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Saints, 'Jackets: And so they meet again

For old time's sake, presented for your hockey pleasure: St. Scholastica vs. Wisconsin-Superior. The absolute final meeting between the teams as members of the men's Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. A two-game (plus mini-game, if needed) N...

For old time's sake, presented for your hockey pleasure: St. Scholastica vs. Wisconsin-Superior.

The absolute final meeting between the teams as members of the men's Northern Collegiate Hockey Association.

A two-game (plus mini-game, if needed) NCHA first-round playoff series is 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Mars Lakeview Arena.

The Saints and Yellowjackets are paired for the sixth time in nine years in the league's postseason.

"If you look at it, there's really no home team, or no road team. Just two teams playing for their lives," St. Scholastica coach Mark Wick said Wednesday.

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Two teams with remarkably similar seasons, in reverse order.

UWS (11-12-2) started 10-3-1 and finished the regular season on a 1-9-1 stretch to tie for fifth in the seven-team league.

St. Scholastica (11-13-1) started 4-11 and finished 7-2-1 to place fourth.

The Yellowjackets won a tiebreaker over Wisconsin-River Falls to secure a matchup with the Saints.

"We just haven't scored many goals," says UWS coach Dan Stauber, who's in his 13th season. "That's the result of running into good goalies (for No. 3-ranked Wisconsin-Eau Claire and No. 6 St. Norbert) which have accounted for six losses. We just haven't put enough pucks on net."

UWS is tied for last in offense in the NCHA, scoring 2.17 goals per game. St. Scholastica is last in defense, allowing 3.89 per game.

Yet the Saints have found their offense the past 10 games, averaging 4.4 goals in that stretch.

"Since the start of the season, I've told our team we were capable of getting on a roll and making things happen," said coach Mark Wick, in his ninth season at St. Scholastica. "The players believed that, figured it out and turned it around."

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Three games in eight days, all on the road, provided the Saints with confidence Feb. 1-8. They defeated defending Division III champion St. Norbert 5-2, Wisconsin-Stevens Point 6-3 and league champion Eau Claire 3-0.

Senior forward Brett Corcoran of Parksville, British Columbia, finished second in NCHA scoring and has 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points in 22 games to lead the Saints. He has 85 points in 100 career games. Brothers Brandon (junior) and Dylan Nowakowski (freshman) from Calgary, Alberta, have combined for 48 points. Junior goalie Colin Rundell of Tees, Alberta, has started the past five games.

Junior forward Pat Dalbec of Superior leads UWS in scoring with 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points in 25 games. Junior Drew Strandberg of Thunder Bay, Ontario, has started the past four games.

The schools meet Friday for the 130th time in the past 40 years, with UWS leading 84-36-9. Next season, UWS (and four other Wisconsin-based NCHA schools) will inaugurate the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference hockey league. St. Scholastica and St. Norbert will join the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association. The NCHA will dissolve.

The only way into the 2013 NCAA Division III tournament, for either team, will be to win the NCHA playoff title and an automatic bid.

In the previous five NCHA playoff series between the programs, UWS is 6-1-3. Yet the Saints have won two of the series with mini-game victories in 2007 and 2010. The Yellowjackets are 3-0-3 in their past six games at Mars Lakeview Arena and 2-1 vs. St. Scholastica this season.

In 2013-14, the teams will meet just once, Nov. 23 in Duluth.

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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