It was all chalk in this weekend’s WCHA quarterfinals, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some exciting series.
Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Ferris State will be playing in Grand Rapids, Mich., in next weekend’s Final Five — the same group that played in St. Paul last season.
Here’s what happened (and let the record show: None of the WCHA games this weekend went to overtime! And there were only two shutouts!):
1. Mavericks, Falcons need three
Both Minnesota State and Bowling Green needed three games to fend of the pesky Lakers of Lake Superior State and Beavers of Bemidji State.
Let’s start with the third-seeded Falcons, who played the weirdest series of the playoffs. The Beavers won 3-1 Friday when they scored at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded to win the special teams battle. On Saturday, though, the Falcons turned the tables, as they scored four power play goals on the nation’s fourth-best penalty kill then added two empty netters to win 7-2.
On Sunday, BG’s Chris Nell stopped 35 shots and the Falcons benefited from a pair of goal reviews — won that upheld one of their goals and another that called back one of the Beavers — to win an entertaining 3-1 finale.
The Mavericks, the No. 2 seed, survived on Friday after scoring two goals in the third period to win 5-2. On Saturday, though, Gordon Defiel took over. The sophomore goaltender stopped a ridiculous 57 shots — a record for a WCHA goaltender in a regulation game — as LSSU stole a 2-0 win and forced game 3.
MSU only took 32 shots on Defiel on Sunday but scored three times as they punched their ticket to the Final Five for the fourth consecutive season.
2. Michigan Tech wins big, then scrapes by to advance
Right now, it looks like the top-seeded Huskies are the only league team that even has a chance at an at-large bid. This weekend, they took two steps forward with a sweep of Alaska but only one game was easy.
Tech had played the Nanooks two weeks ago and swept them, but 6-5 regulation and 3-2 overtime victory. On Friday, they eased to a 7-1 win behind four points from Cliff Watson (a goal and three assist) and two goals from Joel L’Esperance, but on Saturday the fans in Houghton might have been feeling some deja vu. The Huskies had a 4-1 lead before the Nanooks cut it to 4-3 with second-period power play goals by Tyler Morley and Marcus Basara. Tech didn’t seal the deal until Malcolm Gould’s empty-netter with 35 seconds to play.
3. Wildcats fumble their chance
Ferris State swept Northern Michigan 3-2 and 5-2 but the Wildcats will likely be kicking themselves for letting a few chances slip away.
NMU rallied from a 2-0 deficit on Friday with a pair of third-period goals from Dominik Shine and Shane Sooth, but the Bulldogs’ Kyle Schempp scored the game-winner with 7 minutes to play and held on.
On Saturday night, though, the Wildcats had a chance to extend it to three games but two game misconduct calls cost them the game. Shine (their leading goal-scorer) was sent off in the second period, but NMU took a 2-1 lead with 14 minutes to play.
They couldn’t hold it. Ryan Trenz was sent off for checking from behind with 6:13 to go and Gerard Mayhew scored two power play goals in a span of 30 seconds to give the Bulldogs the lead. They added two more empty netters to escape to Grand Rapids again.
4. The matchups
This isn’t exactly a fourth thing, but here are the matchups: No. 1 Michigan Tech will take on No. 4 Ferris State and No. 2 Minnesota State vs. No. 3 Bowling Green. The league will determine later this week which game will start at which time, but they’re scheduled to start at 4:07 and 7 :37 p.m. EDT at Van Andel Arena.
And in case you were wondering: Both Tech/Ferris and MSU/BG should be pretty fun. The Huskies and Bulldogs split their season series (with each team winning one at home and one on the road), but that was way back in October so it’s should be entertaining and unpredictable. The Falcons and Mavs tied twice in Ohio and split their series in Mankato.
One thing for certain: Because nobody is guaranteed an at-large bid, it should be three wide-open, back-and-forth hockey games between four desperate, hungry teams.