Dramatic semifinals send Tommies, Auggies to MIAC Men's Hockey Playoff finals

Dramatic semifinals send Tommies, Auggies to MIAC Men's Hockey Playoff finals

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The 2017 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Men's Hockey Playoff semifinals had a little of everything Saturday night – a pair of one-score games, two late game-winners, big goals in both contests, and even a delay to replay a shattered pane of glass. When the dust … or ice shavings … or shards of glass finally settled, No. 1-seeded St. Thomas and No. 2-seeded Augsburg found themselves headed to next Saturday's championship game.

The Auggies (16-4-6) returned to the MIAC Playoff title game for the second-straight season thanks to a big comeback and Nate Flynn's overtime game-winner to give the team an ultra-dramatic 5-4 win (Box Score) over third-seeded Saint Mary's (13-10-3) in Minneapolis. The top-seeded and regular-season champion Tommies (14-7-5) got a late game-winner from Charlie Donlin to snap a 1-1 tie and send UST to the championship game as well in an exciting 2-1 win (Box Score) over No. 5-seeded Concordia (14-11-2) in Mendota Heights, Minn. 

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The Augsburg-Saint Mary's game was a classic – reminiscent of the Auggies' triple-OT thriller in the 2016 Playoff title game – that started with the visiting Cardinals making a stirring opening argument.  Kyle Meeh scored 6:26 into the game and Bob Kinne made it 2-0 Saint Mary's five minutes later. Augsburg cut the lead in half when Dylan Meier scored the home team's first goal, but Saint Mary's made it a two-goal lead yet again when Taylor Portner came up with a big short-handed goal early in the second period to make it 3-1 Cardinals.

However, Augsburg was ready with a second-period answer. Erik Brenk scored to cut the lead in half at the 7:15 mark, and Trevor Stewart tied things up at 3-3, which is where things stayed into the third period. Portner came up big for Saint Mary's yet again with his second goal of the game 1:14 into the final frame, but the Auggies responded with 6:33 to play, as Chris Nuth netted the game-tying goal to send things to overtime – after a 33-minute delay in the third to replace a broken pane of glass – where Flynn broke through with his game-winner just 1:56 into the extra period. That was Augsburg first, only, and most important lead of the night in the 5-4 win, as the Auggies clawed back from a pair of two-goal deficits and then a one-goal deficit in the third.

Nick Schmidt made 28 saves to earn the win in goal for Augsburg and improve to 9-1-2 this season, while his counterpart – Saint Mary's goalie Phil Heinle – made 29 saves in the loss. Five different Auggies scored goals in the win, and Brenk, Meyer and Stewart each had a goal and an assist, with Andy Faust turning in a two-assist night. Portner led the Cardinals with two goals and an assist and Jay Heinle had two assists in the loss. Augsburg out-shot Saint Mary's by a narrow margin, 34-32.

The other semifinal had less scoring but just as much drama as the regular-season champion Tommies cashed in on a pair of power plays and got stifling defense and goaltending en route to their 2-1 win over Concordia, which advanced to Saturday's semifinals with a road win at Hamline Thursday. Johnny Panvica gave UST the game's first lead with an unassisted power-play goal 2:05 into the second period. Concordia knotted things up at 1-1 just 23 seconds into the third period when Jeremy Johnson lit the lamp for the Cobbers, but Donlin followed with his power-play, game-winning goal with 8:31 left on the clock to send St. Thomas to the title game.

Panvica had a two-piont game for UST, as he also assisted on Donlin's game-winner, and Benjamin Myers stopped 29 of 30 Concordia shots to get the win in goal for the Tommies. Alex Trapp also picked up an assist on the game-winning goal, as St. Thomas held a 40-30 edge on shots, and went 2-for-4 on the power play which was the difference. Concordia goalie Sam Nelson played valiantly in defeat, making 38 saves on 40 shots, and Garrett Hendrickson and Quinn Fuchs picked up assists on Johnson's goal.

Next Saturday's championship game at St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, Minn., will feature a Tommie team looking for their first MIAC Playoff title since 2014. Meanwhile, the Auggies find themselves in the championship game for the second-straight year after beating Saint John's in a triple-OT classic in 2016 to win the postseason crown and represent the MIAC in the NCAA Tournament. Next Saturday's winner will receive the MIAC Playoff championship plaque as well as the conference's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament. The NCAA will announce the national tournament field on March 6 at 9 a.m. with a live online selection show.

The MIAC has a home page dedicated to the 2017 MIAC Men's Hockey Playoffs, containing schedules, links and information on each of the five teams in the field. Throughout the tournament, the page will be updated with scores, stats, updated schedules and more. Fans can also follow the action on the MIAC Scoreboard or on the free MIAC mobile app. Connect throughout the Playoffs on social media through the MIAC's FacebookInstagram or Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #MIACWH.


2017 MIAC MEN'S HOCKEY PLAYOFFS

Quarterfinals | Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 |
No. 5 Concordia 3, No. 4 Hamline 2 | Box Score | Recap |

Semifinals | Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 |
No. 1 St. Thomas 2, No. 5 Concordia 1 | Box Score |
No. 2 Augsburg 5, No. 3 Saint Mary's 4 (OT) | Box Score | 

Championship | Saturday, March 4, 2017 |
No. 2 Augsburg winner at No. 1 St. Thomas | Mendota Heights, Minn. | Time: TBA |


2017 MIAC Men's Hockey Playoffs