St. Peter, Minn. - The Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team used a three-goal first period to cruise to a 4-1 victory over Saint Mary’s University on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. The Gusties earn three points in the conference standings with the win and extend their unbeaten-streak to eight games within conference play. Gustavus is now 10-4-3 overall and 7-1-1 in the MIAC, while Saint Mary’s drops to 6-9-1 overall and 2-5-0 in the MIAC.
“The first period was good,” said assistant coach David Martinson following the game. “We came out flying, had some good early shifts, and put the pressure on them early. Leivermann gave us an early goal and we were able to ride the momentum out – capitalizing two more times – for the remainder of the period. To get up three goals after one was huge because sometimes you don’t get rewarded for a fast start and your opponent just tends to stick around.”
Just 1:07 into the game, Corey Leivermann (Sr., North Mankato, Minn.) turned at the bottom of the right circle and snapped a wrister at the net from a bad angle. The puck found its way between the body of Saint Mary’s goaltender Christian Gaffy and the right post for Leivermann’s team-leading 11th goal of the season. Leivermann will enter tomorrow night’s game riding a three-game goal-streak during which he has also registered two assists.
Just over ten minutes later at the 11:27 mark, Gustavus extended its lead to 2-0 with a goal by defenseman Nate Paulsen (Jr., La Habra, Calif.). Handling the puck at the right point, Paulsen moved to the center of the ice and fired a wrister through a screen in front of the net. Gaffy had no look at the puck as it sailed into the top left corner of the net. With the goal, Paulsen is now the team’s top scoring defenseman with six points (4G, 2A).
The three-goal scoring-spree was capped off with an Adam Smyth (Sr., Burnsville, Minn.) goal at the 17:04 mark of the frame. Moving up the right wing, linemate Andy Pearson (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.) dropped the puck off for a trailing Smyth at the right circle. Pearson drew the defender with him, and Smyth quickly snapped the puck into the top right corner. Smyth extends his point-streak to three games and has now scored in nine of Gustavus’s last 10 contests, recording 12 points (7G, 5A) within that time.
Saint Mary’s pulled Christian Gaffy after allowing Smyth’s goal, and Gustavus went into the first intermission on top 3-0 with a 13-6 shots advantage.
Although they lost their first period rhythm and took a total of four penalties in the second, the Gusties were still able to find the back of the net. At the 8:01 point, Joncarlo Westerlund (Fr., Baudette, Minn.) beat Saint Mary’s new goaltender, Mitch Fernsler, five-hole with a one-timer from amongst traffic in the slot. Corey Ellis (Jr., St. Paul, Minn.) provided the assist from behind the net on what was the first goal and point of Westerlund’s collegiate career.
Saint Mary’s put together a much-improved third period and broke the shutout at the 9:03 mark when Bob Marx put away a rebound that sat in the crease after Gustavus’s John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.) made an initial save on a shot by Jed McGlasson.
McLean finished with 20 saves in the victory, nine of which came in the third period alone. He improves to 9-3-3 on the year and is now unbeaten in his last eight conference games.
Cristian Gaffy suffered the loss after allowing three goals in 17:04. Mitch Fernsler replaced Gaffy and made 17 saves in 42:56.
Neither team could capitalize on the power play as both clubs finished 0-for-6 on the night. After outshooting Saint Mary’s 24-10 through the opening two periods, Gustavus finished with a 29-20 edge in the final shot count after being outshot 10-5 in the final 20 minutes.
“The kill has been pretty solid all year and tonight was no different,” commented Martinson. “What hurts us more is how much taking a penalty stalls our momentum. We’re at our best when we’re able to roll four lines and use our depth. The more we’re in the box, the less we’re able to do that.”
With the win tonight, Gustavus has an opportunity to sweep for the fourth MIAC series in a row. Gustavus will travel to Winona on Saturday for the series finale set to take place at 7:00 p.m. at the SMU Ice Arena.
“At this point of the year, every win is huge,” Martinson concluded. “It definitely wasn’t pretty at times, but we’ll take the three points. Saint Mary’s is going to be feeling good about their chances heading into tomorrow night’s game. They got better as the game wore on and will certainly be a different team on their home ice. Another three points would be huge for us so we’re going to have to come out and play our game from the drop of the puck.”