DURHAM, N.H. — St. Lawrence goaltender Mike McKenna stopped 24 of 25 shots in 65 minutes of play and then stymied all five St. Cloud attempts in a shootout. As a result, the Saints advanced to the Ice Breaker championship game on Sunday, where they will face New Hampshire.
The contest goes into the record books as a 1-1 tie since shootout results are not recognized other than to determine advancement in a regular-season tournament.
St Lawrence’s Matt MacDonald scored just 1:03 into the game, but was countered by Konrad Reeder’s goal later in the first period. Despite a multitude of penalties that resulted in a collective 16 power plays, McKenna and his counterpart in the St. Cloud nets, Tim Boron, stopped all other shots through regulation and a five-minute overtime.
While McKenna was taking care of business at the one end during the shootout, freshman Mark Wallman then made his first official NCAA game one to remember with the lone tally as the Saints’ third shooter. The highly regarded recruit showed why he was selected despite his newcomer status, deking Boron and stuffing the puck around him and into the net.
“I’ve done the same move since about Adam,” Wallman said. “So I knew what move I was going to use. I was just a little more nervous than I usually am because of the situation, coming in as a freshman and getting a chance in the first shootout.”
McKenna, a senior who hadn’t played in a shootout in three years, credited the large number of them that he played in while in juniors for his success.
“I felt really in control,” he said. “From the beginning, I knew that nobody was going to score on me. Having confidence makes all the difference in the world.”
The game might well have instead been decided by, appropriately enough, an overtime obstruction-interference penalty. Three of the five first-period penalties were such calls and five more the rest of the way were either obstruction-interference or obstruction-hooking. Despite the dearth of five-on-five play, both coaches expressed support for the NCAA mandate to crack down on interference away from the puck.
“Everybody is learning right now what they’re going to call and what they’re not going to call,” said St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl. “I didn’t take too much exception to the majority of the calls. It’s just a matter of the players adjusting to it and understanding what they can and can’t do.
“It’s like disciplining a classroom. At first it’s chaos, but eventually things start to come around.”
St. Cloud will now face Ohio State in the tournament consolation game.
“There were a lot of things that we’ll need to work on, but at least the effort was there,” Dahl said. “Obviously our [power play] was nothing to write home to Mom about. We were probably 0 for 10 or 12.” (Officially, SCSU was 0-for-9.)
SLU coach Joe Marsh was delighted with the result, even if it’s officially a tie.
“It’s a good start for us,” he said. “I’m excited about our goaltender obviously. He’s had two real good starts [including an exhibition] and he stopped all five shots in the shootout. And it’s great to be in a championship game.”
Before New Hampshire defeated Ohio State, 5-1, to also advance, both Marsh and McKenna made clear their preference to play New Hampshire in the title game, choosing a full building of hostile fans over a near-empty one in the early game. As the host, UNH was to play in the late game regardless of whether it was the consolation or title tilt.
“Being an alum, I’d hope [UNH] wins anyway, but it would be great to play in here in front of a huge crowd,” Marsh said. “They’d be gunning for us anyway because we upset them in here a couple years ago when our goalie Kevin Ackerley made about 500 saves. And we won last year.”
Added McKenna, “As somebody who feeds off the energy of the crowd, I love playing in an atmosphere where somebody is yelling at you.
“But no matter what, it’ll be to see who takes the trophy home. We don’t want to settle for anything less than that piece of hardware.”
It took St. Lawrence barely a minute to get on the scoreboard. In a sequence that appeared innocuous until the red line went on, senior defenseman Matt MacDonald put the puck on net from a position wide of the right faceoff circle. The shot went through traffic, however, and deflected off the upper post and Boron before trickling over the line.
A subsequent power play gave the Saints an opening to widen the margin, but St. Cloud countered with the best opportunity, a two-on-one shorthanded rush. Dave Iannazzo fed Mike Doyle and the senior tried to fake McKenna, but the netminder held his ground and made the save.
The first of two St. Cloud power plays showed little, but the second resulted in numerous quality opportunities, most notably Doyle from the low slot. None of chances proved fruitful, but less than a minute after the penalty ended Konrad Reeder cut left-to-right through the slot and then shot across the grain to beat McKenna at 10:53.
The Huskies dominated the opening minutes of the second period, initially while even strength and then on a power play. Not only did they fail to score, however, they almost surrendered a backbreaker. Shorthanded, St. Lawrence’s T.J. Trevelyan poked a loose puck inside the offensive blue line into the slot and John Zeiler, behind the Husky defense and about to come off the ice, got to the puck first only to shoot wide.
St. Lawrence squandered the golden opportunity of a 1:08 five-on-three man advantage at 12:17. The Saints creating no exceptional scoring chances for over a minute and then negated the rest of their power play time with an ill-advised holding the stick penalty.
Ironically, they followed the squander with a great chance four-on-four when Simon Watson threaded a pass through traffic to Mike Zbriger in front only the have the senior’s redirection stopped. Minutes later, Max Taylor also came up empty, this time while shorthanded. When Justin Fletcher mishandled the puck at the point, Taylor picked off the miscue and was off to the races. Boron foiled the breakaway attempt, however, to keep the game knotted at 1-1.
St. Cloud almost finished the period with an exclamation point. The Huskies generated pressure that culminated with an Andrew Gordon turnaround shot from the slot just before the buzzer, but it went wide leaving the teams deadlocked as intermission convened.
Penalties were the key to the third period with six called, none of them matching. St. Cloud got in any early hole, taking the first three. St. Lawrence’s best chance came on the second power play on a John Zeiler redirection attempt.
Doyle, Zeiler’s Husky counterpart since they both wear number 12, made the defensive play of the night later in the period, breaking up a three-on-one near the goalmouth.
In the overtime, St. Lawrence’s Josh Anderson almost put the game in the Saints’ win column, hitting the post on a two-on-one with Jamie Parker.