St. Peter, Minn. – After tonight, the Lawrence men’s hockey team may wait until Adam Smyth (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.) graduates before scheduling Gustavus for another non-conference game. Within three days to the date of his four goal performance against Lawrence in a 5-3 win last season on Dec. 10, Smyth proved to be a Viking killer once again, scoring a hat trick to lead the Gustie men’s hockey team to a 4-3 win on Friday night in Don Roberts Ice Rink.
Gustavus earns its fourth straight victory and is now 7-5-1 overall. Lawrence sees its two-game win-streak come to end and is now 4-7-0 with the loss.
“It’s nice to get five without a loss for sure,” said assistant coach David Martinson. “At times we played the way we are capable of, while at other times we looked somewhat tentative and nervous. We let them hang around and looked to be in a sort of a prevent defense mode in the third. Although we didn’t capitalize on a few great game clinching opportunities, we did a nice job shutting them down and not letting them pull their goalie at the end.”
Following a back-and-forth opening to the first period, Gustavus took advantage on its first power play opportunity of the night. Smyth scored his first goal of the game on Gustavus’ second shift of the power play at 6:17 of the period. The junior dangled around a defender at the Lawrence blue line to start up a 2-on-1 break. Skating down the right wing, Smyth snapped a wrister blocker side into the top left corner of the net.
Smyth’s opening power play goal was one of increased importance because it snapped a string of 23 scoreless power play tries for the Gusties – a streak that dated back to November 9th. The Gustavus power play turned out to be the story of the night. Entering the game, the Gusties were just 4-for-43 (9.3%) on man-advantage, ranking eighth in the MIAC. The Black and Gold capitalized on three of four power play chances against Lawrence, the squad’s best performance of the season.
Eleven minutes after his go-ahead goal, Smyth added his second score of the game at the 17:02 mark to put the Gusties on top 2-0. Happening on a loose puck that ended up at the left slot off a blocked shot, Smyth sent a low-liner that found its way through traffic, under the Lawrence’s goaltenders pads, and into the back of the net.
After being held scoreless and shotless on their first power play try in the first period, the Vikings took advantage on their only opportunity in the second. With one second remaining on a Henrik Reisvang (Nesbru, Norway) penalty, Lawrence’s Renato Engler knocked in an easy put-back rebound to cut the lead to 2-1 at 11:00 of the second period.
Gustavus took back the momentum with two unanswered goals within seven minutes of the Engler tally. At 15:28, Smyth completed the hat trick with a power play goal reminiscent of his first in the game. Once again, he carried the puck across the Lawrence line and up the high left slot where he snapped another wrister, this time finding the top right corner of the goal to extend Gustavus’ lead to 3-1.
“It was good to see Adam shooting the puck like he can and did tonight,” said Martinson. “We did a nice job taking advantage on our power play opportunities. Whether it be on the rush or in the zone, we moved the puck well and used the extra space to our advantage.”
Less than two minutes later, Tyler Lapic (New Prague, Minn.) gave Gustavus a 4-1 advantage with the team’s second-straight power play goal. Lapic took a chance on a sharp-angled shot from the bottom of the right circle, squeezing the puck past Peter Emery for what would be the eventual game-winner.
Despite facing a three-goal deficit late in the second period, Lawrence refused to lay down for the remainder of the game. The Vikings swung momentum in their favor with a Brad Scurfield re-direct goal with just 2.6 seconds on the clock . The squads would head into the second intermission with Gustavus leading 4-2.
Lapic’s goal ended up being the difference, as Lawrence cut the lead to 4-3 with a goal at 8:43. Phil Bushbacher beat Tyler Venne (Sr., New Hope, Minn.) blocker side on a breakaway to bring the Vikings to within one. The Gusties generated several good looks in the third, yet could find the back-breaker to put the game out of reach.
Gustavus finished with a shots advantage of 31-16, which included a 23-9 margin through the fist two periods.
Although he wasn’t tested often, Tyler Venne made the big saves when he had to. Venne allowed three goals and finished with 13 saves, improving to 3-2-1 with the win. His counterpart Peter Emery was pulled after allowing all four goals in 36:59. He recorded 19 saves and is now 2-5-0 with the loss. His replacement Michael Baldino made eight saves during his 23:01 between the pipes.
“To go into the break with another win tomorrow night would be great for this team,” commented Martinson. “One thing we will look at tomorrow on film is how good our quick transitions were at times, especially in the first and second periods. We used our speed and home rink so well to start tonight.”
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will shut the curtains on 2012 with another non-conference test against No. 10 UW-Superior on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
“UW-Superior suffered a tough loss tonight so they will be fired up. We need to be better for the whole game tomorrow night instead of going through the ups-and-downs we saw tonight,” concluded Martinson.