Hockey looks to clinch playoff berth

The Lawrence University Men’s Hockey team (Vikings) (8-12-3, 7-8-3 NCHA) collected three more points toward their playoff run last weekend in a road series against Northland College (Lumberjacks) (7-14-2, 8-11-1 NCHA).

On Friday, Feb. 12, the Vikings took to the ice at the Bay Area Civic Center in Ashland, Wis., for the series opener. The Lumberjacks scored quickly to take an early lead, but Lawrence senior Matt Moore responded for the Vikings at 8:05 off an assist from senior Ryan Rumble to even it up. Rumble added a goal of his own on a power play at 12:57 to take the lead for the Vikings before the first intermission.

More than 15 minutes of the second period elapsed before Northland tied it up, but the Vikings pulled ahead a few minutes later when junior Ryan Eardley scored off assists from junior Felix Henriksson and senior Brandon Boelter. Freshman Nick Felan and sophomore Lane King fed senior Renato Engler the puck for a fourth goal 5:14 into the third period for good measure, securing a solid 4-2 Viking victory.

Junior goaltender Mattias Soderqvist was superb in the net for the Vikings, totaling 41 saves to Northland’s 27. The Lumberjacks outshot the Vikings 43-31, but saw less success offensively. Lawrence went 1-for-2 on the power play while Northland went 0-for-4.

The concluding game of the series began in the early afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 13, again at the Bay Area Civic Center. Invigorated by the previous night’s win and the fresh northern air, the Vikings had no trouble putting the puck in the net right out of the gate. Junior Ryan Robertson and sophomore Jake Roeper picked up assists after delivering the puck to freshman Josh Koepplinger, who scored the first goal of the game exactly a minute in.

After 19 scoreless minutes and an intermission, the second period saw the bulk of the action on Saturday. Northland got on the board 1:47 into the second period, and the Vikings were not able to retaliate until the 15:32 mark. King scored Lawrence’s second and final goal off assists from Engler and Felan. Unlike Friday, however, the Vikings were unable to hold onto the lead or pull further ahead. The Lumberjacks found the net 1:52 before the end of the second period to tie the game. A scoreless third period sent the game to a scoreless five-minute overtime. The Vikings settled for a tie, which earned each team one point for the night.

Northland again outshot Lawrence 36-31, although the third period and overtime were both dominated by the Vikings. Soderqvist recorded 34 saves on Saturday to the Lumberjacks’ 29 and picked up the NCHA Defensive Player of the Week honor for the second week in a row. The Vikings went 0-for-3 on the power play and Northland went 0-for-2.

Last weekend brought the Vikings to a total of 17 points, still trailing the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) Raiders (14-8-1, 9-8-1 NCHA) at 19, but comfortably ahead of Northland at 13. This weekend MSOE will face St. Norbert College (Green Knights) (19-2-2, 15-2-1 NCHA), who with 31 points are first in the NCHA North Division and remain in the No. 1 spot nationally this week as well. No. 14 College of St. Scholastica continues to hold the second spot in the North Division with 25 points. No. 3 Adrian College and No. 11 Marian University hold first and second in the South Division with 31 and 27 points, respectively.

To finish up the regular season, Lawrence will face Lake Forest College (Foresters) (9-14, 7-11 NCHA) in a crucial home-and-home series this weekend. The Foresters, like the Vikings, are fighting for a playoff run. Tied with Concordia University Wisconsin (Falcons) (10-11-2, 6-10-2 NCHA) for third in the NCHA South Division with 14 points, the Foresters need the points just as much as the Vikings to earn that final playoff spot in their division.

Concordia faces Northland this weekend, and Lake Forest must do as well or better than the Falcons in this weekend’s series to have a shot at playoffs. The Vikings, on the other hand, need to get at least two points to tie MSOE—provided the Raiders get swept by the Green Knights, which is not necessarily a given. In the case of a tie, a head-to-head is the first tiebreaker to decide who gets to move on. In this case, that tiebreaker should go to Lawrence, who beat and tied MSOE in their series earlier this month, coming out with the advantage.

The puck will drop at 7 p.m. at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse in Lake Forest on Friday, Feb. 19, and at the same time on Friday, Feb. 20, at the Appleton Family Ice Center.

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