The Lawrence University Men’s Hockey team is in a place it hasn’t found itself much: first place. The Vikings added to their success last weekend with a sweep of Northland College.On Friday the Vikings and the Lumberjacks each dominated one of the first two periods.
The Vikings opened the scoring with Ryan Blick’s 12th goal of the year. After a Lumberjack goal, and Andy Rozanski’s ninth on the year, Blick added number 13 on the power play. The Vikings led 3-1 after the first period.
The second period was all Northland. They scored three goals in the second, including MCHA Freshman of the Week Ryan Pott’s second of the game. The Lumberjacks led 4-3 going into the third, but the Vikings would dominate again in the third period.
Captain and MCHA Player of the Week Matt Melchiori scored the game-tying goal about three minutes into the third period. It was his eighth of the season.
Then seven minutes later he found Mike Burkhart for his ninth of the year, and what would be the game-winning goal. Brad Barton added an insurance goal with four minutes left, and the Vikings escaped with a 6-4 win.
The next afternoon, the Vikings started slow, but again busted out big in the third period. Paul Melchiori started the scoring for the Vikings in the first period. His brother, Matt, had one of his two assists for the game on this goal.
The eventual game winning-goal would be scored on a fluke goal in the second period. The Vikings were shorthanded, and Mike Kennedy was just dumping the puck down into the Lumberjack end. Unfortunately, the puck flew past Northland goalie Andrew Kragness and into the goal to put the Vikings up 2-0.
In the third the Vikings scored three goals in a span of five minutes to coast to the win. Scoring for the Vikings was Andy Link, Paul Melchiori with his second of the game, and Aaron Graber. MCHA Goalie of the Week Daniel Ljung also led the Vikings. His two wins bring his record on the year to 8-7.
The sweep puts the Vikings back on top of the MCHA and sets up a critical series this weekend for the Vikings. They will host second place Marian at the Appleton Family Ice Center this weekend.
Captain Melchiori put it this way, “We have to play our best two games of the season. Since we beat Marian earlier in the year they’ve improved quite a bit.” The Vikings split a series with the Sabres earlier in the year down in Fond du Lac.
The Sabres are trailing the Vikings by one point in the MCHA standings, but have two games in hand. That is why this series is so big for the Vikings.
Melchiori likes his chances this weekend. “But if we play up to our ability, we should be able to come out of this weekend with a couple of wins,” he says. “We will need all four of our lines to play soliddefense and hopefully we can get a few goals from every line this weekend. If that happens we will win.”
The Vikings are having their best season in school history this year. Their win over Northland Saturday set a new record for most wins in a season. Melchiori feels as though the team has gelled together this year more then in the past.
“I think the main reason we are succeeding this year is that everyone is willing to work much harder this year than in years past, and we are more focused on our goals for the season,” he says. “We are winning the games we are supposed to win.”
After this weekend’s series against Marian, the team will have a series against MSOE and a non-conference series against Minnesota school Hamline University.
Melchiori is confident about they way the Vikings will play down the stretch and its playoff implications:
“We have six regular season games left, and we would like to win out. That will give us the conference championship and the number one seed in the conference tournament. From there we will work towards the goal we’ve been working on all season: Lawrence’s first MCHA tournament championship.”
The Vikings would like the first seed, because that will assure them a first round matchup against either MSOE or Northland, who they have dominated this season. A second place finish means a first round game against UM-Crookston, the host school of the MCHA tournament and a team the Vikings have split with twice this season.
The games this weekend will be Friday and Saturday night at the Appleton Family Ice Center, with face-off at 7:30 p.m. both nights.