Beavers battle through adversity, advance to ACHA title game
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – Following a grind it out, gritty win against the Indiana Tech Warriors that saw the Beavers play in overtime for just the fourth time this season, Minot State head coach Wyatt Waselenchuk was happy with how his team responded to adversity.
“I think that adversity is a good thing whether it’s killing a couple of penalties, or grinding out an overtime win like we did on Sunday. At the end of the day and during this time of the year, all that matters is a win. I’m proud of the guys and thought that we deserved that one,” Waselenchuk said.
Troy Hamilton played hero for the Beavers in the win, scoring the golden goal in overtime that gave them the opportunity to play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) National Tournament semifinals on Monday night.
With one win separating the Beavers from playing for the ultimate prize in a national championship, they matched up with a familiar, yet good Liberty Flames team who were one of three teams to top the Beavers this season.
Once again, the Beavers would find themselves facing adversity on Monday night as the Flames quickly grabbed a two-goal lead after the first period. The Beavers, however, would battle all the way back to go to overtime for the second night in a row. And once again, the Beavers got a golden goal, this time from Joey Moffatt, to secure their spot in the ACHA title game.
“We are feeling really confident, I thought we played a great game tonight. You have to tip your cap to their goalie. It was his night and it seemed at times, especially through the first 40 minutes, that we might not get anything through him. We kept that belief, kept chipping away and stuck together as a unit tonight,” Waselenchuk said.
In a tale of two halves of the opening period, the Beavers came out of the gate doing exactly what they were hoping to in the first 10 minutes of action. They were pacing for a shot on goal in each minute of the first seven minutes of play and didn’t allow Liberty to get a shot off until there was 14:09 left in the period.
They were defending their net and not letting the Flames generate much offensively to begin the game. In the final 10 minutes of the opening period, however, it was all Flames. With five minutes to go, Truett Olson of Liberty scored two goals to put his team in front 2-0 heading into intermission.
Just as the Beavers came out of the gates hot, the Flames finished strong as they ended up outshooting the Beavers at 15-14 in the first period and their goaltender Hunter Virostek was making things tough on the Beavers.
Providing a spark defensively in the second period was Christian Kadolph, who disrupted two rushes by the Flames to keep the Beavers at a two-goal deficit. With 13:46 left in the second period, Minot State went on their first power play of the game where they looked to capitalize.
Brayden Pawluk and Reece Henry saw some decent chances during the power play, but the Beavers were held scoreless after taking four shots during the advantage. Even with the Beavers being unable to score, they were dialing it up offensively.
In a second period that felt like the Beavers controlled the puck in their offensive zone for its entirety, they put up 20 shots in the period but still trailed 2-0 heading into the final intermission.
18 seconds into the third period, the Beavers went on the power play again and this time, they cashed in. With 18:52 left in the period, Davis Sheldon took advantage of Virostek struggling to find the puck by sending one past him to get the Beavers on the board. Kadolph and Carter Barley picked up assists on the goal that made it a 2-1 game.
Once the Beavers finally broke through and with the continuous pressure they put on the Flames, it felt like their work wasn’t close to done. With 3:51 left in regulation, Josh Pederson scored the equalizer on a Kadolph assist to even the game at 2-2.
For the second night in a row, regulation wasn’t enough to determine a winner with the Beavers and Flames heading to overtime. With 7:01 left in overtime, the Beavers went on the power play where they hoped to punch their ticket to the title game on the advantage.
With 4:54 left, Moffatt floated around and found a lane to an open net just as the power play expired, and he struck pay dirt to send the Beavers to the title game on the golden goal. Moffatt’s score made it a 3-2 final in favor of Minot State.
The Beavers ended the night outshooting the Flames 64-31. After giving up two goals early, Jake Anthony remained solid in net, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced.
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Minot State Beavers and the Adrian College Bulldogs will battle it out in the ACHA National Tournament Championship Game at 7 p.m. It will be a rematch of the 2020-21 title game and the Beavers are looking for their first national title since 2018-19.
“They are going to have a lot of energy and they are highly offensive. Similar to us, they have four lines that can score goals. They are going to be as good as we’ve seen, and we have to be ready to match that,” Waselenchuk said on the upcoming task at hand in Adrian College.