St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team secured the No. 2 seed in the MIAC Playoffs with a 4-1 victory over Bethel University on Saturday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. Four different Gusties recorded goals while a total of nine players hit the scoresheet. Gustavus led 3-1 after two periods and then iced the game with a Gustav Bengtson (Sr., Stockholm, Sweden) empty-netter late in the third.
With the win, Gustavus improves to 14-6-4 overall and 11-3-1 in the MIAC. The Gusties are guaranteed home ice in the MIAC Playoff Semifinals on Saturday, March 1, but their opponent is still yet to be determined. The team that wins the No. 3 seed between St. Olaf and Saint John’s following tomorrow’s games will travel to Don Roberts Ice Rink for the semifinals next Saturday. Bethel drops to 3-19-2 overall and 2-12-1 in the MIAC with tonight’s loss.
“I’m happy for our seniors and this was a nice win for them tonight,” said Head Coach Brett Petersen about his group of seven seniors who were honored as a part of Senior Night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. “This has been a great group who we’ve got a lot of miles out of. I was pleased with how they came out secured the two seed with a win.”
Gustavus dictated play from the drop of the puck and tilted the ice for the majority of the first period. By the buzzer, Gustavus had grabbed a 2-0 lead and carried a 17-5 shots advantage.
“We had a good early push and the first period was easily our of best of the night,” commented Petersen about his team’s fast start. “Although Bethel battled throughout the game, I thought our strong start was the difference.”
At the 15:48 mark of the opening frame, Blake Schammel (Jr., Red Wing, Minn.) put the Gusties on top 1-0 with his second goal of the season. Zach May (Sr., Prior Lake, Minn.) started an odd-man rush with a strong surge up the left wing. May took his defenseman to the nearly the goal-line before dropping a no look pass back to a trailing Schammel who was moving up the right slot. Schammel reached back on his left-handed forehand and one-timed the puck into the top right corner.
Nearly three minutes after Schammel’s go-ahead tally, Corey Leivermann (Sr., Mankato, Minn.) extended the lead to 2-0 with a goal at 18:24. Although the majority of the arena didn’t see the puck knock the water bottle on top of the net into the air, Leivermann knew he’d tucked the shot under the crossbar and was already done with his celebration by the time the referee signaled the goal. Sam Smith (Jr., Vancouver, B.C.) angled a shot wide of the net from the left point, and Leivermann re-directed the puck up and in as he glided across the goal-mouth.
“He hasn’t had many that have looked the same – I’ll give you that,” Petersen said about Leivermann’s goals this season. “He’s very creative and has turned out to be a pure goal-scorer all year. Tonight was just another example of how he finds different ways to put the puck in the net.”
Leivermann extends his point-streak to 10 games with the goal and now has 14 points (9G, 5A) over that time-span. With just one game in the regular season remaining, the senior captain is tied for the lead in scoring within conference play with 19 points off of a league-leading 12 goals and seven assists.
Gustavus held on to a two-goal advantage until Cory Ellis (Jr., South St. Paul, Minn.) capped off the three-goal run at the 13:33 mark of the second period. Gustav Bengtson centered a pass from behind the net that connected with a crashing Ellis who was able to jam the puck through from just outside the crease. The goal was Ellis’s third of the season and first since Nov. 22.
The Gusties looked lackadaisical and disinterested on the power play late in the second period and Bethel made them pay the price. After Josh Shingler picked off an errant pass in front of the Gustavus net and was turned away on his countering shot attempt, EJ Gann tracked down the rebound and was able to beat John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.), cutting the lead to 3-1 with the short-handed goal at 19:24.
Despite a penalty-ridden third period that saw Bethel receive two power play opportunities, Gustavus’s penalty killers were able to do the job and keep the Royals off the scoreboard. The Gusties finished 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, and outshot the Royals 14-6 in the third period and 41-22 in the game.
Bengtson’s empty-netter came at the 19:12 mark and brought the score to a final at 4-1.
John McLean wasn’t tested often, but made several key saves throughout the night to keep Gustavus’s lead intact. He stopped 21-of-22 shots and improves to 13-5-4 overall with the win. McLean’s counterpart, Steven Bolton (3-14-2), suffered the loss after making 37 saves and allowing three goals in 59:33.
“He didn’t see a lot of shots but he stood tall when he was challenged,” said Petersen about McLean. “He controlled is rebounds throughout the night and did a nice job limiting Bethel to just one shot. It was a good bounce-back game for him after suffering a pair of tough losses last weekend.”
The Gustavus men’s hockey team will now head to Blaine, Minn. where it will cap the 2013-14 regular season with a 7:00 p.m. game against Bethel at the Schwan Super Rink.
“Our goal was to be number one, but that didn’t work out. Our next goal was to be number two, and we got that done. That gives us a home semifinal game next Saturday that we’ve worked hard for and look forward to,” Petersen concluded.