With the student body dressed in black, and a big crowd on hand for the home-opener, the Gustavus men’s hockey fed off the momentum to earn a 4-1 victory over Bethel in the opening MIAC contest of the season on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. After giving up the opening goal in the first period, the Gusties responded with a four unanswered goals to earn the three-goal victory. The Gustavus rookies made a good first impression in their first game at home, as Jack Walsh, Sam Smith, and Andy Pearson all scored a goal.
“It wasn’t pretty to watch at some stretches, but we got the job done,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen. “We have a long way to go, but I am certainly pleased with our effort and the outcome tonight.”
Gustavus picks up two points and moves to 1-0-0 in the MIAC and 2-1-2 overall. Bethel falls to 0-1-0 in the MIAC and 0-5-0 overall.
The Gusties found themselves down 1-0 for the first time all season after Garrett Windle beat Gustavus goaltender Tyler Venne at the 9:45 mark of the first period with a slap shot from just across the blue line at center ice. The miscue was the junior keeper’s only one of the night, as he went on to turn away the next 17 Bethel shots. Venne picks up his first win of the season and moves to 1-0-2 overall.
“It’s okay for us to give up the first goal once in a while because we’re not going to score first every night,” commented Petersen. “I felt that Tyler Venne really responded well because it was kind of a tough goal he gave up. He hadn’t given up a goal like that in a long time but he hung in there, which is a really good sign.”
Gustavus got the goal back two minutes later when Ryan Johnson put the puck on the stick of Jack Walsh on pass from behind the net. Walsh beat goaltender Bobby Brown over the blocker for the equalizer tying the game at 1-1. The goal was Walsh’s first of his collegiate career, as Johnson earned his first point of the year with the dime.
At 7:31 of the second period, a shot from the left point by Sam Smith made its way through traffic and into the back of the net to give Gustavus a 2-1 lead. Smith’s goal, the first of his career, turned out to be the game-winner.
Gustavus outshot Bethel 8-to-2 in the second period and killed off two penalties through the first 40 minutes. The Gustie penalty killers allowed just one shot in the contest.
Ryan Johnson picked up his first goal of the season at the 1:16 mark of the third period to make it a 3-1 game. Johnson was on the doorstep to tap in a Jack Walsh rebound that came free into the low slot. Johnson and Walsh combined for five points on the night, as Walsh recorded a game-high three points on a goal and two assists, and Johnson had a goal and an assist.
Gustavus scored the final goal on its second power play try of the night when Andy Pearson beat Brown for his second goal of the year. The goal brought the game to a final at 4-1, as Adam Smyth was credited with the assist. Gustavus finished 1-for-3 with five shots on the power play.
On Gustavus’ third period performance, Petersen said, “This was the first time all season that we won the third period. We had gone 0-4 and typically, with all the parity in college hockey, there are going to be a lot of games that come down to the third. It was nice to get a couple early so that it wasn’t such a nail-biter down the stretch tonight.”
Bethel’s Bobby Brown suffered the loss in nets, allowing four goals and making 28 saves. Gustavus outshot the Royals 32-to-22 in the game.
“Jack Walsh had a breakout night. That is the best game he has had in a Gustie uniform. He was good and so was his line. Sam Smith had a nice goal and Andy Pearson added one too,” concluded Petersen. “We should get scoring out of our freshman. We have young guys in key spots who are seeing a lot of minutes. Mostly, it was good to see other guys chipping in beside our top line.”
The Gusties, who are now unbeaten in their last three games, will head to Blaine, Minn. to finish the weekend series against Bethel at 7:00 p.m.