Lions hit road after strong showing to open 2019

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Finlandia’s Blake Peavey (27) attempts to drive through a pair of Lake Forest defenders during a game Saturday at the Houghton County Arena.

APPLETON — The Finlandia Lions men’s hockey team nearly had a great weekend to open 2019 with a 2-1 win over a very solid Aurora Spartans squad, which had only lost one game in NCHA play before Friday, and then a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Lake Forest Foresters, a team that had tied St. Norbert Friday, on Saturday.

Lions coach Joe Burcar was pleased with the effort, but was also reasonably disappointed with the mental errors that led to two of the three goals the Foresters scored Saturday, including the game-winner.

“Overall, it was a good weekend,” he said. “It was a shame because it was our breakdown. We played well Friday night. I thought we did a really good job for six periods of hockey.

“I think sometimes your guys want it so bad they kind of forget what they had done to get there.”

Friday, the Lions got goals from sophomore forward Connor Hannon and senior winger Paul Lochner.

For Lochner, the goal, which stood as the game-winner, was his first of the season. He had played in just two games this season prior to Friday, but Burcar was really happy to see the veteran rewarded for working his way into the lineup and contributing in such a big way.

“For him, it was bittersweet because he transferred from there,” said Burcar of Lochner. “He was hurt the first half of the season. He has worked extremely hard to get back into the lineup.”

Hannon’s goal was his third of the season. After struggling without a point in seven contests and also missing time due to injury, Hannon has three points in his last three games.

Burcar and his staff moved Hannon to wing alongside sophomore center Hunter Kero and freshman winger Teddy Randell. The trio showed moments of dominance, and Randell found Hannon with a well-placed pass for a 4-on-4 goal Friday.

The Lions may have also found a solid second unit with captain Alex Rezansoff, junior center Blake Peavey and senior winger Bryce Mitzel, who buzzed goaltenders throughout the weekend. Rezansoff scored his second of the season on the power play Saturday.

“We had balance this weekend,” said Burcar. “The scoring is balanced. We are starting other lines that can contribute.”

Sophomore goaltender Marcus Gloss also had a strong weekend with 39 saves against the Spartans and another 25 in the loss to the Foresters. Against Aurora, Gloss made a number of saves on shots from the slot during an eight-minute stretch to start the second period that made the difference in the contest.

“Marcus has just been that guy throughout our season that, when the rest of the team is not having their best moments, he’s been able to keep the game tight, shut down the opponent until we get back on track,” said Burcar.

With 416 saves on the season, Gloss’ total is the fourth-highest in the country at this point in the season.

This weekend, the Lions hit the road to take on a pair of North Division opponents in the Lawrence Vikings and the Marian Sabres. The Lions, who surrendered the only win the Vikings have in conference this season, are looking for some redemption against Lawrence Friday before taking another swing at the Sabres Saturday.

The Vikings (4-10-1 overall, 2-5-1 NCHA) are 3-2-1 in their last six games. Senior Josh Koepplinger leads the way offensively with two goals and eight points in 15 games. Freshman Vincent Dekumbis and junior Jake Drinkard are tied with a team-high four goals.

Junior Evan Cline has gone 3-7-1 in 12 appearances in goal with a 2.78 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.

The Sabres (7-6-2 overall, 5-3-0 NCHA) are 1-4-1 in their last six games, but two of those losses came to St. Norbert and Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Junior Conner Blanck (4-7=11) and junior Nick Monfis (6-5=11) lead the Sabres in scoring. Monfis’ six goals are a team-high as well.

Senior Jake Howie is also off to a great start with three goals and 10 points.

Junior Hunter Vorva has gone 6-5-2 in 13 appearances between the pipes this season. He sports a 2.15 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

GAME TIMES

The Lions and Vikings faceoff Friday at 8 p.m. at the Appleton Family Ice Center. The Lions will face the Sabres at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Line Family Ice Center.

WOMEN RETURN TO ACTION

After a tough weekend that saw the Lions women’s hockey team lose to Wisconsin-Superior 4-1 and 10-1, the Lions will host a two-exhibition series this weekend against Sault College. The Lions and Cougars will play at 7 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Houghton County Arena.

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