Lions look for success against Sabres

FOND DU LAC, Wis. — With just two weekends left in their season, the Finlandia Lions men’s hockey team is looking to find a way to break out of a 16-game losing streak that they have been locked in since Nov. 9, 2021, when they defeated Northland College.

The Lions have four games left against the teams that sit just ahead of them in the NCHA standings, and they are looking to earn some conference points over this stretch.

The Lions and Sabres are set to face off at 8 p.m. Friday at the Blue Line Family Ice Center. Puck drop is 5 p.m. Saturday.

Tough senior weekend

Since falling to Adrian 10-0 on Jan. 15, the Lions have played much better hockey. Last weekend, they trailed 2-0 against the Milwaukee School of Engineering on Friday night until captain Tyler Watungwa found the back of the net at 14:34 of the third period. From there, the Lions fought into the game’s final minutes before head coach Joe Burcar pulled goaltender Marcus Gloss with less than a minute remaining. The Raiders scored an empty netter with 22 seconds left to seal the win.

Saturday, the Lions trailed 1-0 in the first period before Flynn Perry evened things at 1-1 at 5:55. Senior winger Sheldon Brett then gave the Lions a 2-1 lead at 17:24.

In the second, the Raiders evened things, and the teams skated 2-2 into the third before the visitors struck again in the early stages.

Freshman defenseman Brendan Erickson evened the game at 3-3 on the power play at 8:03.

The Raiders regained the lead at 11:37 and never looked back, adding a power play goal and an even strength tally nearly 40 seconds later to seal the win.

Burcar liked much of what he saw from his group despite the lack of results in the end.

“I give our players credit,” Burcar said. “I mean, Friday night, it’s an empty net goal. The first goal (came) on a 5-on-3. Their second one was just a terrible turnover by us. So realistically, it’s 2-1, we pull the goalie, and we have a chance.

“Saturday is the same thing. It’s (3-3) with 13 minutes ago in the game, and things completely changed. We were getting under their skin. Then this became a special teams (battle). When you play against a team with 14 seniors, special teams are critical. For the last 13 minutes, it was all special teams. We had our chances. We had our opportunities, but no excuses. We just didn’t capitalize on our chances.”

Sabres uncharacteristically struggling

For the past several seasons, the Marian Sabres have been among the NCHA’s top squads consistently on the men’s side. Last season, they lost in the Harris Cup championship. They returned 18 letterwinners, including Harris Cup MVP Colby Muise and Parker Colley, Nathan Walker and Gianni Vitali, all three of whom made the All-Tournament Team.

However, this season, they are struggling with just one win in 14 league contests for a record of 1-11-2. Their one win came at home against Concordia Wisconsin back on Nov. 20.

They also have a win over Aurora, but it was in a non-conference matchup during a holiday tournament in Superior, Wisconsin, on New Year’s Eve.

“I don’t know what’s going on with Marian,” said Burcar. “I think they’ve had some injuries too. I think they’ve had some guys leave the program, which is uncharacteristically like their team. They’ve been a top team in our league for how many years now? They’re down, so there’s probably a lot of things going on.”

Scouting the Sabres

Colley, a senior, leads the team with seven goals, 12 assists and 19 points in 20 games this season. Freshman Nick Cherkowski has had a good season with five goals and 13 points in 20 games. Sophomore Ty Mosimann also has five goals and 13 points in 19 games. Junior Jack Sampson has 11 assists and 13 points in 16 games.

The Sabres have a freshman forward who is familiar to Copper Country hockey fans. Kingsford native Daunte Fortner has seen action in 10 games and has one assist on the season.

In goal, Muise, a junior, has started 17 of the 18 games he has appeared in. He sports a 3.05 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.


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