With a new coach and a freshmen in goal, St. Thomas’ sure-bet status may have slipped south of the border. Recent history though, suggests the Tommies shouldn’t be overlooked as MIAC title contenders.
Last season, St. Thomas’ campaign was one of peaks and valleys before the team caught fire in the MIAC playoffs where, upsets of Hamline, 5-4, in the semis and Gustavus Aldophus, 2-1, in the finals — both overtime victories — ensued, and earned the squad an NCAA tournament invite. Gustavus exacted revenge,beating the Tommies, 3-1, in the first round.
“Those three extra games were all a really really good experience for our young kids,” said first-year coach Jeff Boeser, who succeeds Terry Skrypek. “I think it’s kind of carried over into this year. They worked hard over the summer, which is important. They come to the rink everyday eager to learn and get better.”
Skrypek, who retired after 22 seasons, didn’t leave the “cupboard bare,” said Boeser, who was a Tommies’ assistant for 30 years before assuming the head coach role.
Five seniors return, including last season’s top-two scorers, Andrew Kappers (10 goals and 19 assists) and Rob Johnson (11 goals and 15 assists). Forward Evan Mackintosh, who had a goal and two assist in four games this season, is the team’s other senior upfront.
The remaining upperclassmen, Phil Johnson and Kelly Kranz, patrol the blue line. Kranz, who is 27 years old, had two assists in two games while Phil Johnson is a leader in every sense of the word.
The 25-year-old is team captain (as well as older brother to Rob Johnson). The Duluth East High product also married his high-school sweetheart over the summer.
“He’s got a lot of responsibility in his life,” Boeser says. “I have a lot on my plate, so at times I might miss something and he is always there to remind the ‘D’ what I missed.
“He makes my job a lot easier.”
The senior rearguard will help steady Tommies’ freshman netminder Geoff Sadjadi, who was handed the reins based on the recommendation of goalkeeping coach Jacque Vezino.
In the team’s first four games, the Faribuilt, Minn., native was 2-2 with a 3.00 goals-against and a .883 save-percentage.
“It’s early in the season and it’s long season,” said Boeser, who describes the 5-foot-9 custodian as technically sound but still raw. “(Sadjadi is) not used to back-to-back games, but he’s playing pretty well.”