St. Peter, Minn. - The Gustavus men’s hockey defeated the Milwaukee School of Engineering in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Hockey Tournament on Wednesday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink . After allowing the opening goal of the game at the 6:41 mark of the first period, the Gustavus men’s hockey team would go on to hold No. 6 MSOE scoreless for the remaining minutes of the game. Senior Ross Ring-Jarvi offered a quick response to MSOE’s opening tally, scoring less than two minutes later to tie the game at 1-1. Gustavus’ special teams came up big from that point on, blanking the Raiders on five power play tries and registering the game-winner on the power play when Ryan Johnson scored at the 4:00 mark of the second period. Although he was challenged just 17 times in the game, freshman goaltender John McLean was once again the difference-maker with several key saves in the third period.
“Most of all, I’m just happry that our guys were rewarded for how well they played. We didn’t play smart at times, but we played hard,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen. “A credit to MSOE who came into a hostile environment off a long bus trip and battled to the end. Our energy level was terrific from start to finish and hopefully we can carry that into next weekend.”
No. 8 Gustavus advances to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament with the win, improving to 17-6-5 overall. Because St. Norbert defeated St. Thomas 3-1 tonight in Green Bay, Wis., Gustavus will travel to the Cornerstone Center to take on the Green Knights on Saturday, March 10th with a trip to the 2012 NCAA Division III Frozen Four on the line. Puck-drop is set for 7:00 p.m. in Green Bay.
After killing an early tripping penalty assessed to Logan Bauman at 1:33 of the first period, the Raiders went on the power play three minutes later after Ring-Jarvi was tagged for checking from behind at 6:35. It took just six seconds for MSOE to take advantage on the man-advantage, scoring at the 6:41 mark on a Todd Krupa rebound goal from left of the crease.
Entering tonight’s game, MSOE had scored the opening goal in 20-of-29 games this season, compiling an unbeaten mark of 19-0-1 when scoring first. That note alone made Gustavus’ response that much more pivotal.
With the puck behind the net and nowhere to go, Ring-Jarvi let his imagination take over, faking a wrap-around one direction and throwing the puck off an MSOE player’s skate and into the back of the net from the other direction.
“In these types of games, you look to your leaders to make plays, and we have a pretty good one in Ross Ring-Jarvi,” remarked Gustavus Assistant Coach Jared Phillips. “For him to get a goal like that tonight was fitting for the type of career he has put together at Gustavus. That goal was a huge lift and confidence builder for our team. It not only got us back to even, but it set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Setting the tone was certainly what the goal did, as Gustavus went on to kill five more penalties in the game, two of which came in the third period. The Gustie penalty killers have not allowed more than one power play goal in a game since Feb. 2nd against Hamline.
At the 3:19 mark of the second period, MSOE’s Kyle Smith was sent to the penalty box for charging and Gustavus took advantage. With an open window at the top of the umbrella, freshman Nate Paulsen sent a shot on to the right leg pad of Raider goalie Connor Toomey. Toomey’s rebound came free to a camped out Ryan Johnson who buried the puck in the back of the net at the 4:00 point to give Gustavus a 2-1 lead. It is the junior’s third game-winner of the season, matching Ring-Jarvi for the team lead.
Gustavus finished the game 1-for-4 with six shots on the power play and were outshooting the Raiders 20-6 after 40-minutes.
“After two periods I thought we had been playing really good by only allowing six shots. Then you look up at the scoreboard and it’s only a one goal game and we’re still in a dog fight,” commented Petersen.
In what has become a trend recently, the John McLean show once again aired in the third period.
McLean more than doubled his save total from the first two periods with an 11-save performance in the third frame. This week’s MIAC Men’s Hockey Athlete-of-the-Week finished with a total of 16 saves in the game, his second-lowest mark in a victory this season (14 saves, W 4-3 vs. Saint John’s). Big John improves to 15-4-2 and now has a 2.07 goals against average (11th/NCAA) and a .924 save percentage (13th/NCAA).
Coach Phillips reiterated Petersen’s point and said of his rookie netminder that, “Even though the shots were a little lopsided, it was still a one goal game and it still came down to a goaltender making a save. Although the leg save that John made on the back door was out of this world, he was there when we needed him.”
In the other crease, Connor Toomey suffered the loss in a complete-game, 28-save effort. The senior finishes his career with a record of 22-7-1 this season.
“Big John played outstanding again tonight. You need good goaltending if you are going to make a run down the stretch and he has certainly given us that. To play the way he did in his first NCAA game is saying something. He’s a pretty special player and we look forward to seeing him progress from here.” said Petersen about McLean.
The Raiders had chances yet couldn’t find a way to get the equalizer down the stretch. Gustavus was able to kill off a too many players on the ice penalty at 16:21 and shut the door for 1:30 of six-on-five skating after MSOE pulled its goalie. Nate Paulsen sent the Gustie fans into frenzy by chipping a three-fourths rink, slow rolling shot down the rink and into the back of the net to secure the victory at 3-1. The goal is Paulsen’s fourth of the season and first empty-netter of his career.
MSOE’s strong season-ending surge comes to an end tonight in St. Peter, as the Raiders finish their 2011-12 campaign with an overall record of 22-7-1.
“We knew we were coming into a bees’ nest and it’s a credit to our guys’ intestinal fortitude for how they came out and performed tonight,” remarked Head MSOE Coach Mark Ostapina. “These guys dug deep and pulled out a reserve that maybe they shouldn’t have had. I’m proud of the way they played a against a very fast, very disciplined Gustavus team tonight. It’s a tribute to both teams as to how the game was played tonight.”
“Its pretty special for Ross Ring-Jarvi to win like that in his last game at Don Roberts Ice Rink,” added Petersen about his lone senior who played his last collegiate game at home tonight. “His hard work and all-out effort rubs off on his teammates and its pretty easy to see how much his play affects our game. Ross does the little things for us night in, and night out. We take those things for granted and to say that he will be missed next season would certainly be an understatement.
With destination Lake Placid in the back of his mind since the start of the season, Ring-Jarvi is now one win away from bringing the Gusties back to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four.
Phillips concluded, “One of the things that we will take away from this game is that we were very physical and were able to match the physicality of a very aggressive team. We came prepared to get into some one-on-one battles and we didn’t back down. That is great to see as we head into what will be a very physical and hostile atmosphere at St. Norbert.”