Milwaukee School of Engineering players remain grounded, despite getting a sniff of rarefied air with the team’s Top-15 ranking and first place standing.
The Raiders pierced the NCAA Division III’s upper tier after a weekend sweep of then No. 15-ranked Marian. The victories in the home-and-home series lifted MSOE (6-0) into first place in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association.
“Right now, we have a good thing going in the locker room,” said junior goalie Connor Toomey, who earned his second MCHA Defensive Player of the Week honor after he held the Sabres to three goals in two games. “Everyone kind of understands their role on the team and what everyone needs to do to help us win games.
“I think that it is a little bit different than in past years.”
The Raiders are off until Dec. 3-4, when they host St. Mary’s for a pair of nonconference games. This week, players tackled final exams before the holiday break.
The team’s early-season performance is worthy of an A grade.
Sophomore forward Jordan Keizer is pacing the front-running Raiders with a team-leading eight goals and three assists in six games.
In Saturday’s 4-2 home victory over Marian, Keizer netted a hat trick while his linemates, center Bradley Tierney and forward West Bauman, recorded two assists apiece. The Edmonton, Alberta native assisted on Michael Thompson’s opening goal in Sunday’s rematch, which MSOE won 2-1 on Michael Soik’s game-winner.
Keizer and Tierney played on the same line last season, whereas Bauman only joined the pair in time for the weekend series with Marian. They’ve clicked.
“Brad is really good at controlling the puck,” said Keizer, who was named MCHA Player of the Week. “He is really crafty with it. He’s able to go into the corners and can almost work by himself. Wes really knows how to find the spaces and makes some really good passes. He was able to find me a couple of times for goals there.”
In a preseason coaches poll, MSOE was picked to finish third behind Adrian and Marian respectively. Pundits may have overlooked the Raiders due to the team’s youth, junior goalie Connor Toomey said. MSOE has nine sophomores and 11 freshmen on the roster.
“So, I could see where expectations might not have been too high for us,” Toomey said. “We weren’t really paying much attention to it.
“We knew what we had and we knew if we worked hard, we could accomplish some good things.”
Toomey’s play mirrors his team’s rise in fortunes. His miserly 1.40 goals-against average ranks fifth in the nation while his sterling .936 save percentage is the MCHA’s best.
Toomey credits his blueliners in front of him. The Raiders have outscored opponents, 29-8.
“They’ve made my job pretty easy,” the Raider netminder said. “They’ve been holding teams to a lot of perimeter shots and we haven’t been giving up that many shots.
“They’ve eliminated the breakdowns in front of the net and it’s allowing me to see the puck.”
St. Thomas’ net gain
St. Thomas netminder Geoff Sadjadi said he would like to have his own goalie school some day. In the meantime, he’s just happy to be top of the freshmen class for shot-stoppers.
The Faribault, Minn.,native has started in all six games for the 4-2 Tommies, who are in first place in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. St. Thomas opened MIAC play with a pair of victories over Augsburg, 2-1 and 4-0, last weekend.
Sadjadi, who stopped 40 of 41 shots during those two games, earned the conference’s hockey athlete of the week honor. The Shattuck-St. Mary’s product also gained the confidence of his coach.
“A lot of goalies are either really extroverted or very introverted. He just goes about his business,” St. Thomas Coach Jeff Boeser said. “He is very quiet and you just know mentally he is always preparing himself.”
Sadjadi has already shown the resilience of a seasoned veteran. After the freshman premiered with wins over Bethel and Concordia in the MIAC Showcase Oct. 29 and 31, he surrendered eight goals in a pair of home losses to St. Olaf, 5-3, and Wisconsin-Stout, 3-0, the following weekend.
“I guess the biggest adjustment is the pace of the game,” said Sadjadi, who played with the North American Hockey League Jamesville Jets last season. “It’s just a lot quicker. Also, the way plays develop is a lot different than in junior hockey.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment in the beginning, but I think I’m starting to get a little bit of a handle on it.”
Sadjadi’s 2.17 goals-against average ranks second in the MIAC, while his laudable .910 save percentage is fifth.
He is one of a handful of MIAC freshmen goalies debuting this season. Others include Hamline’s Matt Hemingway (2-1-1, 2.34 GAA and .917 save percentage) and Concordia’s frosh goaltending trio of Glenn Gayet (0-2-0, 3.00 GAA and .902 save percentage), Chris Neamonitis (0-2, 3.52 GAA and .875 save-percentage) and Kelly Andrew (1-1, 3.02 GAA and .903 save-percentage).
Sadjadi prepped for this freshman season by attending Future Pro Goalie School in Ontario. There, he worked with former Michigan State standout Jeff Lerg, whose 5-foot-6 stature was something Sadjardi could relate with being 5-foot-9 himself. Sadjadi doesn’t believe his size was a factor in being overlooked by some D-I schools that showed some interest.
“In the end, they ended up picking other guys,” he said. “It is what it is. I’m very happy that I am at St. Thomas.”