St. Peter, Minn. – It had been 33 days since the Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team last competed against a collegiate opponent. In their first game back from break, the Gusties knocked off the rust with a hard-fought 2-2 tie against NCHA opponent Lake Forest College on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. Trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, senior Adam Smyth (Burnsville, Minn.) brought the score to a final at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal – his second goal of the game – halfway through the period.
The Gustavus men’s hockey team extends its unbeaten streak to eight games and is now 7-3-3 overall. Lake Forest snaps its six-game losing-streak with tonight’s tie and is now 5-8-1.
“No matter how hard you try, you can’t simulate game competition in practice – especially when you’re coming back from such a long break,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen. “I thought we got better as the game wore on, but most importantly tonight, we got out and played a solid game. It was by no means perfect, but it was good test of character as we begin the second half of our season.”
Despite boasting the MIAC’s ninth-ranked power play heading into the weekend, the Gusties were able to convert on their first power play opportunity of the game. At the 5:51 mark of the first period, Adam Smyth buried a rebound goal after an Andy Pearson (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.) shot attempt deflected onto his stick at the goaltender’s right post.
“We scored a goal finally,” laughed Petersen about his team’s early power play goal. “It was a good boost early, especially since we know heading into the second half of our season that we need to be better on the power play. If we want to get serious from here on out, that area has to improve and tonight was a step in the right direction.”
“Pearson shot the puck at the net, it hit the blocker, and I just sort of took a whack at it,” said Smyth describing his power play goal. “Coach talked to us before the game about gaining momentum on the power play even if we don’t score. We just tried to get pucks on net and get something going.”
The goal was Smyth’s first on the power play this season. Gustavus went into the locker on top 1-0 and carrying a 12-11 shots advantage after one period. Gustavus goaltender John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.) came up with a pair of sprawling saves in the frame, keeping the Gusties in the lead.
“Big John was good throughout the night and put us in a great position to win,” said Petersen about his goaltender. “Of all of our players tonight, John seemed to show the least amount of rust of anyone. He wasn’t overly tested but when he was, he stood tall and gave us a chance.”
The Foresters eventually solved McLean at the 5:48 mark of the second period when Ian Pichel tied the game at 1-1 off an assist from Jordan Bruce.
Lake Forest kept the pressure on and eventually took a 2-1 lead at the 14:51. Gustavus’s Jared Docken (Fr., Northfield, Minn.) was called for interference at 13:08, and less than :30 seconds later at 13:32, Drew Aspinwall (Fr., Maple Gove, Minn.) was sent to the box for boarding. The Foresters capitalized on the 5-on-3 advantage when Bobby Barret netted a one-timer from the left crease.
When it appeared that Lake Forest goaltender Leo Podolsky was seeing the puck to well to be beat again, Smyth saw a shorthanded scoring opportunity and made the most of it. The senior skated the puck up the right-side boards, keeping the puck on his forehand until crossing Podolsky’s face and beating him blocker side with a finishing backhand.
“I saw the D was hanging back a little bit so I just tried to take the puck and drive to the net. Fortunately I was able to get around the defender and finish on the backhand,” commented Smyth about the goal.
Smyth has scored two goals in a game twice this season and now has 11 points on seven goals and four assists. He is currently riding a seven-game scoring-streak during which he has posted five goals and four assists.
Neither team could capitalize on the their power play chances following Smyth’s equalizer and the game went into overtime tied 2-2.
Lake Forest recorded three shots to Gustavus’s one in overtime, yet both squads failed to come away with the sudden death goal.
Both clubs went 1-for-5 on the power play, as Gustavus finished the game with a 43-30 shots advantage.
John McLean stopped 28-of-30 shots, while his counterpart, Leo Podolsky, turned away 41-of-43 shots. McLean moves to 6-2-3 on the year and has not been beaten since a 3-1 loss to Concordia on Nov. 15.
“Tonight was a good come-from-behind tie, but we have to forget about it and start preparing for tomorrow night,” said goaltender John McLean about Saturday night’s matchup. “We know Adrian is coming in No. 1 in the nation and we have to be ready to go from the drop of the puck.”
Coach Petersen mirrored McLean’s sentiment, saying, “The guys played hard and nobody got hurt. We need to put this one behind us and prepare for another tough test against Adrian tomorrow night.”
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will square off against Adrian on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7:05 p.m. at Don Roberts Ice Rink.