St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s hockey team battled back from down a goal in the third period to come away with a 1-1 tie against Saint John’s University on Saturday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. For the second straight night, the Gusties needed a third period goal to tie the game and salvage at least a point. Tonight, it was Darren Lapic (Fr., New Prague, Minn.) providing that goal.
Lapic scored three minutes into the third period to tie the game at 1-1. Because neither team could find the go-ahead goal in regulation or the five-minute overtime session, both the Gusties and Johnnies come away from the weekend with two points.
“It’s disappointing to come away with two ties from the weekend when we knew going in that we needed to get on a run and start picking up points,” said assistant coach David Martinson. “In terms of commitment and overall effort, I’m happy with how the team played tonight – much improved from last night. The bottom line is that it comes down to putting the puck in the net. We had our chances tonight but just couldn’t capitalize.”
With back-to-back ties this weekend, Gustavus sits in sixth place in the conference standings with six points at 8-6-3 overall and 2-4-2 in the MIAC. Saint John’s is two points back of the Gusties in seventh place, going into next weekend at 6-6-3 overall and 1-3-2 in league play.
The Gusties created several opportunities throughout the game, yet couldn’t capitalize and finish with a goal.
“We hit a couple pipes and created some other good looks that we just weren’t able to put away,” said Martinson. “It’s encouraging to get those looks, if you’re not it’s worrying, but we have to at some point take a step forward and start finishing. If we want to make a strong second half push as we hope, those chances have to turn into goals.”
Saint John’s was the first to draw blood, going up 1-0 on a Tobias Linbro goal at the 7:53 mark of the second period. An initial shot on goal from the right circle deflected off a Gustavus defender’s shin pad and happened onto the stick of Linbro at the right dot. The senior snapped the puck through traffic and past Tyler Venne (Sr., New Hope, Minn.) for the go-ahead goal.
Trailing 1-0 early in the third period, Darren Lapic took control of the puck in his own end and would not give it up until putting in the back on the net. Lapic capped the coast-to-coast rush with a back-hander that tucked into the goal via the right side of Saint John’s goaltender J.D. Wells. The goal was Lapic’s second of the season and first since Nov. 30 against Augsburg.
Following Lapic’s equalizer, Gustavus was faced with killing off a five-minute major penalty after Alex Gallen (Jr., Hingham, Mass.) was tagged with a contact to the head penalty. Thanks to a second straight night of strong penalty killing, the Gusties were able to come away from the major unscathed.
“That kill was huge, especially when you look at how much a five-minute major against UW-Superior hurt us the last time in this rink,” commented Martinson. “What was a great opportunity for Saint John’s actually swung the momentum in our favor. That’s a credit to our depth on the penalty kill and our perseverance when backed up against the wall. We were able to roll four sets penalty killers at them and that is something you need to be able to do against a five minute major.”
Both Gustavus and Saint John’s were blanked on their power play throughout the night. The Gusties went 0-for-3, while Saint John’s went 0-for-5.
By the final buzzer, Gustavus held another slight advantage in shots at 27-25. Tyler Venne moved to 4-3-3 with the tie, stopping 24 of Saint John’s 25 shots. J.D. Wells made a total of 26 saves, moving to 1-2-1 with the tie.
Coach Martinson stressed the importance of the upcoming two weeks of practice as Gustavus gears up for the backstretch of the 2012-13 regular season. “We definitely have the talent to make a run, but right now we are just missing on little elements of our game,” he said. “We are off next weekend and then we get into the finish push. If we can’t make a run, that will be it. There are a lot of positives to take from tonight and that gives us confidence moving forward.”
The Gustavus men’s hockey team is off next weekend and will be back in action on Jan. 25-26 when it travels to Moorhead, Minn. for a weekend series against Concordia College.