After splitting their series with Northland College on Feb. 10 and 11, the Lawrence University Hockey team was still sitting in fourth place in the division standings four points behind Northland. To qualify for the playoffs, the Vikings would have to take over third place, meaning that they needed to win their final two regular season games while Northland had to lose both of their games. These were the stakes as the Vikings headed into potentially their last two games of the season against Lake Forest on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18. The six seniors of this year’s team were also honored on Friday as it was their last home competition as Vikings.
The first period of Friday’s match-up at the Appleton Family Ice Center was relatively quiet until the 14:08 mark when sophomore Josh Koepplinger found the back of the net giving the Vikings the 1-0 lead. Koepplinger was assisted by junior Blake Roubos and junior Lane King. The Vikings added another goal at the 10:01 mark of the second period taking advantage of the one-man advantage and converting the power play. Freshman Carson Knop scored the goal to give the Vikings the 2-0 lead, and he was assisted by fellow freshmen Matt Beranek and Daniel Gysi. However, Lake Forest came alive in the second half of the period scoring at the 15:16 and 18:48 marks to even the score at 2-2. The third period featured no goals by either side so the game went into overtime. Needing to win the game to keep their playoff chances alive, Lawrence pulled their goalie with less than a minute left in the overtime period. Lake Forest took advantage of the empty net scoring the game winning goal with just one second remaining. The 3-2 loss ended the Vikings playoff chances. Despite the loss, freshman Evan Cline had a strong performance in goal making 44 saves.
The rematch at Lake Forest proved to be a more difficult game for the Vikings. Lake Forest got out to an early 2-0 lead scoring twice in a span just over a minute as they found the back of the net at the 4:48 and 5:51 marks of the first period. They then extended their lead over the Vikings to 3-0 on a power play goal at the 16:22 mark of the first period. Lake Forest continued their dominant performance into the second period, wasting no time as they scored their fourth goal of the game at the 1:23 mark. The Vikings only goal of the game came at the 5:11 mark when Roubos converted the power play cutting Lake Forest’s lead to 4-1. He was assisted by Koepplinger. Lake Forest extended their lead one more time before the end of the second period on a power play goal at the 16:22 mark. The final Lake Forest goal came at the 3:32 mark of the third period and they would go on to win the game 6-1. The end of the game got ugly as there were 18 penalties within the final nine minutes of the game. Senior Mattias Söderqvist ended his career as a Viking making 28 saves in goal.
The Vikings ended the season with an overall record of 6-16-3 and a 5-12-3 record in the NCHA. They finished in fourth place in their division, six points out of the playoffs. Even with the disappointing end of missing the playoffs, the team is excited about the direction they are headed in the future. This year’s freshman class has already made an impact so the team is hopeful that this will lead to success in the next few years. That being said, this year’s seniors will leave some big shoes to fill.