Sixth seeded Huskie hockey preps for playoffs


Courtesy NIU hockey

Senior forward Hunter Wahl watches the play during NIU hockey’s game at Illinois State on Feb. 17. (Photo courtesy NIU hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB – Weeks of shuffling in the Midwest College Hockey League standings came to a conclusion Saturday. All six teams have completed their conference schedules and are gearing up for the MCH playoffs, hosted by Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska starting on Friday and going until Sunday. 

The winner of the conference tournament will earn a direct bid to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) men’s Division I national tournament in Boston and Marlboro, MA from March 16-21. 

The format sees the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds receiving a bye into the semi-final round, with the No. 3 seed facing the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed playing the No. 5 seed in the quarter-final round. The tournament is single elimination, so each team will be fighting to keep its season alive. 

No. 1 seed: University of Jamestown Jimmies (19-8, 12-1 MCH)

The Jimmies were the top team in MCH all season and enter the playoffs as the heavy favorite to win the championship. Jamestown has talent up and down its roster, with seven players scoring over 20 points. Freshman forward Brad Fortin leads the Jimmies with 12 goals and 36 points. He is aided by freshman forward Jordan Baranesky’s 19 goals and 34 points and junior defenseman Greg Susinki’s 10 goals and 24 points. Fortin and Susinki were also selected to play for Team Canada in the 2023 World Cup of University Hockey. The Jimmies are the No. 8 ranked team in the country going into the playoffs.

No. 2 seed: Illinois State University Redbirds (25-7, 15-5 MCH)

The Redbirds are currently the No. 13 ranked team in Division I and have been an offensive powerhouse all season. The Redbirds have a whopping six players with 20 points or more, led by junior forward Tony Campise’s 49 points and senior forward Trevor Hilt’s 28 goals. The Redbirds will look to score their way to the MCH’s national tournament bid. 

No. 3 seed: McKendree University Bearcats (12-12, 10-6 MCH)

The Bearcats, since suffering an upset defeat to NIU on Dec. 3, took five of their final six conference games. McKendree has a deep team, with eight of its players scoring 10 or more points on the season. Freshman forward Matias Alexandrov leads the Bearcats to Fremont with his 11 goals, followed closely by junior forward Brad Richardson’s nine goals. McKendree’s main strength comes between the pipes. Freshman goaltender Dylan Dallaire holds a .912 save percentage.

No. 4 seed: Midland University Warriors (8-22, 8-10 MCH)

Midland has quietly played its best hockey all season over the last few weeks, having won three of its last four games. The Warriors also took No. 13 Illinois State to overtime on Feb. 3. The top two scorers for Midland were senior forward Fletcher Chun, who tallied 16 goals this season, and freshman forward Tommy Wardas, who potted 14 goals. Junior defenseman Zach Eddington and freshman forward Logan Wotton each also tallied 25 points this season. 

No. 5 seed: Waldorf University Warriors (13-18, 7-12 MCH)

Waldorf completed its regular season at home against Midland, dropping two contests by final scores of 6-1 and 7-6. The Warriors head to Fremont led by sophomore forward Tyler Nelson, who scored 19 goals and added 26 assists for 45 points. Junior forward Jacob Lindblom and senior forward Wade Auger each tallied 12 goals on the season for Waldorf. The Warriors enter the playoffs having dropped three of its last five games.

No. 6 seed: Northern Illinois University Huskies (4-28, 1-19 MCH)

The Huskies completed a difficult season Saturday, dropping two games to Illinois State. NIU was only able to win one conference game this season, which came against their playoff opponent McKendree. The Huskies have been led all season by senior forward and team captain Rodahn Evans, who potted 16 goals this season. NIU also got nine goals from senior forward Hunter Wahl and six goals from senior forward Nick Gonzalez. NIU travels to Fremont having lost six straight games. 

Quarter-Final One: No. 3 McKendree University vs No. 6 Northern Illinois University

4:30 p.m. CST, Friday / Sidner Ice Arena

The Bearcats defeated the Huskies 3-1 in the regular-season series with a 6-1 win, a 5-3 loss, a 6-3 win and an 8-0 win. The Huskies will try to replicate its one regular season win against the Bearcats to advance to the semi-finals as McKendree looks to avoid the upset. 

Quarter-Final Two: No. 4 Midland University vs No. 5 Waldorf University

8 p.m. CST, Friday / Sidner Ice Arena

Waldorf and Midland split its season series 2-2, with three of the four games being one-goal affairs. Waldorf took the first series by scores of 3-2 and 2-1, while Midland took the next series by final scores of 6-1 and 7-6. 

Semi-Final One: No. 1 University of Jamestown vs lower remaining seed

4:30 p.m. CST, Saturday / Sidner Ice Arena

The Jimmies will face one of Northern Illinois, Waldorf or Midland. Jamestown’s lone conference defeat came at the hands of Midland by a final score of 6-4 on Dec. 3. 

Semi-Final Two: No. 2 Illinois State University vs higher remaining seed

8 p.m. CST, Saturday / Sidner Ice Arena

The Redbirds will be searching for a trip to the MCH championship, taking on one of McKendree, Midland or Waldorf. Of those three teams, the Redbirds’ only defeat was a 4-3 shootout loss to McKendree. 

Championship: Semi-final one winner vs Semi-final two winner

1 p.m. CST Sunday / Sidner Ice Arena

The MCH champion will receive the league’s bid to the national championships. Jamestown and Illinois State are the favorites to win the tournament. 

All games will be streamed by host Midland University on its StretchLive channel.