St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s hockey team came away with a 4-2 victory in its most gutsy effort of the season on Saturday night against Hamline University. Despite facing a 2-0 deficit early in the first period, Gustavus responded with four unanswered goals to earn the win and a crucial four points with the series sweep. With the score tied 2-2 inside the final three minutes of regulation, sophomore forward Jack Walsh (Mahtomedi, Minn.) was able to knock a rebound past Hamline goaltender Matt Hemingway for the eventual game-winning goal.
“Honestly I had no idea it went in until I saw everyone coming at me,” said Jack Walsh about his game-winning goal which came at the 17:26 mark. “Their D made a great play to break up a 2-on-1 and the puck went to the corner. I had a hunch that Tyler was going to throw the puck at the net and sure enough he saw me over his shoulder. It hit one their D’s skates and I just tried to power it home. Like I said, I shot it and the next thing you know everyone is around me.”
Walsh now has sixth goals on the season, three of which are game-winners.
With the win, Gustavus puts itself back in the thick of the playoff hunt, improving to 11-7-3 overall and 5-5-2 in the MIAC. Hamline drops to 1-17-5 overall and 1-10-3 in the MIAC with the loss.
“It wasn’t by any means flashy, but a win is a win,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen. “Give Hamline a lot of credit, they came in here and put us on our heels by setting the tone early with a pair of goals. Our guys showed a lot of fight and perseverance to come back and that gives us a lot of confidence heading into another weekend with playoff implications on the line.”
Looking for the series-sweep on their home ice, the Gusties didn’t get off to the start they were looking for. Inside the fifth minute of the game, disaster struck for the Black and Gold. Going on a 2-on-1 break, Hamline’s Kevin Novakovich picked out the top right corner of the net, giving the Pipers a 1-0 lead at the 4:20 mark.
Just :19 seconds after the go-ahead goal by Novakovich, Grant Fahnhorst put Hamline up 2-0 after diving for a loose puck in the slot and knocking it over the shoulder of Tyler Venne (Sr., New Hope, Minn.).
After a penalty-free first period, the second period was marred with penalties. Hamline’s Lane Mahoney was sent to the box for interference at the 6:50 mark and Gustavus took advantage on the ensuing power play. Just :26 seconds into the man-advantage, Adam Smyth (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.) scored to cut the lead to 2-1. Alone behind the net, Smyth attempted a wrap-around that was initially turned away by Hemingway. Sticking with the play, Smyth was able to get his own rebound and put the puck past the Hamline netminder on his second try.
The goal was Smyth’s 10th of season and second of the weekend. The junior has been on a scoring tear as of late, registering nine points on five goals and four assists over the past four games.
Following the Smyth goal, the Gustavus penalty killers were called upon to kill four straight penalties – one of which included a five-minute major and game misconduct charged to Andrew Peterson (Sr, Reno, Nev.) at 15:28. The killers were up to the challenge and escaped the period down 2-1 on the scoreboard. Hamline finished 0-for-7 on the power play in the game, while Gustavus went 1-for-2.
“One of the focuses heading into tonight was staying out of the box,” Petersen said. “We didn’t do that in the second period, but fortunately got some great penalty killing.”
It was at the 4:59 mark of the third period that Gustavus scored the equalizer. Andy Pearson (So., Burnsville, Minn.) took the puck across the Piper line at the center of the ice and snapped a shot at the net. The shot went off a defender’s skate and happened back onto the stick of Pearson who dove and lifted the puck past Hemingway.
Following over 16 minutes of back-and-forth hockey, Jack Walsh scored the game-winner, and Ryan Johnson (Sr., Blaine, Minn.) added an empty-netter at 19:59.
Tonight’s victory was Gustavus’ first true come from behind win of the season. Entering the weekend, Gustavus was 0-4-1 when trailing after the first period and 0-5-1 when trailing after the second period.
After giving up the two goals in the fifth minute, Tyler Venne was rock solid in net for the remainder of the contest. Venne picked up the complete-game victory, stopping 29-of-31 shots and improving to 7-4-3 on the year. His counterpart Matt Hemingway got the loss after allowing three goals and making 25 saves.
Hamline finished with the shots advantage 31-29.
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will make the trek to Winona, Minn. on Saturday, Feb. 8 for the opening game of a weekend series against Saint Mary’s University. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.
“In all reality, we are in playoff mode right now,” concluded Petersen. “With two weekends left, we are healthy and starting to find some consistency on both ends of the rink. Saint Mary’s is a very good club and I expect an exciting series.”