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Lafayette reaches Challenge Cup semifinals, faces Vianney

Reaching the Challenge Cup Final Four for the first since 1987-88, the Lafayette Lancers don’t aim to stop.

Lafayette, 13-10-3 and the reigning Wickenheiser Cup champion, meets Vianney (18-7-1) at 8:20 p.m. Saturday and Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 29. Both games will be played Centene Ice Center. The winner will play for the Cup championship at 8 p.m. March 11 at the Enterprise Center.

The Lafayette Lancers have earned a berth in the Challenge Cup semifinals. The Lancers will meet Vianney in a two-game series.

“We still have the plaque from that (1987-88) team in the trophy case at Lafayette,” coach Jim Carrico said. “The boys are all in. The work ethic and team first mentality started last year during our Wickenheiser Cup run. The success from that run has continued into this year. The boys are playing for each other.”

Vianney is the No. 2 seed in the Challeneg Cup bracket. Lafayette is the No. 8 seed. In the other side of the Cup bracket, No. 1-seeded CBC squares off against No. 6 Kirkwood.

Lafayette got past rival Marquette in the quarterfinals. The Lancers defeated the Mustangs 7-2 and then skated to a 2-2 tie to advance.

“I thought we played well both games. We played good enough to win both games,” Carrico said. “Their goalie Mac Beatrice was the difference from Game 1 to Game 2. He did not play in Game 1 but did play in Game 2.”

The Lancers have had several players step up in the postseason.

“In our playoff run, we have not relied on one player,” Carrico said. “We have had many players step up for us offensively. Some players that have stepped up are Cameron Coats, Patrick Johnson, Shane Robinson, Sam Rubenstein, Justin Sprague and Jack Thomas. All six players have contributed in one way or another.”

The Lancers have had to rely on the next man up. Sophomore James Vermeersch, freshman Andrew Knapp and junior Calvin Rogers are not playing.

“We have lost our starting junior goalie this semester and freshman Konner Canova has stepped in and played fantastic,” Carrico said. “Konner has provided us with outstanding goaltending in our playoff run. He has over a .910% save percentage. Considering we have lost our leading scorer James Vermeersch to an ACL injury, our leading goal scorer Andrew Knapp to an MCL injury and our starting goalie Calvin Rogers, I believe we have surprised some people.

“Resilience is what I have seen since the playoffs have started. Since Game 1 against Chaminade, the boys have come out flying. We continue to play hard if we are winning, losing or tied.”

Vianney eliminated Priory in its quarterfinals series. Carrico said he was not able to see Vianney play against Priory. However, Carrico and the Lancers are familar with the Golden Griffons.

During the regular season, Lafayette beat Vianney 7-5 in November and then lost 5-1 in January.

“Vianney is a deep team. They can roll three or four lines and each line can play the game,” Carrico said. “They are solid and continue to come at you. They can score and play with any team in the league.”

Carrico is excited to see how the series turns out.

“What makes this matchup with Vianney interesting is I believe both teams are playing their best hockey,” Carrico said. “Which is exactly what you want at this time of the year. We are looking forward to the series. Going into the series against Vianney we are expecting each game to be a battle. Whichever team stays discipline and does not take needless penalties will come out on top.

“We have to stay disciplined and capitalize on our chances. Our goaltending has to continue to stay at the level it has been in the playoffs. We have every reason to believe it will.”

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