The men’s hockey team delivered this season by attaining the highest championship they could compete for this season — winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). On March 12, the Yellowjackets matched up against the UW-Stevens Point Pointers in the WIAC championship and found themselves down two goals before the end of the first period.
About halfway into the game, the ‘Jackets were still down two with time running out in the second period. This is when Coltyn Bates took the puck and scored his fourth goal on the season with 8:19 remaining in the period. On the Eye of the Swarm podcast, Coach Rich McKenna said this about Bate’s mentality going into the game, “Bates was one of the first guys at the rink as he always is… when I asked how he was feeling he responded ‘just ready to go.’ It was just business for him as he smiled like the result of the night was going to make him happy.” This business mentality that Bates had was seen across the whole team throughout the game, even when the ‘Jackets found themselves down.
This moxie was clear in the third period, especially on the defensive end, as the ‘Jackets only gave the Pointers four shots on goal in the third period, with the first one coming with about 15 minutes off the period clock. Senior Lawson McDonald, who was named Superior’s WIAC All-Sportsmanship Team nominee, shared some insight about the team’s mentality going into the final period on Eye of the Swarm, “We were in the spot we wanted to be. It didn’t matter what the score was going into the third period, for me this is my last period, we had nothing left to lose, we were the underdogs, we were down. I think in some way that helped us…. when we came back in the third with everything we had, they weren’t ready for that.”
The Pointers were not ready. They could barely get the puck on their side of the rink as the ‘Jackets scored back to back goals to take the lead with six-and-a-half minutes remaining. Junior forward Levi Cudmore was involved in both of the goals, setting up his teammate Chad Lopez to tie the game at 2-2.
On the second goal, Lopez took another shot, this time missing but Cudmore redirected the shot and sent it in to score the game winner with 6:36 remaining. The team locked down defensively the rest of the game to win WIAC championship.
Myles Hektor made his fourth start in goal for the Yellowjackets and improved to 4-0-0 on the year, finishing the night with 22 saves. The Yellowjackets outshot the Pointers 32-24, including 11-4 in the third period. The ‘Jackets finished the season at 7-3-0, winning their first conference championship since 2011.
The men’s hockey team didn’t only play well in the WIAC tourney, as three players were also named to the All-WIAC team, tying UW-Stout for the most selections by one school. The only senior from UWS to be named to the team was Pavel Mikhasenok who led the WIAC in assists, averaging one per game.
Juniors Chad Lopez and Artur Terchiyev were named to the WIAC first team. Terchiyev, a defenseman, scored a point in all but three of his 10 games played. Lopez led the league in total goals with seven throughout the season and did so efficiently, shooting 30.4% on shots—good enough for third in the conference.
Sophomore Dylan Johnson came off his Newcomer of the Year and first team WIAC honors a season ago to once again be honored by the WIAC. Being named to the honorable mention team may look like a step down from the outside, but in a very strong conference Johnson averaged a point per game, splitting between five goals and four assists over nine games.
After finishing fourth in the regular season, the ‘Jackets played well when it mattered and were able to take the WIAC trophy back to Superior. McKenna is already looking forward to what is next. “Now we got it, let’s do it again next year. Now let’s finish first place in the [regular] season and host this thing [WIAC championship game],” he said on Eye of the Swarm.
Eye of the Swarm is a podcast produced by Yellowjacket Athletics and hosted by Jon Garver and Matt Johnson. All episodes can be found on the Yellowjacket Athletics website.