Inside LU Athletics: Vikings set for Harris Cup showdown

Posted on: February 29th, 2012 by Joseph Vanden Acker

The Lawrence University hockey team has reached the point of the season where it’s one and done so the Vikings are clearly focusing on the one and not the done.

Lawrence heads to Adrian College this weekend for the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association Harris Cup semifinals. The Vikings face the host school, Adrian, in one of Saturday’s semifinals, and MSOE takes on Marian University in the other.

The prize at the end of Sunday’s championship game is the Harris Cup and a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

“As has been the case all year, one game at a time,” Lawrence head coach Mike Szkodzinski said. “It may be cliché, but at this time of the year, clichés are real.”

Lawrence (13-10-4) has embraced a certain style of play and has seen results by winning eight of its last 10.

“The real challenge this time of year is staying focused on the task at hand,” said Szkodzinski, who has 21 freshmen or sophomores on the team. “Our team has bought into the idea of focusing on the plan, and the results will take care of themselves. We have lofty goals, but we can’t reach those goals without taking care of what’s directly in front of us.”

Standing in Lawrence’s path is MCHA champion Adrian (19-5-1), the 2011 national runner-up. The sixth-ranked Bulldogs aren’t quite the scoring juggernaut they have been in recent seasons, but Adrian remains a formidable foe.

Slowing down Adrian is the task for freshman goaltender Peter Emery and the Lawrence defensemen.

“Our total team defense has been very consistent over the past 10 games,” Szkodzinski said. “Peter has been there when we need him, especially in overtime last Saturday, but our defense has also been there for him as well. Our program is built on solid team defense and we think we have the talent to execute that philosophy.”

Emery is 12-8-3 on the season with a 2.39 goals against average and .924 save percentage. Over the last 10 games to which Szkodzinski referred, Emery has been even better with a 1.97 GAA and .937 save percentage.

“We have been fairly consistent since the beginning of January,” Szkodzinski said. “We have really done a good job limiting the ‘grade A’ chances against us, and Emery has made some big stops at key times. The confidence in the defense has led to our forwards being a bit more aggressive in the offensive zone as well.”

Lawrence has seen an uptick in its offense in the last 10 games with an average of 3.6 goals per game. Over the first 17 games, the Vikings averaged only 2.7 goals per contest. That extra one goal per game has helped Lawrence forge an 8-1-1 record in the last 10 contests.

Junior forward Brad Scurfield has scored six goals and handed out 10 assists for 16 points in the last 10 games. On the season, Scurfield has 12 goals and a team-high 19 assists for a team-leading 31 points. Scurfield’s linemates, Matt Hughes (15-11-26) and Phil Bushbacher (13-12-25), are second and third, respectively, on the team in scoring.

The other factor that really stood out in Lawrence’s MCHA quarterfinal playoff series win over Finlandia University last weekend was the Vikings’ physical play. Lawrence took it to the Lions with some bone-crunching hits, and that seemed to set the tone for the Vikings’ play all weekend.

“We try to play aggressively in all three zones and part of that means taking the body,” Szkodzinski said. “We talk about ‘separating and eliminating’ the opponents from the puck and the play. To do that, we need to be physical and compete at a high level.”

The Vikings will need to play at that high level to beat any of the three teams this weekend. In Lawrence’s eight total games this season with Adrian, MSOE and Marian, the goal differential stands at zero. Lawrence lost a pair of 3-2 games in its only meetings with Adrian this season.

“Our big players need to make big plays at key moments,” Szkodzinski said of matchup against Adrian. “Our role players need to do their jobs relentlessly. If we execute our game plan, this will be a very competitive game once again and hopefully we can get a big play at the right time.”

Making the grade

The Lawrence cross country teams were named United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Scholar Teams for the third consecutive year.

The Lawrence women had a 3.40 team grade point average, and the men were at 3.38. To be eligible for the award, a team must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.10 through the fall term.

Stevens takes title

Junior Sam Stevens continued his great year by taking a title at the Midwest Conference Indoor Championships this past weekend. Stevens, who won the individual title and led Lawrence to the conference cross country championship in the fall, won the 5,000 meters in 15:21.93.

Stevens also ran to a third-place finish in the 3,000 and anchored the second-place distance medley relay team.

Bolgrien runs to record

Freshman Anna Bolgrien finished third in the 60-meter hurdles at the MWC Championships this past weekend and set a school record with a time of 9.58 seconds.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Sports Information Director Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.

Tags:

Comments are closed.