The Lawrence University men’s hockey team split their last regular season series against the Lake Forest College Foresters. The Vikings fell 5-2 on Feb. 17 at Lake Forest, Ill., and then won 2-1 on senior night, Feb. 18, at the Appleton Family Ice Center. Lawrence heads into the playoffs, finishing the regular season with an overall record of 12-10-3, with an 11-6-3 record in Midwest Collegiate Hockey Associate play.
After a scoreless first period in the Feb. 17 game, Lake Forest scored two goals at home in the first 12 minutes of the second period to grab the lead. Lawrence answered back when junior forward Phil Bushbacher, a transfer student from Lake Forest College, scored his 10th goal of the season off a pass from senior defenseman Jameson Raymond.
However, just over a minute later, the Foresters scored again. Trailing 3-1, senior forward Sam Johnson scored an unassisted goal with less than two minutes remaining in the period.
The Vikings headed into the third period only trailing by a goal. Unfortunately, the Foresters dominated the third as they scored twice and clinched the victory. Despite the goal differential, the Foresters only held a 46-43 shots on goal advantage over the Vikings, but those extra three shots proved to be the difference.
With that loss, Lawrence fell into second place, and the Marian University Sabres clinched the North Division with their weekend sweep of the Concordia University Falcons. Despite losing the first round bye for the upcoming playoffs, the Vikings returned home for their regular season finale and senior night and played very well.
Honoring seven seniors, Jameson Raymond, Ben DiMarco, Jesse Byam-Katzman, Reijo Wahlin, Jon Bellotti, Matt Hughes and Sam Johnson, the Vikings took the ice in front of a great crowd.
Lawrence struck first in the first period when junior forward Brad Scurfield scored off Bellotti’s pass to put the Vikings up 1-0. The scored would remain that way for the rest of the game until the final two minutes of the third period.
However, the game provided other methods of fireworks as both teams were penalized 19 times between the first goal and the second goal, and there were plenty of scuffles in between play. After much physicality, Bushbacher extended the Vikings’ lead when he scored off passes from Scurfield and sophomore defenseman William Thoren.
The Foresters scored with 30 seconds left in the third period to make it a 2-1 game, but the Vikings were able to hold on the rest of the way. Lawrence dominated the shots on goal with a 45-15 advantage.
With the regular season over, the Vikings look ahead to the MCHA playoffs and the opportunity to play for the Harris Cup. After losing the first match against Lake Forest, sophomore forward Huck Saunders commented on how much the seniors mean to the team and how they helped the team rebound after their first lost to Lake Forest. “[The seniors] are great and will do anything to win. They have picked the team up when it has mattered most,” said Saunders.
This is definitely a special senior class. They have gathered 52 wins in their careers, which is the best four-year stretch in school history.
Now Lawrence will start the playoffs by hosting the Finlandia University Lions. In four regular season tilts with the Lions, the Vikings got the best of them in three of those contests. Despite this advantage, anything can happen in the playoffs.
“This weekend being the start of playoffs, a new level of intensity will be reached,” added sophomore forward Nate Scurfield. “In playoff hockey, each team is fighting for its life, and emotions run high. This provides a very exciting atmosphere.”
The Vikings host Finlandia in a two-game quarterfinal. The first game is at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24, and the next at 4 p.m. on Feb. 25, both at the Appleton Family Ice Center.