The Lawrence University hockey team wrapped up regular season competition last weekend with a series split against Finlandia University (5-19-1, 4-14-0 NCHA). The win Friday night clinched a playoff berth, and Vikings will head into the first round with a 6-12-0 NCHA record that secures them the seventh place seed.
On Friday, Feb. 13, the Vikings arrived at the Houghton County Arena with their eyes on the prize. Less than halfway through the first period sophomore Ryan Eardley got the Vikes on the board with a goal off assists from junior Matt Moore and freshman Brendan Vetter. A minute and a half later, Eardley assisted Vetter in firing one of his own into the net from the point, giving the Vikings a 2-0 lead going into the second.
The second period saw no scoring but plenty of penalties. At one point the Vikings had a 5-on-3 advantage that quickly dwindled to a 5-on-4 that they were still unable to capitalize on. It wasn’t until the end of the third period that the Lions pulled their goaltender to try to get back into the game. They made use of the extra attacker to cut the Viking lead to 2-1 with less than 3 minutes remaining.
With enough time to score again, the Lions kicked it into overdrive, firing shot after shot at the Lawrence net. Despite the Finlandia pressure, sophomore goaltender Mattias Soderqvist remained in control between the pipes, recording 29 saves for the night. The rest of the Vikings also fought hard until the very end to protect their lead, prevent overtime, and claim the victory.
On Saturday afternoon the Vikings returned to the Lions’ den for the regular season finale. It appeared that the tides had turned, however, as Finlandia put away two goals in the first period despite being outshot 16-8 by the Vikings.
Another scoreless second period was the result of a Lawrence team working hard but unable to gain traction, but the Lions were able to slip two more goals in the third period to claim a 4-0 shutout. Senior goaltender Peter Emery defended the Lawrence net on Saturday and made 19 saves for the Vikings.
The split last weekend earned the Vikings a spot in the playoffs, and they will face second place St. Norbert College (17-5-2, 13-4-1 NCHA) this weekend in the first round. The Green Knights swept Northland College last weekend to end their regular season on a high note, but will be met with the fire of revenge burning in the hearts of the Vikings.
Lawrence was knocked out of the playoffs last year by the same team they face in this first round, so the stakes are high and the competition is sure to be heated.
The battle for the Harris Cup begins at the Cornerstone Community Center at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, and the NCHA foes will conclude the series on Saturday, Feb. 21, again at 7 p.m. on Green Knight home ice.