St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team responded to an early 1-0 deficit with four unanswered goals, skating away with a 4-1 victory over St. Olaf College on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. With the win, Gustavus secures a spot in the MIAC Playoffs for the 13th consecutive year. The Gusties improve to 14-7-3 overall and 8-5-2 in the MIAC, while St. Olaf drops to 10-12-2 overall and 9-6-0 with the loss.
“This locks us into the post season, and that’s big,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen. “For a club that got off to a horrific start and had to battle through some major injuries, it says a lot about how far we’ve come. We were at the bottom of the pile for awful long time, so for us to hang in there, chip away, and keep working hard and now have a chance to potentially win a league title tomorrow night is a credit to the perseverance of the guys.”
Gustavus extends its winning-streak to five games and is now 8-1-2 in its last 11 MIAC contests. Despite an 0-4 start in league play, the Gusties have put themselves in a position to potentially win the MIAC Championship tomorrow night in Northfield.
The night’s scoring began at the 5:47 mark of the first period when David Rath put away rebound underneath the pads of Gustavus goaltender Tyler Venne (Sr., New Hope, Minn.) in the midst of scramble in front of the net. The goal would be St. Olaf’s last of the night, as Venne turned away the rest of the Oles’ 24 shots over the remaining minutes.
It would take until the 17:35 mark of the opening period before Gustavus could get on the scoreboard. St. Olaf’s David Rath was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking and it took the Gusties just :33 seconds to score on the ensuing power play. After hitting the pipe on a shot from the point to start the power play, Nate Paulsen (So., La Habra, Calif.) got another one through from the top of the umbrella shortly after. Paulsen’s second try was saved by Ole goaltender Steve Papciak and the rebound came out in front to an uncovered Tyler Lapic (So., New Prague, Minn.). Lapic put the puck past Papciak on the rebound, tying the game at 1-1.
“We haven’t had much success on the power play as of late so that initial power play goal gave us a big boost heading into the second,” commented Petersen. “For the most part, we had the puck on the offensive end of the ice for the majority of the period and generated a lot of quality looks.”
The Gusties took the momentum of the power play goal and extended their lead in the fifth minute of the second period. Working the puck off the boards in the left corner, Corey Leivermann (Jr., North Mankato, Minn.) put a no-look pass with his back to the goal on the stick of Jack Walsh (So., Mahtomedi, Minn.) who was crashing the net from the left circle. Walsh back-handed the puck into the top right corner of the goal, putting the Gusties up 2-1.
Walsh’s goal turned out to the game-winner, his team-best fifth of the season. The sophomore’s goal-scoring tear continues as he extended his point-streak to five games and his goal-streak to four. He has seven points on six goals and one assist over the past five games.
Gustavus added to its lead with another early-period goal. At 3:36 of the third frame, Ryan Johnson (Sr., Blaine, Minn.) put the puck on the stick on Andy Pearson (So., Burnsville, Minn.) with a no look pass of his own from the left circle. Pearson one-timed the puck five-hole from in front of the crease to push the Gusties’ margin to two goals.
Despite a lull in the heart of the third where St. Olaf generated several good opportunities, Gustavus was able to hold on to the lead thanks in large part to stellar goaltending by Tyler Venne who made 13 saves in the final 20 minutes.
“Tyler Venne was solid once again and came up with some big saves down the stretch – he was no doubt the best player on the ice in the third period,” said Petersen about his senior goalie. “Give St. Olaf credit in the third period because after we scored our third goal, they put their foot on the pedal while we let ours off. Tyler came through and was the difference in keeping us in the lead.”
Venne finished with 27 saves on the night, picking up his fifth straight win in the process and moving to 10-4-3 on the year. His counterpart, Steve Papciak, allowed three goals and came up with 35 saves in the loss.
Adam Smyth (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.) brought the scoring to a close and the game to a final with the empty-netter from the right point at the 19:44 mark.
Gustavus outshot St. Olaf 39-28 and held the Oles scoreless on all three of their power play tries.
It was also senior night at Gustavus as nine senior players were honored in a ceremony following the victory.
“It was great to have the students back on campus – they created a high-energy atmosphere in the building tonight on Senior Night,” concluded Petersen. “What a way for those guys to go out. This group of seniors has put in a tremendous amount of work to get to this point and they are rewarded with a trip to the MIAC Playoffs for the fourth time in their career. That’s something that is not easy to do and there are very few seniors in the league that can say they’ve accomplished such a feat.”
The regular season will come to an end tomorrow night at the Northfield Ice Arena where the Gusties and Oles square off at 7:30 p.m.
Notes… Gustavus earns its first Friday night home victory over a league opponent with tonight’s win over St. Olaf. Gustavus is now 7-3-2 overall on Friday…The Gusties improve to 3-5-2 on the season when their opponent scores first…By registering a point tonight, Tyler Lapic, Corey Leivermann, Andy Pearson, and Ryan Johnson all extended their respective point streaks to five games…Adam Smyth’s goal was his team-leading 12th of the season…Gustavus’ power play goal this evening was its first since Feb. 2 and only fourth since the holiday break. The Gusties are 4-for-20 on the man-advantage in the second half of the year…Goaltender Tyler Venne is 7-1-2 in Gustavus’ last 10 games…Alex Gallen was a team-best +3 tonight and also recorded his first assist since Nov. 30…After outshooting its opponent for the third straight game, Gustavus is now 9-1-3 when it outshoots the opposition.