Just call me Nostradamus.
For the second year in a row, we correctly picked the winning team in each of the first round WCHA series’. Didn’t get the number of games right for all of them, but we’re working on that.
For the second year in a row, only one lower-seeded team was victorious in the first round, though Ferris State over Bemidji State is hardly an upset. That leads for an interesting weekend of games, where something is on the line for everyone. Let’s look back at last week:
Minnesota State handles Lakers
Lake Superior didn’t really have too much of a chance against a Minnesota State team that has been top-five nationally for much of the season. That much was evident after a 9-2 Mavericks smackdown in game one.
Lake made things slightly more interesting in game two, losing only 4-2, but was still outshot 36-22.
The Mavericks had 59 shots on goal in Friday’s nine-goal outburst. Eight players had multiple points, led by J.P. Lafontaine with four. For the weekend, Bryce Gervais scored twice, while Matt Leitner had two goals and two assists. Casey Nelson became the only WCHA defender to eclipse 30 points this season with a goal and two assists (he has 32 points in 37 games).
Stephon Williams was OK in goal, but when you score 13 times in two games, OK is more than good enough.
Michigan Tech squeaks past Huntsville
The scoreboard shows a sweep and zero goals scored for the Chargers, but this was as tightly contested of a sweep as you will ever see.
For nearly 120 minutes on Friday, Tech and Huntsville went toe-to-toe. Tyler Heinonen’s goal with 71 seconds left in the third overtime game the Huskies a 1-0 win. It was the second longest game in WCHA history. Huntsville goalie Carmine Guerriero stood on his head, and feet, and hands and any other body part he could find, stopping 76 of 77 shots.
He gave up three Saturday, but made 42 saves. WCHA Player of the Year Tanner Kero had a goal and two assists, as did Blake Hietala, while Heinonen had two assists. Tech goalie Jamie Phillips picked up his 26th and 27th wins, and fifth and sixth shutouts, of the season, stopping all 50 shots he faced.
Bowling Green sweeps Northern
The scoreboard didn’t really show it, at least Saturday, but Northern gave BG all it could handle in a pair of losses last weekend.
The Falcons battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits Friday to win 3-2 in overtime on Tyler Spezia’s goal. Spezia scored again Saturday, while Brandon Hawkins scored twice as BG pulled away in the second half of the game to win 4-1.
Ferris battles past Bemidji
Three overtimes seems to be the newest fad in college hockey, as Ferris and Bemidji engaged in their own three-overtime affair Saturday.
Kyle Schempp scored 6:40 into that third overtime to give the Bulldogs a sweep and send them to the Final Five for the second straight year. C.J. Motte lived up to his billing as a big-game goalie, stopping 48 of 50 shots in the game.
He didn’t have to be as strong the night before, as Ferris jumped out to a 3-0 lead and came away with a 4-0 win. Gerald Mayhew had a goal and an assists to lead the Bulldogs.
This weekend, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech play the early game at Xcel Energy Center at 4:07 CT (5:07 Eastern). Minnesota State and Ferris State take the ice afterward, scheduled to begin at 7:37 CT (8:37 Eastern). The winners meet the following night. There is no third-place game.
Minnesota State vs. Ferris State
The Bulldogs and Mavericks met four times this year, with Minnesota State taking all four games by a combined score of 15-4. Those four losses marked the beginning of seven straight defeats for Ferris. Since then, the Bulldogs have gone 7-1-1 and are playing as well as anyone in the nation.
During the stretch, Ferris isn’t really scoring more. It’s scored more than two goals only five times in that nine-game run, but C.J. Motte has found that “second level.” In those nine games, he’s allowed 12 goals, never allowing more than two in a single game. He hasn’t posted a save percent lower than .917 in a game during that stretch. He has the ability to steal games, and he’s firmly in that zone where him stealing a game is a real possibility.
Unlike a year ago when they were a bubble team, the Mavericks are firmly locked into the NCAA Tournament, regardless of the outcome of this weekend. But, after winning the McNaughton Cup as the league’s regular-season champion, it would undoubtedly be sweet for the Mavs to bring home the Broadmoor Trophy for the second straight year. For Ferris, it needs to be the last team standing to qualify for the Tournament. A few weeks ago that seemed like it would be a pipe dream. Now, with Motte playing at the top of his game and the Bulldogs getting timely scoring, that would not be so surprising.
Bowling Green vs. Michigan Tech
The Huskies and Falcons split in Houghton, Mich., earlier this year. Despite his team being the higher-ranked team, and having been a top-10 team for most of the season, Tech coach Mel Pearson and his team are approaching this weekend as if they’re the underdogs. He pointed out Tech is the newbie this year, with BG, Minnesota State and Ferris all making the Final Five for the second year in a row. Playing the underdog card as one of the top teams in the nation is an interesting move, but it’s a great way to have the team stay motivated.
Back in January, the Falcons had leads on the Huskies both nights. BG blew 2-0 and 3-2 leads on Friday in a 4-3 loss, and had a 3-0 lead Friday before hanging on for a 3-2 win. So the Falcons, who eliminated Tech from the playoffs last year, know they can hang with the Huskies. Head coach Chris Bergeron said this week he feels this team isn’t intimidated by anyone, and they shouldn’t be. The question this time will be, if BG gets a lead, can it hang on to it, or will ghosts of bad third periods past come back to haunt them?
Like the Mavericks, Tech is firmly locked into the NCAA Tournament field. Like the Mavericks one year ago, BG is a bubble team. A win against Tech should guarantee them a berth in the NCAA Tournament (something we’ll explore tomorrow). Winning two games would do the trick, too. A loss to Tech doesn’t necessarily eliminate the Falcons, but it leaves far too many scenarios where upsets could leave BG as the first or second team on the outside looking in.