St. Peter, Minn. – A team looking to make a statement on the opening weekend of MIAC play would likely take notes from the performance of the Bethel men’s hockey team this weekend. The Royals used a 2-0 win at Don Roberts Ice Rink on Saturday night to pick up a sweep over the No. 5 ranked Gusties. Like their win on Friday night, Bethel used a pair of answered goals to take a 2-0 lead into the third period. From there, the Royals relied on sound defense and solid goaltending in the third to hold on for the victory.
It was the first time since the 2005-06 season that either team had swept the regular-season series. Bethel improves to 3-3-0 overall and 2-0-0 in the MIAC with the wins this weekend, while Gustavus drops to 3-3-0 overall and 0-2-0 in the MIAC with the losses.
“At this point, I have no issues with our defensive game or our goaltending – both have been solid,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen. “I thought it was even on 5-on-5 this weekend and that we lost the battle on special teams. Bethel’s compete level was, for the most part better, than ours and that’s really the nutshell of the series.”
Although the Gusties controlled the zone for much of the opening period, the score remained 0-0 heading into the first intermission. Coach Petersen thought his team worked extremely hard in the frame and created good offensive zone time despite not rewarded with a goal.
Special teams became a factor halfway through the second period. After Zach May (Jr., Prior Lake, Minn.) was sent to the box for interference at the 8:05 mark, Bethel scored the opening goal of the game 1:19 into the power play. After digging the puck off the right boards to the side of the circle from inside the Gustavus zone, Jack Paul hit Colin Mayer in stride streaking up the center of the slot at the net with a centering pass. Mayer caught the dime on his stick at the doorstep of goaltender Tyler Venne (Sr., New Hope, Minn.) and one-timed the pass five hole for the opening goal of the game at the 9:24 mark.
Sixteen seconds after the Mayer goal, Bethel’s Tyler Sorensen was tagged with a holding penalty and Gustavus went on the power play. As Gustavus was attempting to set up its attack deep in its own end, Josh Shingler forced a turnover with a pestering forecheck. After a Corey Grandner shot hit the inside of the right pipe, the puck slid back into the crease and underneath Venne, who was forced to simply lay down in the crease in an attempt to cover up the loose puck. Eventually the puck came loose and Shringler was there for the easy tap-in short-hander.
Gustavus didn’t respond well to the disastrous 1:40 span that put them down 2-0 halfway through the second period and were unable to find any offensive rhythm for the remainder of the game.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t score because your margin of error becomes that much smaller. It’s not due to lack of determination or lack of effort, it was just one of those games where things didn’t go our way and you tend to see a snowball effect with everything you try to do,” commented Petersen.
“To Bethel’s credit, they made aspects of the game very difficult for us. They were very sound structurally on defense, blocked a lot of shots, and at times played much harder than we did.”
The Gusties had a power play opportunity in the final minute of the game, but were unable to beat netminder Matt Rowe, who picked up the first collegiate win of his career to improve to 1-2-0 on the year. Rowe made 20 saves on the night, 10 of which came in the second period.
Tyler Venne suffered his first loss in a 22-save performance. He is now 1-1-0 on the young season.
Bethel finished with the shots advantage by a 24-to-20 margin. The Gusties were shut down on all three of their power play tries, while the Royals went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage.
On where to go from here, Coach Petersen says it’s back to the basics and back to work. “We’ll take tomorrow off, look at the tape, and come back to work on Monday and try to figure out how to score some goals,” he said. “We have a long ways to go when it comes to finding identity offensively. Consistency has been missing as well, but we have a resilient group that will be able to figure it out and bounce back.”
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will continue MIAC play next weekend when it takes on St. Thomas in a home/away series. The Gusties will kick off the weekend at Don Roberts Ice Rink with 7:05 p.m. start time against the Tommies.