Score By Periods Shots on Goal Pen - Min Power Play New Mexico 0 - 0 - 3 -- 3 4 - 8 - 8 -- 20 8 - 16 1 - 4 Utah State 1 - 4 - 2 -- 7 14 - 19 - 13 -- 46 7 - 14 3 - 5
Friday night saw the final elimination game in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. Weber State had qualified for the championship game with a 10-1 victory over the Utah State Aggies in the afternoon, and now the Aggies faced the University of New Mexico Ice Wolves, 6-2 winners over the Provo IceCats in the 8am elimination game, for the right to face Weber in the title tilt. Utah State and New Mexico had met in the first round Thursday night, with the Aggies using three third-period goals to pull away with the the 7-1 win. Ice Wolves goalie Jimmy Murphy had faced 46 shots in that game, stopping 28 of 32 in the first two frames.
Murphy had to pick up where he left off in this contest, as Utah State peppered him with 14 shots in the first period, to only 4 for New Mexico. Seven and a half minutes into the game, Utah State captain Nate Anderson came in on a 2-on-2 with Tony Haughey which turned into a 2-on-1 with the second Lobo defender lagging behind. Anderson took the shot himself to put the Aggies up 1-0. USU got their one extra man opportunity of the period when Pete Doucette was sent off for high sticking halfway through. Utah State spent most of the power play on the attack, but New Mexico managed to clear the puck a few times and kill off the penalty. Utah State seemed to have a sure second goal late in the period when a pass from the right circle was taken at the doorstep and fired up towards the top part of the net. But the crowd's eyes were drawn back from the still-dark goal light to Murphy, who, impossibly, had made the save. UNM's best scoring chances came on a late power play, but Utah State did an excellent job of running time off the clock whenever they could, and the score remained 1-0 Aggies after one.
The sense of deja vu continued in the second period. Just as Thursday's game had seen New Mexico spend most of the second period in the penalty box and give up over 20 shots in the stanza, so too in this time UNM took six minor penalties and surrendered 19 shots on goal in the second. This time, however, the Aggies made them pay. Bobby Shade felled Nate Anderson with a high stick at 2:54, and half a minute later Alan Babicky redirected Aaron Sutliff's pass from the point along the ice past Murphy for the 2-0 lead. New Mexico barely survived their next penalty kill, and then with Edgar Solis in the box midway through the session Kelly Froerer put a rebound through Murphy's 5-hole and USU led 3-0. Late in the period UNM's Joe Tixier went off for hooking with the teams already skating 4-on-4, and Ryan Keys converted the 4-on-3 power play from the top of the circle. Utah State got the first even strength goal of the period in the penultimate minute: Anderson's shot from Murphy's left rebounded to Miles Hansen all alone on the doorstep, and Hansen roofed it to put the Aggies up 5-0 after two.
Utah State goalie Quincy Martin had a shutout going after two periods, stopping all 12 Ice Wolf shots, but the Aggies opted to give backup Eric Atkinson some work in the third and rest Martin for the increasingly likely title game with Weber State. Atkinson stopped the first few shots he saved, but there was little he could do when UNM's Curt Peterson intercepted a pass between the USU point men, steaked down on the breakaway and went top shelf to get the Lobos on the board. The offensive opportunities were nearly even in the third period, but Utah State still led 5-1 when Aggie Danny Wilson was called for interference with 3:28 remaining. New Mexico called their timeout, and opted to pull Murphy in an attempt to pull out the miracle, or at least make the final score respectable. But for a team that had been unable to keep the puck in the offensive zone, even on the power play, that move proved ill-advised. Utah State, skating 4-on-6, sent one long shot towards the empty net which nicked the crease to avoid an icing call, and then Ryan Keys's rink-long shot hit home with 3:01 on the clock. Murphy was put back in, and Solis scored the power play goal to bring the Wolves within 6-2. But that didn't finish the scoring, as Ryan Durnan scored on Tony Haughey's rebound to put Utah State up 7-2 with 30 seconds to go. That still left enough time for Solis to score once more with just 13 ticks left on the clock. Final score: 7-3, Utah State.
The Ice Wolves were awarded the tournament's third place trophy in a postgame ceremony. The respectable tournament showing capped a successful inaugural season for New Mexico. Utah State, on the other hand, moves on to the anticipated rematch with Weber State in the RMCHA Championship Game, 7:45 Saturday night.