St. Peter, Minn. – Thanks to a strong first period that yielded two goals, the Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team was able to skate to a 3-1 victory over Augbsurg College on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. The Gusties take over sole possession of first place in the conference standings with the win, improving to 8-4-3 overall and 5-1-1 in the MIAC. Augsburg suffers its second straight loss and is now 9-4-1 overall and 2-2-1 in the MIAC.
Junior defenseman Sam Smith (Vancouver, B.C.) had much to do with the team’s first period surge. He recorded the first assist on the game’s opening goal and then put the puck in the back of the net himself later in the frame. With only one shot to his credit entering the weekend, Smith’s only two shots of the evening resulted in a pair of goals.
“I’m happy for Sammy Smith to get a couple points tonight,” said Petersen about his defenseman. “He certainly is not a natural goal-scorer, but it was terrific to get some production from him.”
In the opening five minutes of the game, Corey Leivermann (Sr., North Mankato, Minn.) kick-started a Gustavus rush by connecting with Smith on a no-look, rink-wide pass as he moved through the neutral zone. Smith skated the puck across the Augsburg blue line and fired a low-lining slap shot aimed at the bottom right portion of the goal. Auggie goaltender Matthew Bartels made the save, but the rebound came to the stick of a wide-open Adam Smyth (Sr., Burnsville, Minn.) who was on the doorstep for the rebound goal.
Smyth’s goal came at the 3:04 mark and was his eighth of the season. Smyth continues his scoring-surge with tonight’s goal and has now recorded 10 points on six goals and four assists over Gustavus’s last nine games.
“I came off the bench and Leives made a really nice play on a close one in the neutral zone to get me the puck,” said Smith about the team’s first goal. “We’ve been working on getting pucks to the net in practice, so I just wanted to go far pad and see what happens. Luckily, there isn’t a better guy than Smitty to be crashing the net.”
Despite the fast start and early lead, Coach Petersen was not happy with how his club finished the first period. “Augsburg had the better part of the first period after our initial surge,” he said. “Even though we killed their power play chance with under five minutes left, we lost some of the edge we had in the early stages.”
The Gusties were able to survive several Augsburg flurries late and take a 2-0 advantage into the first intermission thanks to a goal by Smith at the 18:04 mark. The Vancouver, B.C. product saw a window at the left point and sent a low slap shot at the net. The puck went cleanly through traffic in the slot before crossing the goal line through the five-hole of Bartels.
“It was just kind of a broken play in front that came out to Joey Olson,” Smith said about the play on which he scored his first goal of the season. “He made a great pass over to me and I got the shot off quick. I tried to keep it on the ice and it was nice to see it go in.”
Gustavus negated both of Augsburg’s power play chances by not allowing the Auggies a single shot on the man-advantage in a scoreless second period.
At the 7:10 mark of the third period, Gustavus went on the power play and scored :54 seconds in to extend its lead to 3-0. Corey Leiverman scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season after knocking a rebound in from left of the crease at the 8:06 mark.
“We were better in the second period even though the score remained the same, but it was great to get a power play goal in the third because they’ve been so few and far between this season,” said Petersen about the third period power play goal. Gustavus entered the weekend ranked ninth in the league on the power play, hitting at just 9.4-percent.
“We only had two looks and the one we scored on was our first full man-advantage of the night,” he continued. “With good patience, we generated good looks and got some pucks to the net. Good things happen when we do that and I was pleased to see us put one away.”
Augsburg was able to score a power play goal of its own and cut the lead to 3-1 when Zach Dick beat John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.) at the 17:43 mark. From that point, the Auggies skated nearly two full minutes with their net empty but were not able to cut further into the lead.
McLean used all 6’ 8” of his frame to secure tonight’s win, stopping 28-of-29 shots to help him improve to 7-3-3 with the win. His counterpart, Matt Bartels, suffers his first loss of the season after making 21 saves.
“Big John played big throughout the night and during stretches was the difference,” commented Petersen about his goalie. “He was aggressive all night in shutting down shooting angles, and made a key save on McCellan in the second period on a goal that could have swung momentum in their favor.”
The Auggies finished with a 29-24 shots advantage after out-firing the Gusties 12-6 in the third period. Gustavus went 1-for-2 on the power play, while Augsburg finished 1-for-5.
The Gusties will now gear up for the series finale set to take place on Saturday, Jan. 18 at Ed Saugestad Rink in Minneapolis. Gustavus and Augsburg will drop the puck tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m.
“Augsburg is a good team and they compete at a high level,” concluded Petersen. “We know it will be a battle up at their place tomorrow night, so we’ll enjoy this win tonight and get back to work tomorrow morning.”