D-III West Weekend Wrap: Johnnies clinch regular-season MIAC title

Saint John’s swept Saint Mary’s over the weekend to win its first regular-season championship since 2013. (Photo by Mike Orn)

Saint John’s is back on top of the MIAC for the first time in seven seven years and it has possession of its first outright league title in more than a decade.

The first weekend of the NCHA tournament went as expected with the exception of the series between Trine and Lake Forest, while in the WIAC, Wisconsin-Superior and Wisconsin-River Falls are both moving on in tournament play.

Here are your top storylines from the weekend

Johnnies win the title

Down three goals, Saint John’s did’t let the deficit faze it. Instead, the Johnnies rallied to take down Saint Mary’s 6-5 and clinch the regular-season MIAC championship.

It is the ninth time the Johnnies have won the league title and is their first crown since 2013. Auggie Moore scored the game-winning goal with 3:47 to go, punctuating an impressive weekend for the freshman forward. 

Moore tallied three goals and four assists in two games against the Cardinals. He leads the team in points with 27, tallying 11 goals and 16 assists. Jack Johnson, another freshmen, came through with three assists in the win over Saint Mary’s.

The Cardinals led 3-0 just over seven minutes into the second period before Travis Brown scored the Johnnies’ first goal. Saint Mary’s went back up 4-1 before goals by Dan Kirkendall and Brady Heppner cut the deficit to 4-3 heading into the third.

Johnson tied the game at 4-4 and Wieber put the Johnnies ahead 5-4 before Saint Mary’s tied it again on Kyle Meeh’s team-leading 13th goal of the year.

Andrew Lindgren came through with 28 saves and won his eighth game of the year. 

Saint John’s opened the weekend with a 3-1 win over Saint Mary’s and has now won its last five games. The Johnnies are 21-4 in their last 25 road games against the Cardinals and head into the conference tournament at 12-8-5 overall and 9-3-4 in the MIAC.

Another winning season for the Tommies

St. Thomas has had an up-and-down-season, but here in the final weekend, the Tommies once again found a way to secure a winning season.

For the 38th consecutive time under the direction of head coach Jeff Boesser, the Tommies recorded a winning season after completing a sweep of Augsburg. The Tommies won the opener 5-3 on Friday and wrapped things up Saturday with a 5-4 win.

Along the way, St. Thomas punched a ticket to the MIAC tournament for the 35th year in a row.

In Saturday’s finale, five different players scored goals. Broydon Stufko, Jack Christensen, Johnny Panvica, Frankie Spellman and Brett Gravelle all punched the puck in while Cam Buggrabe stopped 25 shots. 

The Tommies end the regular season at 12-10-3 overall and 9-6-1 in the MIAC. They are 37-2-4 in the last three seasons when scoring three or more goals in a game. St. Thomas went 4-3 in February after going just 2-2-2 in January.

Yellow Jackets advance in tournament

UW-Superior needed overtime to put away Northland in the opening round of the WIAC tournament Saturday. Coming off a 6-3 win Friday night in the series opener, the Yellow Jackets were pushed to the limit by the Lumberjacks Saturday before securing their first playoff sweep since 2014.

Dylan Johnson scored an empty-net goal off the power play with just 16.7 seconds remaining to hang on for the win.

A tie would have been good enough to get the Yellow Jackets into the semifinal round of the tourney due to the rules and the fact that they won Friday’s game. So Northland pulled its goalie in an attempt to force a decisive mini game.

UW-Superior had come up empty on its previous 13 power-play opportunities heading into Saturday’s game.

Chad Lopez, Troy York and Bruno Birztis all scored goals for UW-Superior in regulation. Johnson not only scored a goal, but he dished out an assist as well. Oscar Svensson made 29 saves and won his 10th game of the year.

UW-Superior is 16-8-3 on the year and advances to play Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the semifinal round this weekend.

Falcons bounce back to advance

UW-River Falls found itself in a must-win situation Saturday night. The Falcons suffered a 5-2 loss to Wisconsin-Stout in the opening game of its series Friday and needed a win in Game 2 to keep its season alive. The Falcons managed to nail down a 4-1 win and force a decisive mini game that ended with a 3-0 win.

Christian Hausinger, Ryan Cusin and Cayden Cahill all scored goals for the Falcons in the mini game. Joel Frazee came through with a pair of goals to pave the way in Game 2 Saturday. Zach Quinn stopped 28 shots.

Trine stuns LAke Forest

Trine and Lake Forest split their first two games of the series, with the Thunder winning the opener 5-4 before falling 3-1 in the second game.

That set up a decisive mini game that turned out to work in Trine’s favor. The Thunder edged the nationally ranked Foresters 1-0 to advance in the NCHA tournament.

Through the first 10 minutes of play in the mini game, neither team scored. The Thunder ended the scoreless tie when Garrett Halfford punched in a goal to give Trine the only lead it would need.

Trine is 13-11-3 on the year. The Thunder lost both games to Lake Forest in the regular season but found a way to get it done in the postseason.

Sabres avoid upset

Marian nearly saw its season end in stunning fashion after falling 5-3 to St. Scholastica in the opening game of its series Friday.

But the Sabres bounced back Saturday with a 4-1 win to force a mini game that they were able to win by a 2-1 score in overtime.

Lawson McDonald scored the game-winner in OT of the mini game. He punched the goal in at the 4:23 mark of the OT.

The Sabres held a 22-11 advantage in shots and Hunter Vorva made 10 saves. 

Nolan Ross scored twice off the power play in the second game of the series to help the Sabres keep their hopes alive of advancing in the tourney.

Bulldogs, Green Knights hold serve

Adrian and St. Norbert did exactly what they were expected to over the weekend, with each team winning their opening-round series.

The Bulldogs knocked off Aurora 7-5 and 5-3 and the Green Knights rolled past Lawrence 8-2 and 5-2.

Adrian now gets Trine in the semifinals and St. Norbert will face Marian.