Jeff Braun, Sports Information Director
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It took a lot of toughness and energy, as well as four hours of hockey, for Midland University to advance past Lawrence Technological University on Saturday night in the North American Intercollegiate Hockey Association (NAIHA) Tournament. The two teams battled each other on the ice late into the night until the Warriors broke away in the final period for the 5-3 victory and berth in the national championship game.
“It was a hard fought battle last night,” commented senior defenseman Sam Zwiener. “LTU played well and stuck to their game plan, but we were able to counter it. I couldn’t be more proud of the way the boys came together, especially in the third.”
The trend of physical play with a fair amount of penalties from the previous meetings between Midland and LTU continued over in to the semifinal matchup. During the first period of play the two teams combined for 10 penalties (Midland 3, LTU 7).
Midland was the first to get on the scoreboard with a power-play goal at the 9:11 mark. Drew Carriere was able to slap home the first goal off an assist from Luke Sanko and Cy Jenson. After exchanging penalties for the next handful of minutes the Blue Devils found the back of the net on a breakaway while trying to kill one of their penalties. They scored with 38 seconds left to send the teams to the intermission tied.
In the second the Warrior came out firing, connecting on two goal opportunities in the first seven minutes of play. Matthew Blaszkiewicz scored off a pass from Ryan Conybear and Tyler Gallagher to break the tie just 2:36 seconds into the period. Just under five minutes later it was Colton Jones getting the puck past the defense as he bounce the puck off the back of the LTU defender and past the goalie.
The lead would evaporate once again though as the Blue Devils scored at 9:01 and then again at 12:23. The first was even-strength while the second came with a man advantage. It was only the third goal the Warriors have allowed during 5-on-5 play.
During the second the penalty total rose once again for both teams. Midland University was whistled for five penalties while Lawrence Tech added four to their total. The Blue Devils were continuing with their game plan of physical play to wear the Warriors down physically and mentally. However, they seemed to be the ones to wear down in the third.
In the final period Midland stayed out of the box while Lawrence Tech was sent to the sin bin four times in the final 10 minutes of play. In total they were whistled for 15 penalties, nearly double that of Midland (8).
The Warriors took advantage of the miscues and mental lapses by their opponents in the third. While they didn’t score on the power play they were able to up a goal just before the start of the string of penalties.
At the 10:45 mark, Zach Voss scored on a one-timer off a pass from Blake Neumann. LTU countered with four straight penalties before Jesse Stepp sealed the win with an unassisted goal with just under three minutes to go in the game.
Sean Kelley earned the win in net for Midland. He stopped
“It was a collective effort to get the win last night, and it will take another collective effort again today,” Zwiener added. “We have a special group of guys in the locker room. A total of 12 seniors, I know that we want nothing more than to come away with this.”
Midland will look to cap off a special year on Sunday afternoon in the NAIHA Championship game. The Warriors will take on Indiana Tech at approximately 4:00 p.m. inside the Ford Ice Center in Nashville.