For the second time in the MIAC Playoff Tournament the Gustavus men’s hockey team ran into a red-hot goaltender and this time it led to a gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime defeat to St. Thomas at Don Roberts Ice Rink on Wednesday night. The Gusties out-shot the Tommies nearly two-to-one (39-21) including multiple 1-on-0 and 2-on-1 breakaway opportunities, but every time but one, St. Thomas goaltender Joe Schraeder managed to find a way to keep the puck out of the net and eventually Schraeder’s teammates found a way to score twice and allow the Tommies to claim the MIAC Playoff Championship and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Chris Hickey’s shot out of a mad scramble in front of Gustavus goaltender Josh Swartout at 3:27 of overtime found its way into the net and broke the hearts of nearly 1,000 Gustie fans who were desperately hoping their squad would find a way to get the puck past Schraeder and put the finishing touches on one of the finest seasons in the program’s history. Unfortunately, Gustavus will now have to sit and wait to see if they are awarded one of three at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Monday.
Gustavus took a 1-0 lead at 4:59 of the first period when T.J. Ridley took a pass from Eric Bigham and one-timed the puck into an open net from the right post. The Gusties out-shot the Tommies 17-7 in the first 20 minutes, but could only manage the one goal and headed into the locker with the 1-0 lead.
The two teams battled through a scoreless second period and the Gusties were clinging to their 1-0 lead until the 5:45 mark of the third period when the Gusties turned the puck over in their own end trying to clear the puck in a penalty kill situation and Riley Horgan fed a pass to Andrew Kappers who one timed a pass into a wide open net with a power play goal that tied the score at 1-1. Regulation play would end with the score knotted at 1-1.
The Gusties opened the overtime with a flurry of shots at Schraeder, but as he had for the entire contest, Schraeder stonewalled the Gustavus attack. The Tommies forced a face-off in the Gustavus zone and won the face-off; a shot from the blue line was blocked, but the puck ricocheted in front of the crease where Chris Hickey got a stick on the puck and pushed it past the pads of Gustie goaltender Josh Swartout and into the net, setting off a wild celebration on the ice for the Tommies.
There were only two penalties called in the entire contest and both were whistled early in the third period. The Gusties were unable to capitalize on their one opportunity, while the Tommies scored the equalizer with the man-advantage.
Gustavus goaltender Josh Swartout made 21 saves, while Schraeder registered 39 saves for the Tommies.