Club hockey battle Aurora in final series of season

Sterling Silver

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Schwichtenberg
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Schwichtenberg

After sweeping Loyola, Marquette club hockey (25-7-1) will travel to Aurora, Ill., to take on the Aurora Spartans, and coach Will Jurgensen sees the last series of the season as a chance to work out some flaws before the playoffs start.

“I’d say for the most part, the guys are all feeling really good heading into our last weekend series against Aurora,” Jurgensen said. “We have two weeks of practice to continue to prepare and continue to work on the little mistakes we have been making the last couple weeks.”

The Spartans (11-7-0) are on a two-game losing streak after getting swept by Robert Morris-White, where the Eagles outscored Aurora a staggering 18-5. But despite the poor performances, Aurora is still a dangerous team for Marquette. The Spartans’ star, junior forward Anthony Palermo, has averaged a goal a game in his 19 starts and is on a five game goal-streak. They also have one of the best goalies in the American Collegiate Hockey Association in senior Gavin Carlson. While he may give up 4.02 goals per game, he has a 9-2 record and a wild .888 save percentage.

But despite the challenges, Jurgensen believes his players know what’s on the line from this point forward in the season.

“The big thing as well is remembering that there are four league points on the line against Aurora, and getting a high seed going into the (Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association) playoffs is a big step towards our goals,” Jurgensen said. “Having a weekend off of games will allow us to rest a bit for those guys who are a little banged up, but also continue to get into playoff mode as a team. After this series, it truly is one and done for the remainder of the year so it’s important that we are playing to our peak as a team.”

With two wins, Marquette can clinch the MACHA North title and have a No. 1 seed coming into the postseason tournament. The high seed would give the team a great chance to make the championship game, as it would have a week off with a bye.

Two wins would put the team in a position to have a higher seed for the following week when the American Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs start. The top two teams from each region (South, Pacific, Atlantic, North) automatically qualify after the regional tournaments. As the sixth ranked team in the Pacific, a sweep against Aurora and a win in the regional MACHA Tournament may not get Marquette to the No. 2 seed, but wins could potentially move them higher in the rankings, thus giving them a higher seed for the ACHA qualifiers. Once the top two seeds are decided, teams ranked three to 10 will play qualifiers for the final two ACHA playoff spots.

“More than anything, myself and Pete, my assistant, and the captains just need to keep reiterating what we want to accomplish this season and that we need to keep working hard to try and achieve those goals,” Jurgensen said.

Following the Aurora series, Marquette will play in the MACHA regional in Bensonville, Ill. If Marquette wins, the team will head to Pelham, Ala., for the ACHA playoffs.