Lions drop second game of weekend, but make playoffs

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Finlandia’s Kendall Bolen-Porter fights for a puck behind the St. Norbert net during a game Saturday at the Houghton County Arena.

HANCOCK — The Finlandia men’s hockey team (8-14-2 overall, 6-9-2 NCHA) was in the locker room on Friday night when they learned that they are headed to the NCHA Harris Cup playoffs for the first time since 2012.

“We found out after our game against St. Norbert in Green Bay that St. Scholastica lost (to Marian),” said coach Joe Burcar. We heard the score and it was pretty exciting. This (hockey) program hasn’t been in the playoffs for years.”

With the St. Scholastica loss, the Lions were able to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in the NCHA North. Their reward will be another trip to Green Bay to face St. Norbert (17-4-3 overall, 13-3-1 NCHA) on Friday and Saturday.

The team who wins two games will advance to the the next semi-final round. The Lions and the Green Knights will play on Friday night and Saturday night. If, after Saturday’s night game, they are tied at one game apiece they will play a “short game” of 20 minutes following Saturday’s game.

The Lions have their work cut out for them as the Green Knights are the defending national champions and are currently ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Finlandia also just lost back-to-back games with them over the past weekend. On Friday, the Lions lost 3-1. St. Norbert came out quick and scored just 53 seconds after the puck drop. However, Finlandia came back to tie the game in the opening minutes of the third only to have the Green Knights score twice before the clock ran out.

On Saturday, it was a different story as they lost 8-1. According to Burcar, the team the has fought hard all year did not show up to play a full game of hockey.

“We had a bad night against the defending national champs,” he said. “This game doesn’t explain us. On Friday, we played them for a full 60 minutes. Tonight we played them for around one period. You cannot do that against such a good team.”

Saturday did not start out bad as Finlandia skating hard and pushing the puck up the ice. They put the first tally on the board while on the power play at 4:14 into the first.

Teddy Randell found the back of the net off a pass from Conner Hannon and Dawson Kero, who made his first career start.

Both teams continued to play hard. St. Norbert’s came back to even the score at the 12:54 mark when Roman Uchyn took a pass at the top of the crease from Dominick Sacco and lifted it past Dawson Kero.

After the first period the score stood at 1-1.

However, the Green Knights picked up the pace to start the second as Sacco slapped one past Kero just 46 second into the period.

It was downhill from there for the Lions as the Green Knights dominated the ice for the majority of the second. Peter Bates got the next two goals for the Green Knights. The first came on a power play as the Lion’s Corey Richardson was sent to the penalty box for slashing. His next one came off a shot from Kurt Black that was rolling around the crease and he was able to push the deflection into the back of the net.

After 40 minutes of play, the Green Knights led 5-1.

In the third, St. Norbert went on to score three more times. Uchyn had two goals in a row to start and Keegan Mulligan fired a shot off from the slot that was St. Norbert’s final tally.

Finlandia’s starting goalie, Kero, allowed seven goals and had 18 saves. He was replaced with less than 10 minutes to play in the third by sophomore Santeri Seppinen who allowed one goal and made two saves.

At the other end of the ice, starter T.J. Black played for 49 minutes allowing one goal and 23 saves. He was replaced in the third by Ryan Bontorin who made seven saves.

St. Norbert coach Tim Coughlin did not take Saturday’s game lightly.

“We approached this game just as we have every other game said Coughlin. “We played this group of guys pretty consistently the last nine games. I liked what i saw in the second period as our leaders stepped up and it escalated from there.”

He added that he will follow this line-up next weekend as well.

As for Burcar, he and the Lions will work on playing a complete game.

“At this time of year, you cannot take a shift off,” he said. “We have to rebound and we will.

Finlandia 1 0 0 – 1

St. Norbert 1 4 3 – 8

First period

1, FU, Teddy Randell (Connor Hannon, Dawson Kero), PP, 4:14

2, SN, Roman Uchyn (Dominick Sacco, Brad Pung), 12.54

Second period

3, SN, Sacco (Uchyn, Pung), :46

4, SN, Peter Bates (Pung, Peyton Frantti), PP, 6:06

5, SN, Bates (Kurt Black, Frantti), 8:25

6, SN, Pung (Bates, Luke Davison), PP, 10:25

Third period

7, SN, Uchyn (Riley Christensen, Chase Mickelson), 6:35

8, SN, Uchyn (Brendon Gysbergs, Pung), PP, 10:15

9, SN, Keegan Milligan (Mickelson), 15:12

Saves

SN, Black 9 10 4 – 23

Bontorin 0 0 7 – 7

FU, Kero 7 9 2 – 18

Seppinen 0 0 2 – 2

Power plays

SN: 3/6; FU: 1/3

Penalties

SN: 4/8; FU: 8/27

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