DePaul hockey sweeps Oshkosh to qualify for postseason

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DePaul hockey sweeps Oshkosh to qualify for postseason

The DePaul hockey team celebrates after making it to the playoffs.

The DePaul hockey team celebrates after making it to the playoffs.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

The DePaul hockey team celebrates after making it to the playoffs.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

The DePaul hockey team celebrates after making it to the playoffs.

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The Blue Demons faced off against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans in a do-or-die weekend for both teams. Both teams sat next to each other in the standings during the weekend, as DePaul needed only one win to advance to the playoffs and Oshkosh needed to sweep. Knowing that everything was on the line, the Blue Demons didn’t hold back and swept the Titans out of Johnny’s Ice House West.

The tilt began late Friday night when the energy in the locker room was much different compared to other weekends. The Blue Demons came out strong in the first period with the first two goals scored by Josh Dolan on nearly identical shots. Later, Brock Ash scored one of his own but the Titans were able to net their first goal, bringing the score to 3-1 after the first.

Both the Blue Demons and the Titans each scored a goal of their own in the second period but from there, it was all DePaul as they ran away with the game when the third period rolled around.

“We had a lot of offensive zone pressure and the boys played really good in front of me,” goaltender Asher Motew said. “We were good in our defensive zone – we had locked down compared to other weekends where we could give up some sloppy plays.”

During the 14th minute of the third, two quick goals were scored by Jalen Raya and Tyler Hanson that gave the team an enormous 6-2 lead. Much of the third period went uncontested but picked up later with four minutes remaining, when Brenton Wadsworth scored a goal of his own.

Even though the Titans scored their third goal with two and a half minutes remaining, it was too little too late.

Dolan was vigorously grinding away during the final two minutes of the period as his teammates were constantly feeding him the puck to complete the hat trick. His ambition eventually paid off, as he did just that with 15 seconds left in the game, topped off with a bloody cut on the inside of his mouth.

“You know, everything comes with a price and if this is mine, I’ll take it,” he said. “You just gotta show that you’re fighting until the end – everything comes with a price. You gotta send a message, especially when you play them twice in a weekend.”

With Friday’s 8-3 win, the Blue Demons secured the sixth and final seed in the Northern Collegiate Hockey League playoffs, achieving their goal of making the tournament and eliminating any chances of Oshkosh getting a berth of their own.

Alongside Dolan’s hat trick and an assist, the team was all over the scoresheet. Mike Helf finished with a goal and three assists, Jake Bolger had two assists, Wadsworth had a goal and an assist and Motew stopped 42 of 45 shots for a .933 save percentage.

Saturday featured the final home game of the regular season while honoring the team’s seniors on senior day: Ryan Hasty, Chris Tran, Jimmy Panos, Connor McNally, Nick Powers and Hanson.

The ice broke five minutes into the first period when Jackson Leptich scored the opening goal assisted from Helf and Hasty. The rest of the period remained scoreless but picked up again in the second with two straight goals from the Titans. Later, Leptich scored his second goal of the game on the power play, knotting the score at 2-2 after the second period.

Oshkosh couldn’t produce any more goals of their own, as DePaul scored three unanswered goals from Wadsworth, Dace Potas and an empty net goal from McNally, and skated away with a 5-2 victory, and the sweep.

“We came out a little slower but we started to pick up some pace there at the end,” Hanson said after the game. “I think we really came together and battled together and I think that’s what took us through to the third period.”

Along with Leptich’s two goals, Hasty tallied three assists and Ash and Helf got two assists of their own. Goaltenders Rudy Hodgson and AJ Grzbek split time during the game – Hodgson stopped 21 of 22 shots for a .954 save percentage and Grzbek stopped 24 of 25 shots for a .960 save percentage.

With the playoff bracket now finalized, DePaul will travel to the NCHL Championship Tournament next weekend, hosted by Marian University at the Blue Line Family Ice Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. They will play the No. 3 Concordia Falcons in a first-round play-in game on Friday, Feb. 14 at 7:45 p.m. – winner moves on and loser goes home.

In a separate play-in game on Friday, No. 4 Marquette University will play No. 5 Lewis University to determine which two teams moves on to the semifinals. The finals will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m. to determine the 2019-20 NCHL league champion.

“I believe in the guys we have on this team – anyone can win on any given night,” Motew said. “I think we’re about to show a lot of teams that DePaul hockey is legit.”