Tough opening weekend
In the first weekend of play, the MIAC went 5-12-1 and was out-scored 72-48 by its NCHA foes. Granted, the NCHA had a few games experience under its belt, plus the advantage of playing 15 of those games at home.
The biggest thing to notice from the games however was the number of penalties being called. The MIAC was called for 183 penalties and the NCHA was whistled for 194. While the actual number of penalties called on both conferences was pretty even, the power-play conversions were not. The MIAC converted 20-of-161 power-chances while NCHA scored on 34-of-161 opportunities. And for St. Olaf coach Sean Goldsworthy, special teams, along with the number of games played, was a big difference-maker in the first weekend.
“Clearly as you’ve been looking at the box scores there’s been a lot of penalties and a lot of adjustment on the players part to the rules being called the way they should be,” he said. “If you look at a lot of box scores, there’s been a tremendous amount of penalties being called and therefore the special teams is going to be even weighed heavier. I don’t really care where you’re at or what program you’re at, you may be having success right now or not on the special teams but if you’re in your second game versus your fifth or sixth game it’s going to make a huge difference on how well prepared you are as a team.”
Winless start for St. Olaf
Despite scoring a goal on the first shot of the season, the weekend didn’t go so well for St. Olaf. The Olies lost a pair of games, 3-2 to Wisconsin-Stout on Friday, and 3-1 to Wisconsin-River Falls on Saturday.
After scoring the first goal of the contest on Friday, St. Olaf gave up three unanswered goals, including a pair of short-handed goals, and weren’t able to get back in the game.
“We clearly weren’t happy with our effort on Friday night,” Goldsworthy said. “We thought we clearly could have played a much better game tempo-wise, not to mention just the score. So we were looking more for a tempo and the ability to get the puck to the net more than we did at Stout, and we did that. We went out and we performed very well against River Falls. I thought we competed very hard.”
Special teams were not a strongpoint for the Olies as they gave up the two shorties and three power play goals on the weekend. Two of those power play goals came against River Falls, a game in which St. Olaf out-shot the Falcons 44-27, but found the back of the net just once, as sophomore A.J. Bucchino was a wall in goal.
“I think a lot of the credit has to go to A.J. and that’s what I explained to our team,” Goldsworthy said. “You out-shoot River Falls on the road like that, you’re doing some things right. Sports, especially in hockey, you can run into a hot goaltender and sometimes you don’t get rewarded for the effort.”
But the slow start doesn’t bother Goldsworthy. After all, last season was the perfect example for any team, of the importance of playing well at the end of the season, rather than the beginning of the year.
“The reality of it is … you can win some games in nonconference (play), but it doesn’t get you in a better position to make your own league playoffs and certainly win your playoffs,” he said. “So we’re looking mainly at the nonconference as, make the schedule as difficult as possible and learn to compete on a nightly basis so when you get into league play you can have success and make the playoffs and win your playoffs.”
This weekend, the Olies will try to break into the win column against St. Scholastica on Friday and Wisconsin-Superior on Saturday.
Wild runs wild for St. John’s
In its first game of the season, St. John’s showed off its offensive abilities in an 8-5 win over Lake Forest. Senior forward Justin Wild went wild, scoring four goals, and coach John Harrington said it easily could have been six.
“Justin Wild was terrific and the thing was I think he had three goals last year … he had four that game and he could have had six,” Harrington said. “He hit the post on a breakaway, he had the puck behind the goalie another time, it hit off his back and dropped straight down. We was terrific and he’s a good hockey player and he’s finally getting a chance here … to kind of shine.”
While the Johnnies didn’t have a shortage of offense on Friday, Saturday was a different story.
St. John’s fell in a 3-0 hole near the halfway point in the contest and wasn’t able to do much against Kyle Jones, scoring just one goal on 19 shots.
In net both nights for the Johnnies was sophomore Vince Wheeler, a transfer from Lake Superior State. He gave up 10 goals and made 41 saves which impressed Harrington.
“The situation, not just our coaches, but our team, has had here early in the going is comparing,” Harrington said. “I mean everybody’s comparing to what Adam Hanna did for us and it’s just an unfair comparison. Vince is going to be a good goaltender for us … He hadn’t played probably since last October sometime so he hadn’t been in a college game since then … We think he is our best goaltender.”
Skrypek out, Tommies split
With head coach Terry Skrypek recovering from hip replacement surgery, assistant coach Jeff Boeser has been in command of St. Thomas this season. The Tommies split in his opening weekend behind the bench, beating Wisconsin-Eau Claire 2-1 on Friday, but losing to Wisconsin-Stevens Point 5-3 on Saturday.
In Friday’s win, it was all about the goaltending, as St. Thomas senior netminder Treye Kettwick outdueled Eau Claire sophomore Ryan Mensing. Kettwick made 22 saves while Mensing made 33.
“First of all I’ve got to give the coach from Eau Claire [Luke Strand] a lot of credit; he recruited some good hockey players,” Boeser said. “He’s for real this year, he’s got a nice a hockey team and they could go some places and we’re really happy to win that game and only give up one goal our first game of the year without the head man there.”
Thanks to a couple of goals by junior forward Nick Pernula and one by senior forward Nick Harris, the Tommies had a comfortable 3-1 lead early in the second period. But things got uncomfortable quickly for St. Thomas as the Pointers scored four unanswered goals — including one empty-netter — to get the victory.
“I give a lot of credit to Stevens Point, they just run and gun … we might have got a little tired, not used to the travel in just our first two games of the year and we’re real disappointed that we gave up a 3-1 lead on the road,” Boeser said. “That’s just a little bit against our philosophy. Usually we really tighten up the screws defensively when we have a lead and we let it get away from us, but give credit to Stevens Point, they didn’t quit, they came back.”
Sophomore Cameron Voss, who transferred from Hamline, had the start in goal for the Tommies against the Pointers, making 31 stops in the losing effort.
“We had to see what Cam can do,” Boeser said. “Treye’s been a little bit inconsistent in the past and our philosophy is if we can just have him concentrate on one game per weekend and give it all he has, although that’s not etched in stone. And if Cam could come through or Jake Maida our third goaltender then we have a backup we can count on, but we really need to find out if we have a backup and I’m not saying Cam’s the backup but he played quite well.”
St. Thomas plays host to St. Norbert on Friday night then Lake Forest on Saturday.
“We have the utmost respect of coach Coghlin’s team,” Boeser said. “It’s going to be a good gauge to see where we’re at … We’re excited. We always go into every game thinking we can win, which is good and that’s the philosophy of St. Thomas hockey. We don’t take a backseat to anybody but we also have respect for our opponents and we’ll play hard.”