MAC Hockey Round-Up: WMU Continues to Rise, Miami Continues to Fall

UMass might be in trouble unless they can turn things around, and get some help from above. - UMass Media File

With two MAC teams off last weekend, Western Michigan and Miami both took on the NCHC spotlight. One team rose, while another continued to slide further down the rankings.

The Western Michigan Broncos continue to roll through the second half of the season, with former #3 St. Cloud State their latest victim.

Heading on the road to one of the best teams in the nation is already pretty difficult, but when the Broncos fell down 4-1 early in the 2nd period, things looked bleak for the team that hadn't lost since a trip to Minnesota-Duluth before the Winter Break.

But they stood tall and chipped away at the lead. A Mike Cichy power-play goal narrowed the deficit to 2. Shortly after, Shane Berschbach found the back of the net to cut the lead down to just a single goal. Captain Chase Balisy tied the game up 3 minutes later on his 5th goal of the season. So within 8 minutes, the Bronco offense eliminated a 3-goal deficit on the road against a team that last season made it to their first Frozen Four in program history.

Even after a Nic Dowd power-play goal mid-way through the 3rd period gave the Huskies the lead back, Western Michigan failed to concede, with Balisy again coming through late to tie the game up at 5-5, forcing overtime.

After both teams failed to net the winning goal, they were both awarded a hard-earned point with a shoot-out to decide the crucial 2nd point. Justin Kovacs used slick moves to score on Ryan Faragher's 5-hole to lead off the shoot-out, and Lukas Hafner, who replaced last week's hero Frank Slubowski in the 1st period after Slubowski saved just 1 shot on 4 attempts, came up big, stopping all 3 Huskie attempts to earn the win.

Hafner would get the nod again the next night, and would duel Faragher in a low scoring affair, as both would concede a goal in the first period, but would stand tall most of the rest of the way.

Even though the Huskies peppered the sophomore with shots, Hafner made 32 saves, while Faragher would make 17 as his defense held the Bronco offense in check. However, Shane Berschbach's 10th goal of the season would give the Broncos a 2-1 lead late in the 3rd.

But the drama didn't end there.

With about 2 minutes to go, a delayed call led to a St. Cloud extra-attacker chance. The Huskies would fire a shot on Hafner, having him beat, but the referees lost sight of the puck, and blew their whistle. However, the puck would trickle across the goal-line shortly after for what appeared to be the tying goal. After conferring, the officials determined that the whistle did blow before the goal was scored, and ruled the puck frozen with a face-off to come.

You make the call (1:10 mark). . .

With the 5 points on the weekend, the Broncos still sit in 5th place, but just sit a game out of 1st place, still held by St. Cloud State. The clutter at the top should create for some exciting hockey in the next two weeks, as each team tries to fight for a home series in the NCHC Quarter-finals.

The Broncos are off this weekend before hosting Minnesota-Duluth next weekend.

Miami's Woes Continue, This Time At Home

Miami can't seem to catch a break.

A week after being swept by Western Michigan and falling out of the rankings, the RedHawks again struggled to snag a victory in a home series against Nebraska-Omaha.

On Friday, Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead mid-way through the 2nd period after Austin Czarnik, who missed Saturday's game against WMU with an apparent concussion, scored his 10th goal of the season. However, that lead would stand just 42 seconds before the Mavericks closed the gap to 1. A power-play goal mid-way through the 3rd period would tie the game up and both teams would head to the shoot-out.

Unlike the WMU/SCSU shoot-out, fans got a lot of action, as both teams battled back and forth. Austin Czarnik would give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead, but Ryan McKay would be unable to stop Josh Archibald in the 3rd round, forcing extra rounds. Both teams would score in the 5th round, and Sean Kuraly, who was red-hot last weekend, gave Miami a 3-2 lead in the 7th round. McKay would stop Michael Young (not the baseball player) for the 2nd point.

However, the celebration was short-lived as the Mavericks proceeded out pound Miami the next night.

Devin Loe would give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead just 1:24 into the 2nd period, but Archibald would net a hat trick in a span of 21:36 after the mid-way point en route to a 5-1 victory.

Miami has now only won 2 games since defeating Wisconsin on November 14th. They sit a point above Colorado College at the bottom of the NCHC and are 3 games behind Western Michigan, who sit in 5th. However, a trip to the Tigers may fix their woes, but the spark seems to be gone from the team that at one point was ranked #1 in the nation.

Bowling Green Sits Tight, Sees WCHA Race Get Tight

While the Falcons were off this past weekend, they surely were paying close attention to the Ferris State-Minnesota State series. Coming into the weekend, the Mustangs were 3rd in the WCHA, a point behing BGSU, while the Bulldogs were bullying the rest of the conference, sitting 2.5 games above Bowling Green with an astounding 4 games in hand.

However, in a very fierce series, Minnesota State swept Ferris to move just a game behind the Bulldogs, but still conceding 2 games. Bowling Green sits 3 points (1.5 games) behind Minnesota State, and returns to action this weekend against Lake Superior State, at home.

UMass Gets No Love

Welp, the Minutemen got downed by American-International last Tuesday and haven't played since. They need help or need to get hot to make the Hockey East tournament, but would likely face a very tough team on the road if that were to happen. With 9 games left, they probably will need to start planning for the future, but we'll see what happens. They play a home-and-home series with last place Merrimack this weekend.

Full standings below with rankings as they apply (RV = receiving votes, not applicable if not ranked in either poll). . .

WCHA
Rank Team GP W L T Pts
1 #6 Ferris State 16 12 2 2 26
2 Minnesota State 18 12 6 0 24
3 Bowling Green 18 9 6 3 21
4 Alaska-Anchorage 18 8 7 3 19
5 Bemidji State 18 7 7 4 18
6 Northern Michigan 14 7 6 1 15
7 Alaska 18 6 10 2 14

Lake Superior State 18 7 9 0 14

Michigan Tech 18 5 7 4 14
10 Alabama-Huntsville 16 1 14 1 3

NCHC
Rank Team GP W L T (SOW) Pts
1 #5 St. Cloud State 12 7 3 2 (0) 23
2 #18/RV North Dakota 12 7 5 0 (0) 21

#16/RV Denver 12 6 4 2 (1) 21

Nebraska-Omaha 12 6 4 2 (1) 21
5 #19/RV Western Michigan 12 6 5 1 (1) 20
6 Minnesota-Duluth 12 5 6 1 (1) 17
7 Miami 12 3 8 1 (1) 11
8 Colorado College 12 2 7 3 (1) 10

Hockey East
Rank Team GP W L T Pts
1 #2 Boston College 13 11 1 1 23
2 #11 Northeastern 12 7 4 1 15
3 #7 Providence 11 6 4 1 13
4 #20/NR Maine 10 5 3 2 12
5 #8 UMass-Lowell 8 5 3 1 11
6 New Hampshire 10 5 5 0 10
7 #17/RV Vermont 10 4 6 0 8
8 #15 Notre Dame 9 3 5 1 7
9 Massachusetts 11 2 7 2 6
10 Boston University 10 2 7 1 5
11 Merrimack 9 1 6 2 4
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