SAINT PETER, Minn. — One down, 10 to go.
Gustavus Adolphus became the first team to punch its ticket to the NCAA Division III mens tournament as the Golden Gusties used a suffocating forecheck and five unanswered goals to down Hamline, 5-2, in the MIAC championship game.
The win earned the Gusties the MIACs automatic bid to the NCAAs. The last time the Gusties won the MIAC playoffs was in 1993, which was also the last season in which they qualified for the NCAA tournament.
It feels really good, said Gustavus Adolphus head coach Brett Petersen. This is a storied program and Im just really proud to be with this group. Its a special group that has gone through a lot this year.
To start the season we didnt have this rink. For the first seven or eight weeks we had to go on the road and were on a school bus every day. To see it finish here tonight with this crowd was just pretty fitting. Its a very proud moment for our program and our guys.
Though the Gusties are standing on top of the MIAC now, it didnt come easy as early in first period it looked like the game was going to be all Hamline.
The Pipers jumped out to 1-0 lead only 58 seconds into the contest as an errant Gustavus Adolphus breakout pass on the sidewall was picked off and worked to Hamline forward Ryan Kupperman. Kupperman, all alone in the low slot, turned and quickly beat Gusties goaltender Matt Lopes low to put the Pipers on top.
Hamline jumped on another Gusties turnover a few minutes later as after intercepting a pass, Arrigoni hit a streaking Kyle Kurr. Kurr converted the breakaway and it was 2-0 Pipers only 3:22 into the game.
At one point I was wondering if we had running time because at that rate we were going to get blown out, joked Petersen.
Despite being down 2-0 that early in the game, Petersen said it was anything but panic time on the Gusties bench.
In the big picture it wasnt that big of a thing, he said. It seemed to settle us down. My concern going in was that I knew we would be ready but maybe too ready. We just caught our breath and sort of came on there at the end of the period.
Near the midpoint of the opening frame the Gusties began to assert themselves with a suffocating forecheck that Hamline had little answer for.
The mounting pressure finally paid off and drew an interference penalty. At 14:55 of the period Gustavus Adolphus forward Rory Dynan converted on the ensuing power play to cut the Pipers lead in half.
Less than four minutes later the Gusties knotted the game 2-2 as a centering pass from behind the net by forward David Martinson glanced off a defender and directly onto the stick of teammate Ross Ring-Jarvi. He buried it over Hamline goaltender Beau Christians left shoulder and it was a brand new game.
It was big, but I just felt we needed one, said Petersen of the Gusties late first period goals. If we could have just gotten out of [the period] at 2-1 I would have been happy. We played well the last half of the period and getting that second one was just kind of a bonus.
The Gusties control of the latter stages of the first period turned into utter dominance in the second. Thanks to a meat grinder-like forecheck, a majority of the period was played in the Pipers zone.
It took over 13 minutes of the period to happen, but one of numerous neutral zone turnovers created by Gustavus Adolphus finally paid off. Left wing Brad Wieck jumped on a loose puck near center ice and hit a streaking Ring-Jarvi who once again beat Christian. The tally made it 3-2 Gusties and it was all they needed.
Another turnover would result in Rory Dynan extending the Gusties lead to 4-2 just 48 seconds later.
They held a 14-5 shot advantage in the second frame and were 20 minutes away from a league championship.
Weve been in games like that where we play that way then give up one and all of a sudden were down. If we play like that more times than not the end result will take care of itself and thats what happened tonight, said Petersen.
That second period was one of our better periods all year.
The pace slowed a bit in the third period, but Hamline was able to muster few quality chances on Lopes.
We made them work really hard in the second period and I think that took a little wind out of [Hamlines] sails, explained Petersen.
It wasnt our intent to play defensive but I think its instinctual, he added. Heading into the third we wanted to win that period. Both teams were tired and Hamline exerted a lot of energy in that second period so there wasnt a lot happening out there.
Wieck tacked on a marker to extend the lead to 5-2 with less than seven minutes to go and from there it was only a matter of time.
I felt good when I called timeout just to give our guys a blow with a minute and a half to go. We had just been called for icing and the faceoff was in our zone so I figured Id give them a rest. During that timeout I looked at our guys and just said theres a chance.
Christian stopped 30 shots in the losing effort for the Pipers, who finished the season at 16-11-1. Meanwhile, the Gusties improved there record to 17-10-0 and will eagerly await their NCAA tournament pairing which will be announced on Sunday.
Though a quality opponent awaits the Gusties in the NCAA tournament, for at least one night they will merely savor their first MIAC playoff championship in 16 years. Petersen even joked that he just might not be able to make Thursdays 7 a.m. staff meeting.
You get flashbacks of guys who have been here and helped us out in our program. Weve got a lot of really good people herethis is a good night for the Gusties.