STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Fueled by a raucous crowd of 1,261 and timely goaltending, Wisconsin-Stevens Point captured a win in its home opener by defeating St. Thomas 5-3.
It didn’t come easy, however.
The Pointers appeared to survive an early scare by killing a 5-on-3 power play in the first five minutes of the game, but an ensuing Pointer penalty put the Tommies back on the power play and this time the Pointers wouldn’t be so lucky.
After grabbing a loose puck in the neutral zone, St. Thomas forward Nick Pernula broke down the left side on a 2-on-1. Electing to keep the puck himself proved to be a wise decision as he beat Marcus Paulson up high to stake the Tommies to an early 1-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later the Pointers got their own chance on the power play, and would also capitalize. At the 8:36 mark Pointer forward Sean Fish followed up a wraparound attempt and jammed it past Tommie goaltender Cameron Voss to tie the game at 1.
With 11 penalties called in the first period special teams were at a premium and after a Stevens Point penalty for goaltender interference, St. Thomas again gained the advantage with the extra man. At 14:11 Tommie forward Tom Knutson grabbed a Pointer turnover off the goal line and slid it across to the left side of the crease to Nick Harris, who easily beat Paulson.
The Tommies carried the 2-1 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot 14-9 in the period.
St. Thomas extended its lead a mere three minutes into the second period. Grabbing a loose puck to the left of the Pointer net, Pernula once again beat Paulson high, netting the first even-strength goal of the contest and the Tommies a 3-1 advantage.
Though Stevens Point would get three power plays in the next seven minutes, it was unable to capitalize with the man advantage. The Pointers did capitalize at even strength, however, as at 12:34 forward Shane Foster took a Matt Stendahl pass and fired a wrister through traffic that beat Voss up high.
A mere 52 seconds later the Pointers struck again to tie the game at three. This time it was Russel Law, who after taking a pass from Rolf Ulvin, fired an innocent-looking shot from the right circle that beat Voss five-hole.
Despite a frantic pace, fine goaltending from Paulson and Voss would send the game to the third period tied at 3.
With the end-to-end action continuing in the third period, it was only a matter of time until someone’s dam broke. At the 10:56 mark someone’s did and the Pointers who benefited as a Tommie turnover in the neutral zone resulted in a 2-on-1 for the Pointers. Nick Zebro dropped a pass to Dan Francis who ripped a close-range wrister past Voss to give the Pointers a 4-3 lead — their first lead of the game and the only lead they would need.
Numerous St. Thomas chances proved futile in the final 10 minutes as Paulson, who finished with 23 saves in the game, was up to the task and shut the Tommies down.
With four seconds to play Fish picked up his second goal of the game, netting the empty-netter to cap off the scoring.
The win finished a perfect 2-0 weekend for the Pointers and moved them to 2-0 on the season. The loss resulted in a 1-1 weekend for the Tommies, who are now 1-1 overall.
Voss picked up 31 saves in the losing effort.