The Missouri State Ice Bears swept Midland in a two-game series over the weekend, moving their record to 4-5-0-1.
Midland was the most penalized team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association coming into the weekend, so head coach Jeremy Law said he wanted his team to avoid getting involved in any of the “muck.”
Missouri State jumped out to a 3-1 lead by the end of the first period, but a familiar story for the Ice Bears took over. Midland scored three unanswered goals in the second period for a 4-3 lead, and the Ice Bears took 21 penalty minutes in the process. Head coach Jeremy Law said the blown lead and large amount of penalty minutes were exactly what he wanted to avoid.
Period three had a different storyline: Josh Bell.
The senior center scored all three goals of a hattrick just under eight minutes into the period. Combined with goals from junior center Garret Wojcicki and junior winger Hunter Cooley, it gave the Ice Bears an 8-5 win.
Law said he had conflicting feelings about the win.
“I was proud of our effort in the third to battle back, but disappointed we put ourselves in that position,” Law said. “The team I expect is the team we were in the third. For whatever reason we can’t put together a full 60 minutes yet and that’s something we need to figure out.”
Midland opened the scoring 59 seconds into the contest when a defensive breakdown by the Ice Bears created an easy goal for the Warriors.
Missouri State responded with a goal from Alex Rubin and two more from Bell to take a 3-2 lead into the first intermission. Period two was quiet until freshman forward Will Baginski found the back of the net to extend MSU’s lead to 4-2.
The third period was slowed down by penalties as the Ice Bears spent almost five straight minutes on the penalty kill. Rubin scored another goal late, and Midland scored with time expiring. The Ice Bears walked away with a 5-3 win and a weekend sweep.
While not perfect, Law said he thought his team’s performance was much improved.
“We didn’t have a fall-apart period like we did yesterday,” Law said. “It’s the closest we’ve played to 60 minutes all year.”
For Bell, playing against a team like Midland who tries to agitate opponents into taking penalties was a good experience.
“That was the first team we’ve really seen like that all year,” Bell said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of it, but when it came down to it, we were able to back out of it and play.”
The ACHA Division I national tournament will be in St. Louis on the campus of Maryville University this year. In a non-COVID-19 year, the tournament would accept the top 20 of 72 Division I teams. This year there are only 20 total Division I teams playing.
This has created an interesting prospect for the Ice Bears. Law said the winner of MSU’s conference, the Western Collegiate Hockey League, will get an automatic bid to the tournament. At the moment, Missouri State is the only WCHL team playing. Unless a team starts up in the next few weeks, the Ice Bears will be headed to Maryville come April.
In a test of their readiness for the national tournament, No. 1 Lindenwood will come to Springfield on Feb. 26 and 27 to play MSU.
Follow Stephen Terrill on Twitter, @stevethe2nd
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