St. Cloud, Minn. – After a slow start in last night’s victory, the Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team turned in its finest first period performance of the season in Saturday night’s series finale against Saint John’s. Gustavus scored three goals and blistered the Saint John’s goal with a season-high 21 shots in the opening frame. Thanks to their blistering start, stifling defense, and solid goaltending, the Gusties were able to skate away with a 4-1 victory and earn a third consecutive MIAC sweep.
With six points this weekend, Gustavus remains in first place in the conference standings with 32 points at 13-4-3 overall and 10-1-1 in the MIAC. Saint John’s remains in fifth with 15 points at 11-8-0 overall and 5-5-0 in the MIAC.
Head Coach Brett Petersen’s club has suffered its fair share of bumps and bruises in the National Hockey Center, going just 2-10-2 since the turn of the century on Saint John’s home ice heading into tonight. History took a back seat, however, as Gustavus scored three goals over a span of 10-minutes 21-seconds in the first period.
Kicking off the scoring was Andy Pearson (Jr., Burnsville, Minn.) at the 6:13 mark. Pearson scored on Gustavus’s first power play off assists from Nate Paulsen (Jr., La Habra, Calif.) and goaltender John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.). It was McLean’s first assist of his collegiate career and Gustavus’s first assist recorded by a goalie since Josh Swartout did so against UW-Stevens Point on Dec. 13, 2009.
The Gusties kept the pedal down following the Pearson’s go-ahead goal when, just over three minutes later, Corey Leivermann (Sr., North Mankato, Minn.) scored his first of two goals off a Tyler Lapic (Jr., New Prague, Minn.) dime at 9:45.
Leivermann found the back of the net unassisted at the 16:34 mark to cap Gustavus scoring-spree and put the Gusties on top 3-0. With the goal, Leivermann improves his team-leading goal-total to 13 and extends his point-streak to six games.
Gustavus outshot Saint John’s 21-7 in the opening 20 minutes.
With a three-goal advantage heading into final segment, Gustavus capped its four-goal run with a power play goal by Adam Smyth (Sr., Burnsville, Minn.) from Blake Schammel (Jr., Red Wing, Minn.) at 3:37. Smyth, who played his 100th career game in a Gustavus sweater tonight, extended his point-streak to six games and has now recorded a point in 13 of his last 14 contests.
Gustavus finished 2-for-3 on the man-advantage and recorded two power play goals for the first time this season. The penalty kill was equally as good, holding the Johnnies scoreless on its two tries. The Gusties have now killed 22 straight power plays.
Saint John’s was able to get on the scoreboard at the 11:48 mark when Phil Johnson scored to bring the game to a final.
For the fourth straight game, netminder John McLean allowed just one goal in a victorious effort. McLean turned away 27 shots, his highest save total since Jan. 17 against Augsburg when he made 28 saves. The sophomore improves to 12-3-3 overall and isn now unbeaten over his last 11 league games.
Saxton Soley suffered the loss in an 18-save, 20-minute effort. His replacement, Mitch Thompson, allowed one goal and made 21 saves in 38:14.
Gustavus finished with a 45-28 shots advantage, while Saint John’s controlled the dots with 45 wins and 25 losses.
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will take a break from conference play next weekend when it travels to River Falls, Wis. on Friday, Feb. 7 for a 7:05 p.m. game against UW-River Falls.