From The Standard
By Jayden Pettus
The Missouri State DIII Ice Bears split their penultimate weekend series of the regular season against the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. The Ice Bears teamed up with the Special Olympics of Missouri to host the weekend event.
“It’s a huge thing, you know, having the (special olympic) athletes come in and read the lineups off and how they’re excited about everything. It was a really good event and turn-out this week.” Ice Bears head coach Cody Blevins said.
Blevins’ wife, Haley Blevins is the director of Special Olympics for the Springfield area.
The Ice Bears donned specialty jerseys during both games that displayed the SOMO logo on the chest. The team also held a silent auction during the weekend for the jerseys with 100% of proceeds going to SOMO Springfield area programs.
“It’s really incredible, you know, we want to help all groups. It’s nice to get everyone involved with hockey,” Ice Bears senior forward Vincent Conti said. “We want to grow the sport and I think, by doing this, that helps grow the sport … It shows everybody else that there are no limitations to the game.”
The team and SOMO were able to raise over $1000 in proceeds for Special Olympics programs around the Springfield area.
Friday, Jan. 26
Possibly the most important series of their season thus far, the Ice Bears were ranked 17th in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III rankings – one spot away from an ACHA National Tournament berth entering Friday’s game.
The Ice Bears opened the scoring for the 18th time of their 29 games this season when Conti sniped a wrist shot past junior Razorback goalie Graden Reis five minutes into the first period.
Sophomore Ice Bear forward Alex Cooper connected with freshman forward Alex Ringhofer on a one-time shot that resulted from a 2-on-1 break into the zone, giving the Ice Bears a 2-0 lead with around six minutes remaining in the first.
The 2-0 score would hold until five minutes into the second period when freshman Ice Bear forward Eddie Bossler scored an unassisted shorthanded goal to put the team up 3-0 over the Razorbacks.
They would find the back of the net once again when senior Ice Bear forward Brock Gerhardt scored halfway through the second, putting them up 4-0.
Conti collected his second goal of the night around two and a half minutes later to move MSU’s scoring onwards, 5-0.
The Razorbacks finally found the scoresheet on their 19th shot of the game, nearly six minutes into the third period. Sophomore forward Connor Chapman found senior forward Trevor Borlace open in the slot and he fired it past sophomore Ice Bear goalie Espen Reager.
Arkansas put up a comeback effort, scoring two more in the five minutes that followed their first goal to bring the score within two, but it was squashed when Cooper found the back of the net to keep the Ice Bears up 6-3.
The 6-3 score would hold through the end of the game, securing the Ice Bears their 18th win of the season.
Saturday, Jan. 27th
Saturday night’s game had a slow start, but quickly heated up when a scrum ensued about 10 minutes into the first period. Punches were thrown and penalties were called which resulted in a game misconduct and ejection for senior Ice Bear forward Josh Hansen.
With both teams at 4-on-4, the Razorbacks struck first around 12 minutes into the frame. Borlace scored his first of the night to put Arkansas up 1-0.
While on the power play for Hansen’s misconduct, the Razorbacks struck again after sophomore defenseman Ethan Rogers fired one past Reager, 2-0.
Freshman Razorback forward Sam Karraker would widen the margin even farther, late in the first, putting the Razorbacks ahead 3-0.
Missouri State lit the lamp for the first time early in the second period when Cooper found the back of the net on the power play to bring the score to 3-1.
They’d closed the gap to one goal – the closest they got to tying Arkansas – just 57 seconds later, thanks to sophomore forward Adam Sprock.
The Razorbacks took advantage of a questionable hooking call by scoring on the ensuing power play. Borlace scored his second, putting Arkansas up 4-2.
They scored again late in the second to go up by 3 goals, 5-2 heading into the third.
Beginning the third the same way they ended the second, the Razorbacks came out in the third firing and eventually scored with Borlace picking up his third goal to complete a hat trick 41 seconds in, pushing the score to 6-2.
Conti answered back on the power play eight and a half minutes into the period to bring the score to 6-3.
Borlace quickly shut down any glimmer of hope that the Ice Bears had just 22 seconds later, scoring his fourth of the game, making the score 7-3.
That didn’t stop the Ice Bears from pushing, and they broke through when Conti found the back of the net for his fourth of the weekend. The goal was his 24th of the season, which solidified his position as team-leader in goals scored.
The Razorbacks scored one more before the end to bring the score to 8-4 as they took home the win in the second game of the weekend series.
With the Ice Bears being in the bubble of the national tournament – just one spot out – this weekend was huge for the post-season goals the team has. There’s no doubt it would have been better to win both of the series’ games, but a 1-1 split was not the worst-case scenario.
“You can (look at it as a positive outcome). We’re one spot out of the national tournament right now, so beating a top 10 team and splitting with them, it helps us out, but trying to get both of them was the big picture,” Coach Blevins said.
He’s right. There was a worse possible outcome than the one the Ice Bears achieved, but ultimately, they needed the sweep this weekend to crack the top 16. Now, they’ll have to fight hard in their matchup against Washington University of St. Louis for a sweep – which will be their final series of the regular season.
The bottom line is that the team is simply letting too many games slip through their fingers. Coming into this weekend, the Ice Bears were 3-7 in their last 10 games. With the 1-1 split, they moved to 4-8 in their last 12.
In the last MD3 ranking, they placed 13th and were in position to make their way to St. Louis for the national tournament. Now, they are in 16th and fighting for a shot at squeezing into the tournament as a bottom-seed team.
The Ice Bears will begin their final weekend series against Washington University on Friday, Feb 2nd at Jordan Valley Ice Park in Springfield at 9:45 p.m.
(Originally published at https://www.the-standard.org/sports/diii-ice-bears-host-special-olympics-of-missouri-split-weekend-razorbacks-series/article_f20fadfc-be59-11ee-b0fd-9fe6c1442f20.html)