HANCOCK - More gratifying than the result for Finlandia men's hockey coach John McCabe was the improvement his team displayed Saturday.
After a 6-3 loss to Milwaukee School of Engineering Friday night, McCabe challenged the Lions' ability to work for 60 minutes - they out shot MSOE 29-28 Saturday. He demanded more disciplined defensive zone coverage - they spent the entire third period clearing rebounds and transitioning successfully through the neutral zone.
With the more determined performance, FU scored a 4-3 final for their first win of the season, against the No. 7 team in Division III no less.
Finlandia sophomore defenseman Travis Armstrong clears an MSOE dump-in attempt in the second period Saturday. The Lions scored three goals in the second frame after an initial one-goal deficit and won 4-3. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
So the result was pretty nice, too.
"That is a big win for our confidence and for this hockey program," McCabe said. "That is a very good hockey team. We did a lot of good things tonight and we committed to the game plan and we were rewarded with two points for the effort."
Finlandia went down a goal early in a here-we-go-again backhand score from MSOE forward Evan Wilson, who was allowed to skate unimpeded deep into the slot 6:34 into the game.
MSOE 1 2 0 - 3
Finlandia 0 3 1 - 4
First period - 1, MSOE, Evan Wilson 2 (Kevin Medina, Kevin LoGiudice). 6:34. Penalties - FU, Mike Montrose (holding), 11:52; MSOE, Michael Thompson (holding), 19:36.
Second period - 2, FU, Collin Saint-Onge 1 (Ryan Bradley, Travis Armstrong), 1:49; 3, FU, Sean Burke 1 (Saint-Onge, Mike Montrose), 8:08; 4, Saint-Onge 2 (Montrose, Burke), 10:54; 5, MSOE, Steven Shaffroth 1 (Kyle Smith, Austin Gosvenor), 11:45; 6, MSOE, Cody Ganchar 2 (Bradley Tierney, Michael Thompson), 14:08. Penalties - MSOE, Wilson (boarding), 9:09; FU, Andrew Huckleby (interference), 13:00; MSOE, Nathan Brunk (roughing), 18:26; FU, Ryan Bradley (obstruction interference), 18:55.
Third period - 7, FU, Justin Scott 2 (Travis Armstrong, Colin Minardi), 11:29. Penalties - FU, Alex Heinonen (tripping), 1:49; FU, Heinonen (hooking), 14:25.
Goaltending - MSOE, Nick Kohn (29 shots, 25 saves); FU, Troy Chandler (28 shots, 25 saves).
But the Lions settled down after the early tally, and responded with vigor in the second period.
FU forward Collin Saint-Onge evened the game with a scrappy, even-strength rebound goal less than two minutes into the second frame, coming just as the Finlandia power play was coming to a close.
Sean Burke gave the Lions the lead just over six minutes later when he snapped a wrist shot top shelf after Saint-Onge won a faceoff in the MSOE zone.
Saint-Onge capped the surge with a picture-perfect tipped-shot score as defenseman Mike Montrose fired a shot from the blue line on a man-advantage situation. Finlandia finished 1-for-3 in power-play situations for the game (with the initial goal coming one second after the man-advantage ended) and 2-for-6 for the weekend. The special teams goals were especially gratifying for McCabe after spending much of the week's practice on power play movement.
"We just knew we needed to have more movement on the power play," McCabe said. "Guys needed to cycle and then we needed to commit to getting the puck to the net."
MSOE is ranked No. 7 in the nation for a reason, however, and tied the game up late in the second period on two tallies where FU goaltender Troy Chandler failed to kick the initial shot away from his net.
Raiders forward Steven Shaffroth was gifted an easy goal as the puck sat in the crease when Chandler lost sight of Kyle Smith's shot from the point and Cody Ganchar scored on a power play when Bradley Tierney's shot kicked out to him in the slot.
Finlandia stayed composed, however, and enjoyed a little puck luck.
Justin Scott scored the winner midway through the third period with an impossible-angle shot from the end line that somehow snuck through MSOE goaltender Nick Kohn's pad.
"You do need a little bit of puck luck, but that comes with doing things right," McCabe said. "It was a good dump, we got the puck deep and then we put the puck on net and we were rewarded."
After giving up two goals late in the third period Friday, the Lions skated with more energy Saturday.
MSOE put 12 shots on net in the third period, but was mostly held to one-shot and done shifts.
"We tried to buckle down defensively," McCabe said. "And I thought we were a lot better in our defensive zone and in getting pucks out and pucks deep also.
"It really is a five-man commitment. Everyone has to have their man in the defensive zone otherwise teams like this are too good if you don't 'D' up and play strong defense."