St. Peter, Minn. - The Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team extended its conference unbeaten-streak to 10 games with a 2-1 victory over Saint John’s University in a defensive battle on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. Despite trailing 1-0 after the first period, the Gusties scored two unanswered goals – one in the second and one in the third – to come away with their third one-goal win of the season.
With the win, Gustavus remains alone atop the conference standings with 29 points at 12-4-3 overall and 9-1-1 in the MIAC. Saint John’s sees its six-game winning-streak come to an end and is now in fifth place with 15 points at 11-7-0 overall and 5-4-0 in the MIAC.
Both teams struggled to find rhythm through the opening portion of the game. Near the halfway point of the first period, Saint John’s forward Dan McNamara connected with defensemen Brady Riesgraf at the left point with a pass from the opposite goal line. Riesgraf sent the puck through traffic and into the back of the Gustavus net to put the Johnnies on the board first at the 9:44 mark.
“I thought both teams were a bit tentative and were just trying to feel each other out in the first period,” said assistant coach David Martinson. “Neither team was especially sharp, but Saint John’s was able to get a nice goal off a shot from the point that John didn’t have a good look at.”
Gustavus was blanked on its only power play chance of the period and was limited to just four shots inside the frame.
Trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes, it didn’t take long for Gustavus to get on the scoreboard in the second period. At the tail end of a strong first shift, Gustavus’s Tyler Lapic (Jr., New Prague, Minn.) found the puck on his stick off a rebound just inside the left circle. With Johnnie goaltender Saxton Soley outside the crease because of the scramble off the initial shot, Lapic pivoted and sent the puck into an open net to tie the game at 1-1 with 18:58 left to play in the period.
“It was a good first shift and the goal came at the very end of that shift,” commented Martinson about Gustavus’s game-tying goal. “Tyler and Corey had a good forecheck off a dumped puck and they simply got shots to the net – something we didn’t do enough of in the first period. I don’t think he was even looking at the goal when he shot but Tyler made a great play and showed great presence of mind to know where the goal was when he turned and shot.”
After killing off a third-consecutive Saint John’s power play in the opening three minutes of the third period, Gustie Adam Smyth (Sr., Burnsville, Minn.) capitalized on a rebound in front of the goal.
“When you’re in a tight game like that, you need your top guys to step up and that’s what Smitty (Adam Smyth) did,” Martinson said about Smyth’s game-winner. “Zach May did a nice job beating out an icing, holding the puck in the zone, and then getting it to Joey Olson who put a shot on the right leg pad of Soley from the left point. Adam got to the net, was in the right place at the right time, and put in a big goal.”
With the goal, which was his second game-winner of the season, Smyth now has 10 on the season and has reached double-digit goals for the third straight time in his career. He also had the second assist on Lapic’s goal and with two points tonight, extends his point-streak to five games during which he has tallied seven points (3G, 4A).
Corey Leivermann’s (Sr., North Mankato, Minn.) assist on Lapic’s goal also extended his point-streak to five games as well. Leivermann now has six points (3G, 3A) within the streak.
Gustavus killed off another Saint John’s power play halfway through the period to finish 4-or-4 on the penalty kill in the game. The Gusties have not allowed a power play goal in their last four contests and have negated 20 straight power plays within that time.
Saint John’s pulled its goalie with less than two minutes on the clock and got several pucks to the front of the net in the remaining moments of the game. Gustavus goaltender John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.) was up to the challenge and turned away five shots in the final minute.
“I can’t say enough about how well John is playing right now,” Martinson said about McLean. “With his size, it’s already tough to score on him. He’s been so good at challenging and being aggressive that there’s so little net to shoot at and that makes it tough on other teams. As a forward, it’s demoralizing to have that little net to shoot at every trip down the ice.”
“In the last two minutes of the game, he made some huge saves on pucks right in front of the net and without his effort tonight, we probably don’t get the regulation win.”
McLean improves to 11-3-3 overall and is also unbeaten over his last 10 games against league opponents. He stopped 23-of-24 shots and has allowed just one goal in three of the last four games.
McLean’s counterpart, Saxton Soley, allowed two goals and made 21 saves on the night, dropping to 9-5-0 on the year.
Saint John’s finished with a 24-23 shots advantage and held the Gusties scoreless on their only power play chance of the night.
“They were tough here and they will certainly be tougher up there tomorrow night,”said Martinson about tomorrow evening’s matchup. “Saint John’s is going to be in desperation mode because they need these points. Tomorrow’s game is going to be about playing smart positional hockey on a bigger sheet. To be successful we’re going to need to stay disciplined with our assignments and stick to our game plan.”
The Gusties have a chance for series sweep for the third straight weekend tomorrow night when they travel to the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. for a 7:00 p.m. series finale.