After a victorious regular season finale against Lake Forest College last weekend, the Lawrence University (Vikings) Men’s Hockey team made the long haul to Duluth, Minn., to take on the College of St. Scholastica (Saints) (15-10-3, 12-7-1 NCHA) in the quarterfinal round of the 2016 Harris Cup Playoffs.
The puck dropped at Mars Lakeview Arena at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and it was all on the line as the first round only consisted of one knockout game. The winner of these 60 minutes of competition would move on to the semifinal round. Just before the halfway mark of the first period, a power play opportunity for the Saints resulted in the first goal of the night and the only goal of the opening period.
Going into the second period down just 1-0, the Vikings were in a solid position to fight for their honor and come back from behind. The Saints put another goal on the board 1:43 into the second period, but the Vikings struck back a mere 14 seconds later when freshman Josh Koepplinger received the puck from junior Ryan Eardley and sent it into the Scholastica net, cutting the lead to 2-1. Unfortunately, the Saints found a rhythm later in the period and scored two more goals in the span of two minutes at 11:15 and 13:06. An ill-fated breakaway brought about a penalty shot for the Saints at 15:03, which they successfully put away to claim a 5-1 lead by the second intermission.
Koepplinger added an unassisted goal, his tenth tally of the season, 2:27 into the third period, but the Vikings were unable to capitalize on any more chances. The Saints found the net one more time at 15:38, again on a power play, bringing the final score to 6-2 and sending the Vikings back to Appleton with a 9-14-3 (8-9-3 NCHA) record for the 2015-2016 season.
The Saints moved on to the quarterfinal round that weekend, taking on Adrian College (23-3-1, 17-2-1 NCHA) in a two-game series Friday and Saturday. Marian University (18-7-3, 15-4-1 NCHA) defeated Concordia University Wisconsin (11-12-3, 7-10-3 NCHA) 3-0 in the South Division quarterfinal to move onto the semifinal round against St. Norbert College (23-2-2, 17-2-1 NCHA). Adrian brought down St. Scholastica 4-2 both nights, and the Green Knights swept the Falcons 4-1 and 5-2.
Adrian and St. Norbert will battle for the title this weekend, convening at Arrington Arena in Adrian, Mich., at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 6. While the Bulldogs sit first in the conference and the Green Knights second, the national rankings tell a slightly different story. St. Norbert is sitting No. 1 and Adrian is No. 2. Both teams are going into the Harris Cup Playoff finals with 35 points and identical conference records. This weekend’s championship series is bound to be an exciting contest to determine who really is number one.