MCHA/MIAC/NCHA finals preview

The MIAC Preseason Coach’s poll was spot on when it picked No. 8 St. Thomas and No. 11 Gustavus Adolphus to finish first and second in the conference, but thanks to St. Olaf’s upset win at St. Thomas last week, Gustavus will now host St. Olaf in the MIAC tournament title game Saturday.

St. Olaf began the MIAC tournament as the No. 4 seed. It played No. 5 seed Hamline in the opening game of the tournament and won, 3-2. Hamline scored the first two goals of the game early in the first period and held a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes. St. Olaf coach Sean Goldsworthy then replaced senior netminder Ben Leis with freshman Steve Papciak.

“We have a deep goaltending group,” Goldsworthy said. “Ben Leis has been outstanding all year, and Steve Papciak as well, but if a player gives us a better chance on a given night, we’re going to do that.”

After defeating Hamline, it was on to St. Thomas last Saturday. St. Thomas was seeded No. 1 in the tournament, easily won the MIAC regular season title, and was ranked No. 6 in the country going into the game.

“The MIAC is a deep league; you have to play well every night,” Goldsworthy said. “Any team can win the playoff championship.”

St. Olaf overcame a 3-2 deficit to beat St. Thomas, 4-3. It reminded the coach of what happened to St. Olaf in the MIAC tournament a few years ago.

“We were idle and we were beat in the No. 1 versus No. 4 game in 2009,” Goldsworthy said.

In that game, St. Olaf lost to Hamline 5-1.

St. Olaf had lost a pair of one-goal games, one in overtime, at the end of January to St. Thomas. It was also the only time St. Olaf was swept by an opponent this season.

“The overtime and one-goal games gave the sense of unfinished business against the opponent,” Goldsworthy said. “We are fortunate to come back and play, and that’s the beauty of a playoff championship; the best team playing in March usually makes it to the NCAAs.”

Gustavus and St. Olaf finished the regular season against each other just two weeks ago. Gustavus defeated St. Olaf in the first game of the series, 3-2, in overtime, and scored three unanswered to forge a 3-3 tie in the final game of the regular season.

“The last two games against Gustavus went to overtime,” Goldsworthy said. “We will stick to a specific game plan and make changes within game, and we expect them to play their game.”

The two schools are located approximately 50 miles apart, and will bring plenty of excitement to the Don Roberts Ice Center at the Gustavus Adolphus campus in St. Peter, Minn.

“There will be a lot of fanfare,” Goldsworthy said. “The regular season games against each other are usually sold out.”

Gustavus went 15-6-5 overall and 7-2-3 at home this season. St. Olaf was 13-8-6 overall, and had a road record of 6-4-3.

“Gustavus is one of our top rivals, and we expect a one-goal game,” Goldsworthy said.

St. Olaf is 6-6 in one goal games this season, while Gustavus is 7-4.

St. Olaf has nine seniors that all play an important role on the team.

“We have veterans that are pretty familiar with the opponents,” Goldsworthy said. “They understand that it will be a close game, and the tendencies the other team is going to have. They are not going into the game unprepared, as they have 80-plus games experience.”

Seniors Peter Rohn and Charlie Raskob lead the team offensively. Rohn has 24 points and leads the team in goals scored with 11.  Raskob has 23 points and leads the team in assists with 17. Another senior, Derek Grogan, has played in over 100 games for St. Olaf. He has 20 points on the season. Leis played over 1200 minutes in goal this season. He has a .925 save percentage and 2.30 goals against average.

Gustavus defeated St. John’s, 3-1, to reach the MIAC tournament final after finishing second in the MIAC during the regular season.

Just like St. Olaf, Gustavus was swept by St. Thomas during the season in November. Gustavus had an eight-game winning streak that spanned the entire month of December and went into January. It also had a great year when it crossed the Minnesota boarder, going 4-0-1 when playing in Wisconsin this season, picking up victories at some difficult venues, such as River Falls and Stevens Point, and earning a tie against St. Norbert that put a stop to a 25 home-game winning streak at St. Norbert’s home arena.

Ross Ring-Jarvi, the team’s captain and lone senior, is the leading scorer with 28 points. He leads the team with 18 assists. Zach May is the second-leading scorer with 20 points. Adam Smyth leads the team with 14 goals and 18 points. Ryan Johnson and Andy Pearson have also added 18 points on the season.

John McLean has logged the most minutes in goal for Gustavus. He has a 2.13 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.

No. 5 St. Norbert will host No. 15 Wisconsin-Stevens Point Saturday at the Cornerstone Community Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis. for the Peters Cup NCHA tournament title. St. Norbert has won four of the last five Peters Cup titles, and is playing for the title for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Wis.-Stevens Point is making its first appearance in a title game since 2000.

In the semifinals, St. Norbert beat Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 2-0, while Wisconsin-Stevens Point went on the road to defeat St. Scholastica, 5-1.

The Harris Cup tournament will take place at the Arrington Ice Arena in Adrian, Mich. The four-team tournament will feature Lawrence taking on No. 6 Adrian, while Marian will play No. 10 Milwaukee School of Engineering on Saturday. The respective winners will play on Sunday for the Harris Cup and an automatic NCAA bid.

Weekly Awards

Athlete of the Week: Steve Papciak, Fr., St. Olaf. Papciak entered after the first period of the MIAC playoff game, making 25 saves while allowing no goals. He made 32 saves the following night against regular season champion St. Thomas to earn a spot in the title game against Gustavus Adolphus.


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