Since the 1987-1988 season, Bethel had lost 38 straight regular-season games to St. Thomas. During that time, the Royals were 1-45 against the Tommies. They’re only win came on Feb. 26, 2001 in the semi-finals of the MIAC playoffs. Bethel won 5-3 then went on to win the mini-game and advance to the championship game where they tied St. John’s twice before falling 1-0 in the mini-game.
In Friday’s streak-ender, St. Thomas scored two goals in less than a minute to grab a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Royals responded with the first of four unanswered goals, a power-play goal by sophomore forward Brad Peterson. Bethel tacked on two more goals in the second period, then, got the game-winner in the third period on a weird play.
Tommies junior netminder Treye Kettwick came out of the net to clear the puck but the Royals’ junior forward Dan Bonne came away with the puck at the blueline. As Kettwick tried skating backwards into the net, he collided with a defenseman and both of them hit the ice, allowing Bonne to a free shot at an open net.
“I was just hoping he didn’t miss the net,” coach Pete Aus said.
In the second game, Bethel never missed, showing off the offensive power that many coaches have been talking about all season. Led by sophomore forward Nick Miller, who had a hat trick and two assists, the Royals put up nine goals against St. Thomas in the 9-3 romp.
Miller’s second goal was one of his power-play goals and Aus was thoroughly impressed.
“He one-timed one from the point and he’s just got a rocket, it was a laser,” Aus said. “If anybody would have gotten in the way of it they probably would have been dead.”
Bonne added a goal and three assists while senior goaltender Dustin Thompson picked up his second win of the series, stopping 22 of 25 shots he faced.
“Yeah I think we were (surprised),” Aus said of the weekend results. “Our goal probably going in was to get a win. On Saturday night we just played tremendous. We just really stepped it up I think.”
Miller was one of the guys who really stepped it up. The night before, he had no points, and entering the series, had just one goal and two assists. Aus said his performance was surprising, but it’s something he and his staff thought could eventually happen.
“He’s a great player but we didn’t see that in the first seven games,” Aus said. “He just stepped it up. It was like he was on a different level.
“That’s what we’ve been hoping would happen and he just stepped to the plate,” Aus said.
As for whether Miller can continue his strong play throughout the season, he said he hopes so.
“As a player you always want to think you can do your best out there and help the team as much as possible and yeah hopefully I can stay at this level,” he said.
He and the rest of the Royals will try to continue their strong start in conference play against Augsburg this weekend. The Auggies are second place in the MIAC with five points and a 1-0-3 mark. They’re coming off a pair of sweeps against St. Olaf, and Aus knows they won’t roll over for Bethel.
“I just told them yesterday, ‘Did you see Southern Cal play Notre Dame? Yeah. And did you see what happened with Southern Cal played UCLA? Yeah. OK so two games, if we don’t continue to perform well, doesn’t mean anything. We haven’t proven anything yet. We’ve proven we swept St. Thomas — that’s great,’” Aus said.
“This weekend we’ve got a series against Augsburg, that’s going to be a tough series,” Aus said. “They’ve got some tremendous players and we can’t stand on last weekend’s laurels, it’s a new series this weekend so we have to play hard.”
Gustavus Adolphus won a pair of overtime games against Hamline this past weekend to improve to 4-0-0 in conference play and pull three points ahead of second-place Augsburg in the MIAC standings.
The Gusties won Friday’s contest 4-3 in extra time thanks to a John Keseley 4-on-3 goal less than 30 seconds into overtime. Keseley scored the game-winner on Saturday too, giving Gustavus a 5-4 win. That completed the come-from-behind victory as it was the Gusties third unanswered goal.
Keseley is tied for third on the team in points with three through for conference game, but is leading the team for all games with 11 points. He has six power goals out of a team-high seven goals scored.
“By playing him at defense it enables us to get him on the ice more so than we could if he was playing forward,” coach Brett Petersen said.
Gustavus won its first two conference games of the year against Concordia, taking down the Cobbers 2-1 and 5-2.
While those two teams are consistently considered the bottom-feeders of the conference, with the parity in the MIAC this season, games against those two teams aren’t guaranteed wins like in years past.
“Historically in our conference, if you want to make the playoffs you need to be at 20 points, you have to get 20 points to get in the playoffs,” Petersen said. But because of the increased parity in the league, the fifth team may only have 16 or 17 points and be right around .500 Petersen said. He even went as far as to say his team might not even make the playoffs, even though his team is better than last year’s squad.
The road to the playoffs is certainly going to be a bumpy one for the Gusties as they face St. Mary’s, St. Olaf, Bethel, St. Thomas, Augsburg and St. John’s to finish conference play. Still, Petersen isn’t worried because his players don’t anything different because it’s basically the same schedule Gustavus had last year.
Instead, he voiced his opinion on the conference scheduling as a whole, saying the MIAC should alternate opponents on a given weekend, instead of playing two games against the same opponent.
“I’d like to change our whole schedule to be honest with you but I have a small voice in that opinion in our conference,” he said. “I’d think you’d find a much truer champion.”
As for whether or not Petersen’s team can be champions this season remains to be seen and that’s not what Gustavus is aiming for at this point.
“We’re trying to get 20 points,” he said. “Because I don’t know if there’s a team in the history of our league whose had 20 points and not made the playoffs. So we’re looking at more of a, we’ve got eight points now out of 20. This weekend we could have eight points still, we could have 10 points, we could have 12 points out of 20 and that’s our race every year is to get into the playoffs … and that’s all you can shoot for.”