OMAHA, Neb. — St. Lawrence’s offensive output finally matched its effort on Saturday, with five different Saints scoring in SLU’s 5-2 win over Army in the Icebreaker Tournament’s consolation game.
SLU (1-1-0) was unlucky to lose 3-0 to No. 11 Mass.-Lowell in Friday’s first semifinal, and with the Saints keen to come back to Qwest Center Omaha on Saturday to prove that their previous game was simply an aberration, a goal apiece from twins Derek and Jared Keller, as well as two assists from senior center Jeremiah Cunning, helped to make the Saints’ point very clear.
“I’m pretty pleased overall, because I think we had five solid periods out of six this weekend,” SLU head coach Joe Marsh said after the game. “We’ll certainly take that at the start of the season.
“Army is a team where we haven’t played them in a while, but they’re the type of team that never gets outworked. That’s their whole mentality, but I thought our guys responded very well, and we worked very hard to get our chances and give ourselves some breathing room.”
SLU had to work very hard indeed to pick up its first win of the season, but after some good end-to-end action from both sides to start the game, the Saints’ first goal of the weekend finally arrived at 11:23 of the first period. Center Aaron Bogosian won a faceoff for SLU in the Army zone before passing back to defenseman Derek Keller at the blue line, whose slap shot from distance blazed through the traffic in front of Army goaltender Joe Spracklen and into the net.
The goal seemed to knock the wind out of the Black Knights, and St. Lawrence pushed the momentum even further in their direction in the first period with another two goals coming 1:47 apart.
Sophomore Brandon Bollig notched his first goal of the season at 15:01 when he wristed one high past Spracklen from the left faceoff circle, and it was 3-0 moments later when Kyle Flanagan stuffed home the rebound from a Cunning shot to send Army reeling as it went back to their dressing room.
The Black Knights pulled a goal back three minutes into the second period, though, with defenseman Marcel Alvarez putting a rocket past SLU goaltender Kain Tisi for a power-play marker. SLU negated Alvarez’s goal and then some, however, with Jeff Caister and Jared Keller scoring 4:58 apart later in Saturday’s middle frame to place the Saints even more comfortably into the lead.
Caister’s goal was particularly satisfying for the Saints, as it allowed the senior defenseman to redeem himself after a mistake he made in front of his own net on Friday led to UMass-Lowell’s game-winning goal over SLU.
“If there’s an elder statesman on our team, it’s Caister that has that experience,” Marsh said. “He’s our (Nicklas) Lidstrom. He’s our best player back there in a lot of ways, and he’s a game-savvy guy who’s a warhorse and he’s just going to play an absolute ton for us.
“He was an absolute godsend for us last year in coming from Wayne State. He filled a void that we had, and since he arrived on the scene, he’s fit like a glove into what we’re trying to do.”
On the opposite bench, Army coach Brian Riley was particularly disappointed with the way that his Black Knights were unable to hold onto the swing in momentum that Alvarez’s goal provided.
“I thought that, just like last night, we showed signs in the second period of taking it to them, but we kind of put ourselves in a difficult situation by taking bad penalties,” Riley said. “They capitalized right away, so that kind of took the wind out of our sails. We were hanging on for dear life after that, but I thought we battled back well in the third period.”
The Black Knights did finish strongly, eventually bringing the game to its final tally of 5-2 with a goal from captain Eric Sefchik 11:14 into the final frame, but the damage had already been done, with Army (0-2-0) destined to return to West Point with a pair of losses from the first weekend of the season.
Riley was reasonably upbeat, though, despite his team’s fourth-place finish at the Icebreaker.
“It’s still early in the year,” he said, “And we put in a lot of new guys tonight to give them some experience.
“We definitely learned a lot this weekend, and we know that we certainly have a lot of things to work on, because (the season)’s not going to get any easier for us. We’ll have to take what we’ve learned here, though, and turn it into a positive.”
The Black Knights will be on the road once again next weekend, and they’ll look to earn their first victory of the season away against non-conference foe Merrimack. St. Lawrence, however, will play at home next weekend in a Friday-Saturday set against in-state rivals RIT and Niagara.