A late goal with less than a minute to play in the game was not quite enough to mount a two-goal comeback, as the Gustavus men’s hockey team fell 3-2 to Hamline on Saturday night in St. Peter, Minn. After the Gusties scored the opening goal of the game, Hamline responded with three unanswered goals on their way to a win and a weekend series split.
Hamline remains tied for first place in the MIAC with 20 points alongside St. Thomas. The Pipers are now 13-5-5 overall and 8-2-4 in the MIAC. Gustavus remains tied for second place with Concordia with 16 points at 13-8-2 overall and 7-5-2 in the MIAC.
For the second night in a row, it was Shael Hechter putting the Gusties on top 1-0. Hechter was able to re-direct an Illya Kravtchouk shot from the left point through traffic and into the back of the net at the 4:46 mark.
“We play better with the lead than we do from behind for whatever reason this year,” said Assistant Coach Jared Phillips. “Getting that first goal really provided a spark for us because of the way it was scored. We had talked about getting shots through, and getting tips in front, and to see it work really energizes the guys.”
Hamline’s Austun Tavis knotted the game at 1-1 with a quick snipe from the right slot to beat Josh Swartout over is right shoulder at the 11:26 mark of the first. Hamline outshot Gustavus 13-to-9 in the period.
After the Gusties killed over 1:30 of a Hamline power play to start the second period, Jay Fifield was charged with a five-minute major for high sticking at the 5:39 mark. Hamline was able to kill the entire penalty, as goalie Beau Christian made eight saves in the five-minute frame.
“We were a little bit disappointed we didn’t score on the major. Any time you get one of those you really want to capitalize because if you don’t it can be such a momentum builder for the other team,” commented Phillips. “We had some good in-zone time and got good looks, but we just weren’t able to get anything to the net, and when we did there were no rebound chances.”
Hamline’s Alex Lundbohm put the Pipers up 2-1 at the 15:15 point of the second period, pivoting and firing a wrister from the right slot to beat Swartout blocker side. The Gusties had the advantage in shots 13-to-8 in the period, as both squads were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
After picking up a loose puck at the Gustavus blue line, Danny Vranek found himself in the clear at the left circle, snapping a wrister into the net to put the Pipers up 3-1 with 18:31 left to play. The game-winning goal by Vranek was scored while both teams were down a man and skating four-on four.
Gustavus battled to get back into the game throughout the third period, outshooting Hamline 10-to-3 despite having to kill three power plays. The Gusties would cut the lead to 3-2 with :33 seconds on the clock with after Swartout was pulled to add an extra attacker to the ice. Mitch Carlson cleared space for himself at the top of the right circle and fired the puck through a screen in front of the goal, finding the back net for his fifth goal of the season. Gustavus wouldn’t get another look at the equalizer, as Hamline held on for the victory and split.
Coach Phillips was pleased with Gustavus’ effort late in the game and over the weekend. “With as young as we are and inconsistent we have been at times this season, it was a small moral victory for us to come out and battle like we did all weekend. We always want to come out and play hard and not worry about what is on the scoreboard, and I thought we did that tonight,” said Phillips.
Gustavus outshot Hamline 32-to-25 in the game. The Pipers were 0-for-6 on the power play, while Gustavus was 0-for-4. Ryan Johnson, who’s three-game point streak came to an end tonight, was 20-3 on the draw, as Gustavus was 46-42 in the game. Swartout made 22 saves on the night and falls to 9-7-2 on the year. Beau Christian made 30 saves and improves to 10-3-3.
The Gusties will face Saint Mary’s in the final regular season series of the year on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. in Winona, Minn., and Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. in St. Peter.
“There is a good chance we are going to see Hamline again, so this was a good test to get ready for the playoffs,” said Phillips. “We put ourselves in good position heading into next weekend, and now we just have to make sure we take care of business.”