RIVER FALLS, Wis. — On the strengths of a strong start and relentless pressure, Gustavus Adolphus withheld a late charge and downed the University of Wisconsin-River Falls 3-2 in a MIAC-NCHA non-conference matchup at Hunt Arena.
The Golden Gusties jumped on the Falcons from the opening whistle but despite controlling play for the majority of the opening 10 minutes they were unable to beat River Falls goaltender Bo Storozuk.
The unrelenting pressure finally paid off as the Gusties went up 1-0 at the 12:36 mark of the period after a loose puck deep in the Falcons zone trickled out in front of the net and was poked in by forward Eric Bigham.
Following a River Falls high sticking penalty, the Gusties threatened to extend the lead on the power play a few minutes later but were stonewalled by Storozuk. The Falcons tied it up at one at the 18:21 mark as a Tadd Norris lob pass that covered a third the length of the ice cleared the Gusties defenders and found its way to the stick of a streaking Andy Indereiden.
All alone on Gustavus goaltender Josh Swartout, Indereiden faked forehand, got Swartout to commit, and buried it up top with a backhander.
It was one of few bright spots for the Falcons in the period. Following the Indereiden goal, the Gustavus offense once again asserted itself, and some nifty passing in the offensive zone set up forward Jared Ackmann deep in the left slot. His wrister beat Storozuk high right and the Gusties were up 2-1.
The lead held for the remainder of the frame.
The Gusties carried a 17-4 shot advantage in the period.
“We always try to come out and play hard, said Gusties head coach Brett Petersen. Tonight we had a lot of guys in the lineup who don’t normally see much ice time. It’s a non-conference game and we try to get experience for as many guys as possible, and they came out and played hard tonight. I was pleased with how the whole team played hard right from the start.”
We knew they had a great deal of speed and we came out sluggish. We stood around watching them play. They moved the puck around well and we didnt come out and hit anybody. We didnt play physical enough to slow them down, said River Falls head coach Steve Freeman.
Gustavus continued to apply significant pressure early in the second, but Storozuk kept them off the board and it was the Falcons who were eventually presented with a golden opportunity 11 minutes into the period. With the Falcons already on the power play, Gusties forward Rory Dynan received a five minute major for checking from behind.
The Falcons were unable to capitalize on over five consecutive minutes with the extra man, however, and an offensive zone penalty at 15:18 negated the remainder of the power play.
That was huge, Freeman said. On that power play it was just one of those games for us. We could never get the puck on our stick and get a chance at putting it away. A guy would fan on it or it would hop a stick; just one of those games.
It only took the Gusties four seconds extend their lead to 3-1. With four skaters per side and the faceoff in the Falcons zone, the Gusties won the draw back to defenseman Cody Mosbeck who took a few steps toward the middle and fired a low shot through traffic that wormed its way to the back of the net.
“Not to make a pun, but it was a major play in the game and gave either team a chance to benefit, Petersen said. If they score one or two, they take the lead and all the momentum, and if we kill it off, it obviously pumps our guys up and gives us momentum.”
The Gusties carried the 3-1 lead into the third period, and with the shot count standing at 29-6 to start the period, the Falcons were forced to change some things up.
We tried to open it up a little more and take away the boards a little bit so we could get more pressure down low, even if we were going to give up a few odd man rushes, Freeman said.
The changed paid off as Falcons forward Justin Brossman poked home a loose puck to cut the Gusties lead to 3-2 with 3:39 to go.
After being idle most of the evening, Swartout was tested multiple times in a frantic final three minutes that saw the Falcons threaten numerous times, but he managed to keep the puck out of the net and the Gusties held on for the 3-2 victory. Swartout stopped 12 shots in the third period, the bulk of them in the closing minutes.
It was a great game with a great atmosphere, Petersen said. Especially the last five minutes or so; It kind of felt like a playoff atmosphere and I’m proud of how we came out and played. Swartout made some great saves at the end to keep us ahead.
Storozuk finished with 34 saves on the night and the loss drops the Falcons to 3-1 on the season. The Gusties improve to 2-1. Both teams are back in action tomorrow night as River Falls hosts Augsburg and Gustavus Adolphus travels to take on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.