SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Coming into tonight’s game at St. Thomas, Augsburg had been shut out for their past three games. None were blowouts, and the Auggies had chances, but just couldn’t seem to put the puck in the net.
The streak started with a 3-0 loss against UW-Eau Claire, followed up by a well played game that saw Augsburg lose 1-0 on the road to UW-River Falls. The third loss was in their first home game of the season, against the very same St. Thomas team they faced tonight.
Auggie coach Chris Brown knew his team had been playing hard, but needed to improve in some areas.
“We need to get our power play going,”, he said after the loss to River Falls. “We get chances, but aren’t able to convert. We need to be able to put some in when we get those power plays if we want to win.”
After returning most of their team from last season’s highest scoring team in the MIAC, it was somewhat surprising to see them get shut out once, let alone three times in a row.
It was only a matter of time until the high powered potential of this team woke up, and in the first two periods of this game, it appeared that time was now.
Four minutes into the first period, Augsburg got their first power play of the game, and wasted little time knocking it in to break the shutout streak and take a 1-0 lead.
Despite a St. Thomas power play and some late four-on-four action, most of the period was spent in the neutral zone, with few quality chances for either team.
In the second period, Augsburg got their second power play chance just 31 second in. Less than a minute later, David Hines took a shot from the high slot, beating St. Thomas netminder Joe Shraeder for a 2-0 lead.
For most of the second period, St. Thomas was able to control possession in the Augsburg end once they gained the zone, but had trouble generating quality chances. When they did get a chance, Augsburg goaltender Justin Lochner was there to make the save, and the Auggie defense was quick to tie up sticks and clear rebounds.
Eight minutes into the period, St. Thomas put Augsburg on the power play for the third time, and the result was the same as the first two. An initial shot from the blue line was blocked by a defender, but the rebound went right back to an Auggie who fired it on net, with Mario Mjelli getting a stick on it and scoring his first goal of the season to make it 3-0.
The referees in this game were very quick to separate players after any pushing or shoving after the whistle, and gave out three sets of matching penalties in the first two periods. Near the end of the second period, they showed they were serious about stopping anything after the whistle, and assessed a major facemasking penalty on Augsburg’s Trevor Doden, putting St. Thomas on the power play for a full five minutes.
The Tommies were finally able to generate some good chances, but Lochner was again up to the task. He stopped several point blank shots, as well as diving to shove a puck out of a scramble next to the net. A shot from the slot looked like it would put St. Thomas on the board, but Lochner was able to get just enough of it to send it fluttering barely over the crossbar.
Again the Augsburg defense was able to block the shooting lane and tie up sticks, forcing many St. Thomas shots to the outside, drawing groans from the crowd as the defensemen wound up to shoot, but were forced to pass instead of shooting it into a defender trying to block the shot.
The Auggies were able to successfully kill of the full five minutes, and the second period came to an end with the score 3-0 in their favor.
As impressive as Augsburg had been in containing the St. Thomas pressure in the first two periods, the third period was a whole other story.
For the beginning of the period, it seemed like Augsburg players were worried about making a mistake, and drew back instead of taking a chance going after a loose puck. The result was St. Thomas winning the battles for loose pucks and being able to control long stretches of play in the Augsburg end.
At the 3:56 of the period, the pressure finally paid off for the Tommies as they got on the board. St. Thomas drew a penalty and was able to maintain possession as their goalie got off the ice. While still in the Auggie zone, the puck was dropped off to Parker Burgess, who skated unopposed into the slot and sniped it just under the crossbar to make the score 3-1.
A few minutes later, the Auggies got a good chance to get the goal back, as a great give-and-go on a two-on-two transition saw an Augsburg player fire a backhand shot from just above the crease, but Shraeder was able to close off the angle and stop the shot.
A few minutes after that, Augsburg again got a golden opportunity when a bad clearing attempt by the Tommies left an Auggie all alone with Shraeder. Shraeder was in position and able to kick the shot aside to keep St. Thomas in the game.
If you listen to coaches talk, you’ll often hear things like ‘Good things happen when you go to the net’ and ‘Hard work pays off.’ Both of these held true 15:36 into the third period when St. Thomas was able to score their second goal.
Possession in the Augsburg end saw St. Thomas get a shot off from the blue line, but it sailed just wide left of the net. Lochner slid over to cover the post, but the shot rebounded off the boards to the right of the net, and Andy Singerhouse was there to push it into the net before Lochner could get back into position.
After a frustrating first two periods, the Tommies were back into the game with 3:30 to play, down 3-2.
With time winding down, it appeared that Augsburg was going to be able to escape with the win and split the weekend series, but with 56 seconds left and the St. Thomas net empty, a faceoff in the Augsburg end was a crucial test.
It appeared that Augsburg won the faceoff, but the puck shot across the crease, and Parker Burgess knocked it in for his second goal of the game. Only 2.5 seconds after the faceoff, the puck was in the net and the game was tied.
Despite the anxious excitement of the crowd, neither team was able to put together any serious scoring threat in overtime, and the two teams skated to a 3-3 tie. St. Thomas held the advantage in shots, outshooting their opponents 33-24.
The game saw some impressive goaltending, strong defense, quick transitions, and a wild finish to a close game.
In other words, pretty much what we’ve come to expect from the MIAC.
Augsburg moved to 2-3-1 on the season (0-1-1 in conference) while St. Thomas saw their record go to 3-1-2 (1-0-1 in conference.)