St. Peter, Minn. – A fast start was the difference in the Gustavus men’s team’s 3-2 victory over St. Olaf College in the opening round of the MIAC Playoffs on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. The Gusties dominated the opening 22 minutes of the game, grabbing a 3-0 lead and outshooting the Oles 27-3 by the 1:05 mark of the second period. Although St. Olaf turned the tide with two goals later in the second period, Gustavus was able to keep the Oles off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest and hold on late for the one goal win.
With the victory, Gustavus advances to the quarterfinals of the MIAC Playoffs. The Gusties will travel to Mendota Heights, Minn. tomorrow night to face Co-MIAC Champion St. Thomas at 7:30 p.m. Gustavus improves to 16-7-3 overall, while St. Olaf finishes its season at 10-14-2.
“Coach P always tells us to stick with the system and stick with what works,” said junior Zach May on Gustavus’s fast start. “We’ve been practicing it all year – taking the puck hard to the net, playing the body, and doing the little things right. That paid off in the first period. ”
Because the two teams faced each other just a weekend ago in the final series of the regular season, the start of tonight’s game was critical. After each goaltender made saves on breakaway opportunities at both ends of the rink, Gustavus settled into a groove and began to tilt the ice and dictate play.
The Gusties blistered St. Olaf goaltender Henrik Wood with 15 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the game. The 16th shot that reached its target hit the back of the net at the 15:13 mark and came from the stick of sophomore Tyler Lapic (New Prague, Minn.). After Lapic won a face-off to his defenseman Nate Paulsen (La Habra, Calif.) from outside the St. Olaf blue line, Paulsen got the puck to Jack Walsh (So., Mahtomedi, Minn.) who moved it into the zone. Walsh found Lapic, who from the bottom the right circle, dangled around a St. Olaf defender before beating Henrik Wook with a sharp close-range wrister.
The goal was Lapic’s seventh of the season, as he and Walsh both extended their point-streak to seven games on the go-ahead scoring play.
Gustavus continued to pepper Wood for the remaining minutes of the frame. At the 18:43 mark, Andrew Peterson (Sr., Reno, Nev.) extended Gustavus’ lead to 2-0 with his fourth goal of the year. Peterson drove a slop shot from the left point to the goal where it hit traffic between the circles. Good fortune and bad St. Olaf luck took over from there. As Wood slid to his right to make a potential save, the Peterson drive ricocheted off a body and ended up slowly rolling across the goal line to Wood’s left.
Gustavus went into the locker room for the first intermission with a 25-3 shots advantage. It was the second fewest shots allowed in any period this season.
The Gusties were still in control early in the second period. At the 1:05 mark, Zach May (Jr., Prior Lake, Minn.) had nose for the puck and was at the right place at the right time. Scoring his first goal since Nov. 3 tonight, May buried a rebound from in front of the net, extending Gustavus’ advantage to 3-0. The goal turned out to be the game-winner, his first of the season.
It was all St. Olaf for the remainder of the period, as Oles got on the scoreboard just two minutes after May’s goal. At the 3:18 mark, Joel Lundstrom beat Tyler Venne (New Hope, Minn.) with a low liner from the left circle.
After Lundstrom’s goal, Gustavus found itself reeling. The Gusties took two straight penalties and had to skate 4-on-4 for a two minute segment before the 15-minute mark of the period. At 16:19, the score was cut to 2-1 on a Dan Checka goal on a slapshot from the left circle.
St. Olaf tightened down the shots in the second period, outshooting the Gusties 18-7. The Oles outshot the Gusties 10-8 in the third, yet Gustavus had the final shots advantage 40-31.
Gustavus goalie Tyler Venne was once again up to the challenge of keeping his club in the lead. Despite a scare where Venne a puck to the throat in the second period up 3-1, the senior persevered. At one point he made a critical save on a 2-on-1 breakaway, steering away a shot from St. Olaf’s leading scorer Jeff Harris. Venne finished with 29 saves and now has won seven straight games.
“St. Thomas is a very good team,” said senior Brenden Baker on the upcoming matchup against St. Thomas. “We saw them earlier in the year and it didn’t go very well so we look forward to the opportunity to have another crack at them. We are a different team now than we were then, but so are they. It’s going to be a good game and hopefully we can come out on top.”