St. Peter, Minn. –With a veteran lineup returning to the ice for the 2012-13 season, Head Coach Brett Petersen, who is now in his 13th season at the helm of the Gustavus men’s hockey program, has set the bar high in hopes of a return trip to the NCAA Tournament in March of 2013. Experience and familiarity are two key strengths for a Gustavus club that features a total of 23 returning letterwinners and five new players.w
“We have a lot of guys back on paper, but as we’ve seen in this sport and others – that doesn’t mean a whole lot at the end of the day,” said Brett Petersen. “We certainly have experience and a veteran group that has been through a lot together. Now its just a matter of picking up where we left off last season. Once we get a sense what our identity will be, we’ll build from there.”
The 2011-12 Gustavus men’s hockey team finished 17-7-5 overall and 8-5-3 in the MIAC, reaching the 15-win mark for the fourth consecutive season. After finishing second in the conference standings, Gustavus made a run through the MIAC Playoffs that was capped off by a 4-2 victory over St. Olaf in front of a capacity crowd in Don Roberts Ice Rink for the MIAC Playoff Championship. With the win over the Oles, the Gusties earned their sixth ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA post-season, Gustavus defeated Milwaukee School of Engineering 3-1 in the opening round before falling to eventual NCAA Champion St. Norbert 4-1 in the quarterfinals.
Although the team will feature a large assortment of familiar faces, one key element missing will be that of four-time All-MIAC performer Ross Ring-Jarvi, whose presence was felt on every shirt for 115 games over the past four seasons. A staple of the first line for the duration of his tenure, Ring-Jarvi led the team in scoring last season with 33 points (11G, 22A). He was named the MIAC Player of the Year and was an AHCA First Team All-American.
Take away Ringo’s 33 points and Gustavus returns 85-percent of its scoring power to the ice this season. Top returning scorers include Zach May (Jr., Prior Lake, Minn.), Ryan Johnson (Sr., Blaine, Minn.), and Andy Pearson (So., Burnsville, Minn.). May tallied 33 points on 10 goals and 13 assists to finish second on the team in scoring, while Ryan Johnson tallied seven points (4G, 3A) over the last seven games of the year to bring his total to 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists. Andy Pearson earned a spot on the MIAC All-Rookie Team after finishing third in the league in rookie scoring with five goals and 14 assists for 19 points.
“Ross was so invaluable because he bought time for our young guys to grow. It will be interesting to see who steps into that role this year,” Petersen commented. “Because of this team’s experience, I don’t expect it to be just one guy. Instead, I expect it to be by committee and that committee can change on a night-to-night basis. There’s no more looking to Ross for a spark, someone else will have to provide it.”
The Gusties also return their leading goal-scorer from last season in Adam Smyth (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.). Smyth registered a league-best 14 goals, three of which were on the power play, two were short-handed, and two were game-winners. Gustavus scored an average of 3.03 goals per game (2nd/MIAC) last season, but struggled at times on the power play – finishing the year with a 20.2-percent (24-119) conversion rate.
Coach Petersen has challenged the team to improve in all areas, especially on the power play over the early-season practices. “The power play is an area of focus for us going off last year. The challenge is to focus on consistency. Goals, and especially power play goals, come in streaks, so our goal is to limit the cold streaks throughout the year.”
Returning to a defense that allowed just 2.31 goals per game last season, ranking eighth in NCAA Division III, are Andrew Peterson (Sr., Reno, Nev.), Tim LaBombard (Sr., Bloomington, Minn.), Ilya Kravtchouk (Jr., Pacific Palisades, Calif.), Alex Gallen (Jr., Hingham, Mass.), Sam Smith (So., Vancouver, B.C.), and Nate Paulsen (So., La Habra, Calif.). LaBombard was the team’s top scoring defenseman with 12 points (2G, 10A), while Kravtchouk and Peterson led the team in plus/minus with ratings of +13 and +11, respectively.
Resuming his position between the pipes will be sophomore John McLean (Eagan, Minn.), who turned in one of the most successful rookie seasons by a freshman goaltender in recent Gustavus history. Also a member of the All-MIAC Rookie Team, McLean finished 15-5-2 with a .923 save percentage (14th/NCAA) and a 2.16 goals against average (15th/NCAA). The only freshman goaltender in the nation to have more wins than the 6’ 8” McLean was David Jacobson of St. Norbert who had 19. Senior Tyler Venne (New Hope, Minn.) will back up McLean, going 2-2-3 last year with a .907 save percentage and a 2.62 goals against average.
“John had a terrific first season – the type of season you could have never predicted from a rookie goalie,” said Petersen about his sophomore goaltender. “He works extremely hard and has set extremely high goals for himself. With a great summer of training under his belt, Big John is ready to be the guy from the get-go.”
Key additions in the Gustavus lineup include the Tyler and Darren Lapic from New Prague, Minn. and Brenden Baker from Edina, Minn. Tyler, a sophomore forward, is a transfer from Division I Wisconsin, while Darren, a freshman forward, played for the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL last season. Baker will play his final collegiate season in a Gustavus sweater after spending the previous three at Division I Holy Cross where he played in 70 games and scored a total of 18 points (4G, 14A).
Coach Petersen is excited for his five newcomers and expects them to contribute from day one. “Brenden is a great addition to our team and its great to have the Baker family re-engaged at Gustavus,” he said. “The Lapic Brothers are also excited to be here and I think they realize that it is truly something special to be able to play college hockey alongside your sibling.”
Coach Petersen also announced seniors Dane Erickson (Woodbury, Minn.) and Tim LaBombard as this year’s captains, while Ryan Johnson and Andrew Peterson will serve as assistant captains.
“We’ve seen some guys step forward into a leadership role both with their actions on the ice and in the locker room and that is great to see this early in the year. This team has been through the fire, so there should be no surprises. That, of course, is half the battle. The other half is going out and competing every weekend.”
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will open its 2012-13 campaign at the annual MIAC Showcase held Friday, Oct. 26 through Sunday, Oct. 28 at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn. The Gusties will take on Hamline at 5:00 p.m. on Friday before capping the weekend against Concordia at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.
Coach Petersen expects everyone to get at least a taste of competition this weekend at the MIAC Showcase. “Playing our game and sticking to our system are two keys for us as we start the year. Guys are going to get thrown into the fire over these first two weeks, so it will be exciting to see who wants to compete.”