Are your pulses normal yet? What was a fun weekend of hockey fittingly ended with a pair of game three overtime contests. Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech both won their series in three games over Bowling Green and Minnesota State, respectively, setting up what will be an epic rivalry game in Marquette for the WCHA title.
Here’s three quick things about last weekend’s semifinals.
1. Keeping it close
It shouldn’t be so surprising, but all but one game of the six semifinals were decided by two goals or less. Quite a change from the quarterfinals, when there were a bunch of blowouts. Northern Michigan beat Bowling Green 6-1 in game one of their series but the other two were extremely close (1-0 in game two and 3-2 in game three). In the other semifinal, Michigan Tech held Minnesota State’s offense in check. The Mavericks had scored 14 goals in two games against Alaska in the first round but managed just five in the three game series against the Huskies. Devin Kero made 26 saves in game one before Tech made a goalie change for the rest of the series. Patrick Munson stopped 31 and 41 shots, respectively, to help Tech keep pucks out of the net and get the win. The victory gives Tech a chance to go back to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. Minnesota State, on the other hand, gets a week of rest before the NCAAs. They’re a lock for the tournament, although losing to Tech likely cost them a No. 1 seed. Still, the Mavs will likely be glad to rest up and see where they’re going in two weeks time.
2. Quite the thriller
Both series featured a fair share of thrilling moments, but the one in Marquette was perhaps the most dramatic. Bowling Green gritted out a 1-0 win in Saturday’s game but found themselves down 2-1 late in the final frame Sunday after NMU’s Joseph Nardi scored go-ahead goal halfway through the third period. And when Justin Wells took an elbowing penalty with less than four minutes left, it looked even bleaker for the Falcons. However, they killed off that penalty and had a chance to tie with less than two minutes to go. They did just that, but it took two tries. BG thought it had scored with about a minute left but the refs immediately waved it off — the Falcons player had gloved the puck into the NMU net. They didn’t miss their second chance, though. Mitch McLain scored with eight seconds left to send the game to overtime. Both teams had good looks in the OT period but Troy Loggins ended it for NMU with a crazy shot from the blue line that somehow made its way into the net for the Wildcats win.
3. Showdown in Marquette
The Wildcats then got to wait to see if they’d have to travel to Mankato for the WCHA championship game or stay home. And thanks to Jake Jackson’s goal for Michigan Tech, they won’t have to go anywhere. The Wildcats will host their archrival Huskies on Saturday for the WCHA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Tech is looking to repeat as champions while NMU is looking for its first NCAA berth since 2010. It should be a big deal. If you don’t believe me, check out the line for tickets at the Berry Events Center in Marquette this morning. It’s safe to say this game could be a literal barnburner.