Marquette waits to find out who its Wickenheiser Cup semifinal opponent will be
By: Warren Mayes
As Tom Petty sings in a song, the waiting is the hardest part.
The Marquette Mustangs begin semifinal play in the Wickheiser Cup at 9:20 p.m. Friday (Feb. 22) at the Hardees Ice Plex. They don’t know who they will play yet.
Marquette will meet the winner of the Fort Zumwalt West-Duchesne game. Those two teams will meet at 7:10 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 21) in Wentzville. Fort Zumwalt West earned an 8-2 victory in the first game played Feb. 11.
“One of my assistant coaches — Coach (Michael) Selby — went out to scout Game 1 of the series so I have some information on both teams,” Marquette coach Ryan Kane said. “In the end, it comes down to our players playing with heart and doing it from the drop of the puck until the buzzer sounds. We will surely try to get certain matchups based on what was observed in order to give us the best chance possible to win.”
Game 2 in the semifinal series will be Saturday with a 3:15 p.m. faceoff at Hardees. On the other side of the bracket, Lutheran South meets Wentzville Holt. Game 1 is 7:20 p.m. Friday at Hardees and Game 2 is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Marquette defeated MICDS 5-1 in the first game of their series and then won it with a 2-1 decision on Feb. 9.
Such are the quirks of postseason scheduling.
“It is an interesting dynamic with us having two weeks with no games while our opponent will have played the day before,” Kane said. “You can look at that a couple different ways, but I know that we will have to get back into game mode very quickly as they will already be in full stride. This is a challenge we will overcome.”
The Mustangs performed well in the quarterfinal series with MICDS.
“I think the team really started to gel and build confidence through this series,” Kane said. “We were able to get through a hard working team with a lights out goalie which had been a challenge for us this year. In Game 2, offensive production was hard to come by so we responded with a very tight, stingy defensive approach which put us in a position to win in the end.
“We have been working on playing tighter defensively and producing more offensive a lot of the season so it was great to see the team apply those skills and concepts in this series. This experience could set us up for more success in the semifinals and beyond.”
It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Mustangs. Marquette won its opener and then endured an eight-game losing streak. After winning two games, Marquette then lost seven in a row. The Mustangs take a four-game winning streak into the semifinal series.
“We have been through a lot of adversity this season which at the times was frustrating, but it seems that in the end, we are better for it,” Kane said. “All the frustration of our tough losses has now been turned into motivation and a renewed energy. The top players, leaders and seniors are taking control and producing which is encouraging and uplifting to everyone else on the team.
“I think this jump in production is best demonstrated by two players — senior Goalie Michael Robinson and senior forward Mitch Campbell — who have elevated their game to an entirely different level.”
Marquette has not played either Fort Zumwalt West or Duchesne this season.
“We have much more experience with Fort Zumwalt West, playing them at least once every year until this season,” Kane said. “They have always been a top St. Charles team so we have a lot of respect for the talent on that team. In the past five years, we have not played Duchesne.”
No matter who the Mustangs meet, Kane said they will ready. The stakes are high. The winner gets to play in the Scottrade Center. The championship will be played March 4.
“We are as prepared as we can be and excited about being a part of the Midstates hockey semifinal weekend,” Kane said. “It is always a very exciting environment.”