Compiled by D3hockey.com staff --
ADRIAN, Mich. -- UW-Stevens Point is headed back to Lake Placid as the Pointers jumped out to a 3-0 lead en route to a 5-2 NCAA quarterfinal win over Adrian at Arrington Ice Arena on Friday night.
The win advances fourth-ranked Stevens Point (21-5-3) to its fourth Frozen Four in the past five years where it will face Salve Regina, which was a 4-3 winner over Nichols.
The Pointers got on the board early as just 1:09 into the game Kelly O'Brien took a flip from Cartoo Roo near the Adrian blue line, curled through the right side of the zone, and beat Adrian goaltender Kevin Entmaa with a backhander.
"(O'Brien's goal) was huge," said UW-Stevens Point head coach Tyler Krueger. "I think it freed up a lot of our guys and then we're less tense and the guys can just play. Getting that first goal in the first couple of minutes was huge."
Later in the period, at the 11:37 mark, it was Stevens Point again as an Adrian clear attempt led to a turnover and the puck found its way to Zach Zech, who beat Entmaa with a wrist shot from the left side. Colin Raver and Logan Fredericks were credited with assists on the goal, and each finished the night with a pair of helpers. Less than three and a half minutes later it was Zech again as a flip from behind the Adrian goal line deflected in past Entmaa and it was 3-0 Pointers with just under four minutes remaining in the period. The goal marked the end of the night for Entmaa, who was replaced by Dillon Kelley.
Adrian forward Taylor McCloy answered back with just 19 seconds left in the frame as, after sustained Adrian pressure in the Stevens Point zone, a rebound kicked to McCloy on the weak side and he hit the back of a wide open left side of the goal to make it a 3-1 game, which is how the period ended.
Adrian drew one closer at the 11:20 mark of the second period when a Bryan Yim pass from behind the Stevens Point goal found the stick of Trevor Boyd who deftly beat Pointers' goaltender Max Milosek to make it a 3-2 game. The next goal proved a backbreaker for the Bulldogs, however, as a couple of odd caroms of the puck in front of the Adrian goal led to it sneaking past Kelley and it was 4-2 Pointers with 3:28 remaining in the period. Stevens Point defenseman Nathan Harris was credited with the goal.
"When we made it 3-2 I felt really good about our chances," said Adrian head coach Adam Krug. "I think our bench was uplifted and there was a ton of belief at that time, but then to give up an odd man rush and watch the puck bounce around our crease -- when they popped it in it kind of sucked the life out of us after we tought we had scratched and clawed and got back in the game."
|Freshman forward Zach Zech tallied twice in the first period to help lead UW-Stevens Point to a 5-2 NCAA quarterfinal win at Adrian.
Photo: Ryan Coleman for d3photography.com
"If we don't allow that odd man rush or Dillon manages to keep it out of the net maybe that game goes another way -- the game changes on one puck bounce sometimes," Krug said.
The third period rolled by scoreless despite power play chances for both sides, including Adrian's first of the game, but the Bulldogs were unable to score with the advantage. For a series that has become notorious for chippiness and has had special teams feature prominently in many of its games, Friday's game saw a mere five penalties called and no special teams goals. Adrian's third period opportunity was its lone of the night, while Stevens Point finished 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
Adrian pulled Kelley with over three minutes to play but shortly thereafter a tripping penalty on the Bulldogs allowed Stevens Point to grind to the clock down to 46 seconds to go at even-strength, and then just 14 seconds after the penalty expired and with Kelley back out of the net the Pointers' Brennan Miller buried a half-ice empty-netter to round out the scoring and the 5-2 final.
"It was an unbelievable game plan by our guys, obviously coming off a loss in our conference championship to UW-Eau Claire. I think that fueled us a little bit -- humbled us a little bit. We were a little soft in that game and trying to play the easy way."
"We looked at the film and realized we needed to do things differently in order to be successful and I'm proud of the way the guys played tonight. We came in with a game plan and how we wanted to attack them and exploit some things and play to our strengths and the guys did it to a tee. It was a very good team win."
Adrian finishes its season at 24-6-0 and leaves the Bulldogs still in search of their first national title. It also closes out the careers of six seniors, including the prolific forward line of McCloy, Mathew Thompson and Kyle Brothers, who combined for 379 points in their four years at Adrian.
"Credit to Stevens Point, they outplayed us. Similar to how it went (earlier in the year) in their building," Krug said. "We didn't have our A-game either of those nights or tonight and maybe it was a combination of that and maybe Point taking it to us a little bit, too."
"But credit our guys for getting here. We had another great season and were led by a class of seniors...I don't know how you replace them. We'll miss 'em."
For Stevens Point, it's back to Lake Placid where it will look to repeat the outcome of its 2016 trip to the North Country as they skated home with the program's fifth national title. Milosek, a senior who backstopped Point to that championship and finished with 32 saves on Friday, wouldn't want to close out his career any other way.
"It means everything -- it was always our goal to get back there," he said. "This is huge for all the seniors as we've worked so hard for four years to get there and now we just want to take care of business."