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This week in the WCHA RinkRap, we saw an absurd number of goals scored, Bowling Green got back on track after a nail-biter, and we may have just heard the quote of the year from Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan.
Here’s everything you need to know from the weekend.
WCHA Goal Barrage Friday Night
As the WCHA calendar flipped to February last week, teams began singing a new refrain on an old tune: “What a Difference a Month Makes . . . ” Of the four league games Friday night, three had 10 or more total goals scored, and Bowling Green-Anchorage combined for nine. Some of the goals were of the sensational variety including Ashton Calder for Lake State and Will Cullen of Bowling Green, who both lit the lamp with brilliant individual efforts.
Lake Superior rang up a season-high seven goals at Michigan Tech, while Bowling Green’s fifth goal came in overtime, giving them their first home victory since December 6, breaking a maddening 0-5-1 slump at the Slater Family Arena. Three times the Falcons fell behind the Seawolves, and three times they answered, as Taylor Schneider, Jacob Dalton, and Cameron Wright all stanched the bleeding.
“We did a lot of good things,” said Falcons first-year coach Ty Eigner. “We came from behind three times and our power play [2/4] was really good.”
Six different Nanooks scored down in Dixie Friday, including two goals within 18 seconds late in the third period to tie up Alabama Huntsville. The 13th goal of the night was scored during three-on-three overtime, so Tyler Cline’s second of the night will only count in the collective memory, but not the scoresheet.
Minnesota State swarmed then-No. 15 Northern Michigan 7-3 Friday, chasing Wildcats goalie Nolan Kent late in the second period after the sophomore was scorched with his fourth goal against. Twice Northern Michigan scored to climb back into the game, only to see the Mavericks answer in less than 30 seconds.
“Any time the momentum started to go the other side, we answered,” said Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings. “It ignited the crowd.”
The Mavericks got a pair of goals Friday night from Jared Spooner, the ninth-leading scorer on the No. 3-ranked Mavericks, a man known more for his intangibles that his nose for the net.
“He had an incredible impact on the game,” said Hastings, who patiently waits for the return of leading scorer Marc Michaelis.
Finding the back of the net cures a lot of hockey ills, especially when it leads to victories. February represents the dog days of a season, with players often battling burnout. Having a dozen teammates sharing space on the scoresheet makes it fun to come to the rink; offensive production is the carrot that feeds the horses.
On Saturday, the coaches restored law and order to the WCHA games, as 25 fewer goals were scored. Dryden McKay and Gustavs Grigals pitched shutouts for Minnesota State and Alaska, respectively, and fans downshifted their delirium from the night before. Lake Superior State only netted three goals a day later, losing in overtime to Michigan Tech. But their seven-goal onslaught Friday propelled them to the MacInnes Cup trophy, which is based on total goals over the two games.
Last Friday may have been an anomaly, but having a slate of games that averaged over 10 goals each is a welcome tonic for the fans who might appreciate defense, but love to bask in the glow of red lights.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Over the course of January, Bowling Green had been experiencing a hockey nightmare straight off the pages of Franz Kafka. Try as they might, apparent wins became apparitions, three points in the standings vanishing in the close of third periods and into the netherworld of sudden death. The result was a 1-7-1 record since resuming play December 30, a maddening descent through the WCHA standings and a plunge south in the national PairWise rankings.
Friday night the demons that had been haunting Falcon Hockey Nation appeared right on schedule: while nursing a one-goal lead in the closing seconds against Anchorage, captain Alec Rauhauser ripped a clearing sweep away from the Seawolves forecheck. The puck went high around the endboards, and caught the edge of a stanchion. Instead of rimming out of the zone, it took a freak carom onto the stick of Seawolves forward Tanner Schachle parked at the goal mouth, who calmly deposited the tying goal into the BGSU net with 28 seconds remaining.
Slater Center went numb once again, as Rauhauser watched the enemy celebration with a 1,000-yard stare.
“When it goes off the stanchion and goes in, it felt like our January,” said Rauhauser. “Everybody was thinking, ‘Here we go again.’”
Three minutes later the fates released their grip on this star-crossed club, as the 24-year-old-captain got another puck on his forehand, this time at the attacking blue line. Rauhauser fired a 60-foot seeing-eye wrist shot into the far corner of the net for the sudden death winner. It was now the Falcons turn to celebrate, and exhale, knowing that they had finally shaken their January demons.
“When you go 1-9 in January, most guys are going to be feeling unconfident,” Rauhauser said. “After tonight, guys should be feeling good again. The spirits are pretty high right now.”
Bowling Green ended up sweeping the Wolves, striding six points north in the standings, thrusting themselves back into contention for a home-ice series in the WCHA playoffs. The team currently in that coveted fourth place slot is Alaska Fairbanks, whom fate has slotted as BGSU’s next opponent. It will not be an easy task, playing a slapshot from the Arctic Circle on the unfamiliar Olympic-sized ice sheet in Fairbanks. But thanks to the clutch goal from their captain, the demons of January will be left behind when the Falcons fly north.
Quote of the Year?
Michigan Tech coach Joe Shawhan has been cajoling, pushing, and pleading with his Huskies for offense, trying to get his club to get to the three-goal mark he feels is necessary to win games in this gritty WCHA stretch run. On Friday night he finally got the production he’s been calling for, only to see his defense implode, coughing up a whopping seven goals to Lake State. He expressed his frustration to Dirk Hembroff in the post-game, a ritual that is rapidly becoming must-see TV:
“You don’t walk out of the house and turn the gas on, and then walk in the house and try and light a cigarette. You gotta think common sense.”
Tim Rappleye is the author of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of '78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice. He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.