Augsburg enjoys being the hunted

 (Kevin Healy/Kevin Healy for Augsburg College)
(Kevin Healy/Kevin Healy for Augsburg College)

Take one glance at the offensive stats of Augsburg and it’s easy to see what makes the team tick.

It’s all about the balance.

A total of 14 players have tallied at least 12 points, while 22 players in all have recorded at least one point for the Auggies, who have scored 98 goals off 162 assists.

Nate Flynn leads the way with 14 goals and 13 assists. The top goal scorer is Eric Brenk, who has tallied 15 goals to go along with six assists. Rory Vesel has dished out a team-best 17 assists.

“Our depth has been a big key for us,” Augsburg coach Chris Brown said. “We have a lot of guys who can make plays. Every line is capable of producing points. Our team knows anyone is capable of stepping up on any given night.”

The Auggies have parlayed that offensive balance into another successful season. They nearly won the MIAC regular-season championship, finishing second to St. Thomas in the standings.

Augsburg is 15-4-6 overall and 9-2-5 in conference play. It has lost just once in its last 10 games. Coming off a 17-win season a year ago, the success is hardly a surprise.

“The experience we gained last year really helped,” Brown said. “We hit the ground running this year and won some big games early. That helped us build confidence.”

While success was expected based on what the Auggies accomplished last year, the road to achieving it has been a little different. The Auggies have been a ranked team all year.

“The journey has been a little different because we’ve been ranked all season. We haven’t had to deal with that before. We’ve learned a lot from the ups and the downs and went into every game knowing we were going to get an opponent’s best shot.”

The fact that Augsburg entered the arena night in and night out as a team to beat kept the Auggies on their toes. The Auggies are currently ranked 11th in the country.

“Every game was a battle,” Brown said. “Teams wanted to beat us. I’d like to think it’s something that is going to help us in the conference tournament.”

There have been some games the Auggies wished they had back. All in all, Brown can’t complain. His team is in the MIAC tournament and is in position to secure the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.

“We’ve had a great season and we’re excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” Brown said. “It’s all about not having a letdown. Every team is good and excited to play. You have to be opportunistic. In the games we won this year, we did that.”

Pipers aim to get on track for playoffs
Hamline has had a hard time winning games this month. In fact, the Pipers are winless in February, sporting an 0-1-3 record. In two of the three tied games, Hamline won the shootout.

Still, despite the tough stretch, the Pipers are as good as any team in the league and have the potential to make a run in the MIAC tournament.

That much is for certain when you consider Hamline has Russ Jordan on its roster. Jordan has enjoyed a breakout season, scoring 18 goals and dishing out 14 assists.

Several other players have risen to the occasion around Jordan, including Brandon Wahlin, who has tallied seven goals and 20 assists. He is one of five players with 19 or points on the season. The Pipers have scored 82 goals off 129 assists, while Justin Quale has seen the majority of time in goal. Quale has started 20 games, winning seven times and fashioning a 2.79 goals-against average.

The Pipers open the MIAC playoffs against Concordia, who they are 1-0-1 against this season. The only other team in the MIAC playoff field that they have a win against this year, though, is Saint Mary’s. The Pipers defeated the Cardinals 7-2 on Jan. 21. They are 0-2 against St. Thomas and tied in both meetings with Augsburg.

Hamline defeated Concordia in the opening round of the playoffs a year ago and is hoping to advance to the semifinal round for the third consecutive year. In a league as competitive as the MIAC, anything is possible.

Falcons ready to roll
Wisconsin-River Falls has lost just once in its last six game and is hoping play its best hockey of the year in the playoffs.

The Falcons, who entered the year as the favorite to win the regular-season title — they finished third — certainly have the ability to make a run at the WIAC championship. The first obstacle in the way of that championship is Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a team that defeated Wis.-River Falls twice during the regular season.

The Falcons have scored only 60 goals this year, with no one on the team scoring more than eight. Joe Drapluk has led the team in goals with eight, while Michael Lant and Mike Fazio have each tallied six on the season.

Wis.-River Falls ranks last in the league in goals scored, but what it has working in its favor is the fact that it has given up the fewest goals this season, allowing only 52.

The Falcons will need to be at their best to slow down a Blugolds team that has scored 92 goals this season. They’ll attempt to do that behind the effort of goalie Zach Quinn, who has been one of the best goalies in the league this season.

Quinn leads the WIAC in shutouts with three, and is second in the league in saves (450). He has won 10 games and owns a 1.73 goals-against average. What is even more impressive is that he is just a freshman. If he can thrive in the pressure-packed playoffs, the Falcons have an opportunity to win the WIAC tourney crown.

Bulldogs, Green Knights on track for title showdown
As division champions, Adrian and St. Norbert have the luxury of a first-round bye in the Harris Cup playoffs. Both are front runners for the NCHA tournament championship and it won’t be a surprise if the two meet in the championship game on March 4.

The Bulldogs are the reigning conference tourney champs and enter the playoffs riding a six-game win streak. They feature four of the top five players in points in the conference, including Cory Dunn, who has tallied 29 on the year. They also have one of the top goal scorers in the NCHA in Trevor Boyd, who has scored 15 goals this season.

Adrian has scored 116 goals in all and has allowed just 55, thanks in large part to the play of Kevin Entmaa in goal. He has won 12 games and has made 461 saves this year.

St. Norbert didn’t win the league title a year ago, but it did make it to the national championship game, finishing as the national runner-up. The Green Knights have been nearly as good offensively, punching in 96 goals, and are unreal on defense, giving up just 40 goals. Tanner Froese and Roman Uchyn have scored 12 and 10 goals, respectively, to pace the offense of the Green Knights. T.J. Black anchors the team at goalie, winning 14 games and allowing only 1.15 goals per game.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Adrian lost both regular-season meetings to St. Norbert, although in the playoffs, results from the regular season mean little.