Mendota Heights, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team suffered a 2-1 loss to the University of St. Thomas in the 2014 MIAC Playoff Championship game on Saturday night at the St. Thomas Ice Arena. The battle between the league’s top two teams lived up to the hype, as St. Thomas used a late second period goal to come away with the one-goal victory in front of a capacity crowd on its home ice.
With the win, the No. 2-ranked Tommies improve to 20-4-2 overall and earn the MIAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Gustavus falls in the championship game for the second season in a row and drops to 16-6-4. The Gusties will now await when the NCAA Tournament field is selected later this weekend.
The game was decided at the 18:45 mark of the second period when Jordan Lovick scored the eventual game-winning goal. Michael Krieg got the puck to Lovick just outside the Gustavus zone and he then skated across the blue line and rifled a wrister past John McLean (So., Eagan, Minn.) from high in the slot. The goal was Lovick’s sixth of the season and first game-winner.
Scoring first was going to be key for both squads heading into tonight’s game. The Tommies were able to get that all-important first goal when Thomas Williams scored on the power play from point-blank range in front of the net at the 16:25 mark of the opening frame. The Tommies finished the game 1-for-1 on the power play, while Gustavus was blanked on its one power play try.
Shooting in front of their own student body,which filled an entire section of the arena, the Gusties came our firing in the second period. Just 1:11 into the frame, Gustavus was rewarded for its hard work when Corey Leivermann (Sr., North Mankato, Minn.) scored from between the circles to tie that game at 1-1. Leivermann took a feed from Tyler Lapic (Jr., New Prague, Minn.) in the corner and was able to beat St. Thomas netminder Drew Fielding who couldn’t slide across the crease in time to make the save.
The goal was Leivermann’s 18th of the season. Not since the 2009-10 campaign when David Martinson `10 recorded 29 goals has a Gustavus player scored more than 15.
Head Coach Brett Petersen’s club threw everything it had St. Thomas in the final 20 minutes. Despite outshooting the Tommies 12-to-8 in the final period, the Gusties were unable to find the equalizer against the nation’s top-ranked defense and goalie Drew Fielding.
Fielding stopped 29-of-30 shots and improved to 20-4-2 with the win. John McLean allowed two goals and made 23 saves in 59:04 minutes of work. Gustavus pulled McLean with :56 seconds left in the game, yet could not get any pucks to the net playing up a man with its net empty.
Gustavus will have to wait to find out if it will also join the field as an at-large selection when the field is announced Sunday at 9 p.m. The Division III bracket will be announced during a live selection show on NCAA.com.