’ Nic Polaski scored at 5:26 of the third period after Andy Inderieden added to the Falcons’ account at 1:53 in the same frame.
No. 4 seed UW-Stevens Point (12-12-1, 8-9-1) hosts No. 5 Wisconsin-Eau Claire 14-10-1, 8-9-1) Friday and Saturday. Though the Pointers and Blugolds both had 17 points, UW-Stevens Point held a 2-1 series edge against UW-Eau Claire, which is the first tiebreaker used to determine playoff seeding.
The same head-to-head formula was used in awarding the No. 2 seed to Wisconsin-Superior, which finished in a second-place tie on 20 points with Wisconsin-Stout. The Yellowjackets were 2-1 against the Blue Devils during the regular season.
In a preview of the first round, UW-Superior beat St. Scholastica, 4-1, on Thursday. Tom Budziakowski, Josh Kesler, Jeff Forsythe and Joey Massingham scored for the visiting Yellowjackets, who closed out the regular season with a 3-0 loss to UW-Eau Claire.
UW-Superior (13-11-1, 10-8) hosts No. 7 seed St. Scholastica (9-15-1, 4-14) Friday and Saturday.
No. 3 playoff seed UW-Stout (15-10, 10-8) hosts No. 6 UW-River Falls (11-12-2, 7-10-1) in the other NCHA quarterfinal matchup. Chade Boeckman scored the game-winner at the 9:59 mark of the third in the Blue Devils’ 5-4 win over visiting UW-Stevens Point on Friday. Defenseman Dan Cecka netted two goals, while Braden Gay posted a goal and two assists for UW-Stout. Gay scored a hat trick and added an assist in the Blue Devils’ 5-1 victory over No. 2 St. Norbert on Saturday. Robert Carr and Logan Maly also scored for UW-Stout, who where outshot 45-33 by the Green Knights. Kyle Stroh scored on a penalty shot for No. 2 St. Norbert (20-4-1, 14-3-1), which has a first-round playoff bye as the No. 1 seed.
If teams split the playoff series, a mini-contest will immediately follow Saturday’s contest. The overall NCHA playoff winner receives an automatic NCAA tournament bid.
MCHA deadlocked at top
No. 5 Adrian and No. 10 Milwaukee School of Engineering swept their respective series, which sets up this weekend’s penultimate meeting between the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association behemoths. The Raiders host the Bulldogs Friday and Saturday at MSOE’s Kern Center.
At stake is first place overall, as well as top spot in the Southern Division, which will give the victor a first-round bye in the Harris Cup playoffs. Marian (17-6, 14-4) sewed up the other bye by clinching first place in the MCHA’s Northern Division with its weekend sweep over Lawrence, 5-0 and 6-3.
MSOE and Adrian have skated locked-in-step since their first encounter in Adrian, which resulted in a 6-1 Bulldogs victory and a 2-2 tie Jan. 14-15.
The Bulldogs (19-3-1, 16-1-1), who took two games at Concordia (Wis.) by a combined score of 16-3 Friday and Saturday, are unbeaten in their last 12 games (11-0-1). Adrian’s Mike Dahlinger posted a six-point weekend with three goals and three assists against the Falcons.
The Raiders (19-3-1, 16-1-1) are unbeaten in their last nine games, which includes a sweep over Lake Forest, 3-0 and 5-3, in a home-and-home series. MSOE’s Jordan Keizer scored two goals and while goalie Connor Toomey stopped 26 shots to earn a shutout in Friday’s victory. Todd Krupa, who also had a goal in Friday’s contest, scored twice and added an assist in the Raiders’ home triumph Saturday. Mike Pao, Nick Gorup and Keizer supplied the remaining MSOE goals while Tyler Gross, Thomas Bark and Kevin Spotts scored for the Foresters (4-18-1, 4-13-1).