Nonconference Not So Nice
It hasn’t been a spectacular midseason break for much of the MIAC as the league has gone 7-11-0 against nonconference opponents so far, getting out-scored 84-60 in that span. Only Hamline was able to win more than one game as the Pipers won the St. Michael’s Tournament with a pair of victories. But, that’s been the theme in nonconference action this season. The MIAC went 9-25-1 in its first 35 nonconference games, followed by a 4-6-0 showing over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Hamline wins St. Michael’s Tournament
Apparently being in last place in the conference and having the worst overall record among MIAC teams didn’t really bother Hamline heading into the St. Michael’s Tournament in Burlington, Vt. Coming into the tournament with just two wins all season, the Pipers put together two solid performances to double their season win total and win the crown.
“It was just good to get out East and see a different style of hockey … That was kind of the goal,” coach Scott Bell said. “Last year when I started the job at Hamline I said I wanted to make sure that our players get at least one trip a year where we do something different than just play the teams in the Midwest.”
On Dec. 30, against Johnson and Wales, Hamline found itself down 2-0 in the first period before lighting the lamp of couple of times in the first frame to knot things up at 2-2 heading into the second period. In the second period, sophomore forward Joe Long took over for the Pipers, scoring a pair of power-play goals which gave Hamline a 4-3 lead after two periods of play. A goal by freshman defenseman Dustin Postell just 47 seconds into the final frame gave the Pipers a 5-3 they nearly blew. Johnson and Wales netted two goals in the third period to send the game into overtime, and it was there that freshman forward Kyle Kurr became the hero 3:18 in the extra session, taking a pass from sophomore forward Dustin Fulton and knocking home the goal off the outside post to send Hamline to the championship game.
“We said we didn’t come all this way not to win,” Bell said. “So it was nice that we did end up winning that game and playing really well.”
Against tournament host St. Michael’s on New Year’s Eve, both teams got off to a quick start, scoring a combined three goals in the first seven minutes of the contest, but the Pipers took the early 2-1 lead thanks to goals by Long and sophomore forward Steve Festler. After St. Michael’s tied the game 2-2 in the second period, Festler scored his second goal of the contest to put Hamline up 3-2, but once again the Pipers couldn’t hold the lead as St. Michael’s scored to make it 3-3 going into the third period. But Hamline was not to be denied on the final night of 2006. Forward Dustin Fulton scored the game-winner 5:36 into the period and Festler recorded the hat trick with an insurance goal with less than two minutes to play.
Festler was named tournament Most Valuable Player after his four points in the championship game, which were his only points of the tournament. Fulton and freshman goaltender Matt Wanvig joined Festler on the All-Tournament team as well. Fulton had one goal and three assists while Wanvig stopped 59 of 67 shots to pick up a pair of wins.
“I think some of our players gained a lot of confidence just in their own individual ability because they are freshmen and they’re not sure, ‘Hey can I play at his level? How am I doing?'” Bell said.
Gusties Spend Time Overseas
One team that has yet to play an official game over the break is MIAC-leading Gustavus Adolphus. The Gusties are 6-0-0 in league play and have a four-point cushion over Augsburg and St. Olaf. Gustavus is back in action tonight against Wisconsin-Eau Claire after a month-long break.
But it wasn’t a total break from hockey for the Gusties as Gustavus spent a portion of its break in Europe, playing three exhibition games in Switzerland and Italy. The Gusties spent time in Lugano, Switzerland, as well as Torino, Florence and Rome in Italy.
Coach Brett Petersen said the main goal of the 10-day trip — which the Gusties make once every four years — is for sightseeing and a form of relaxing, there is still hockey to be played. Gustavus played three local amateur teams, once in Ascona, Switzerland, one in Aosta, Italy and one in Pinerolo, Italy.
Petersen said it was an amazing experience for the 90 people that went — 45 players and coaches plus 45 family members — and had more than a few stories to tell. He said the team saw actor George Clooney’s lakeside villa in Switzerland where portions of the movie Ocean’s 12 were filmed. But the funniest story by far was New Year’s Eve in Rome. He said the team arrived around 10 p.m. in the People’s Square where there was a fireworks show going on. As the team soon discovered, everyone in the square, approximately 100,000 strong, was contributing to the show, shooting their own fireworks at every given time. But at midnight things really started to blow up and Petersen said the team ran off, mostly for its own safety.
Former coach Don Roberts started the tradition in the 1970’s and this was Petersen’s second such trek, the first coming back in 2002. Petersen said he hopes this year’s team came have the same second-half results as that 2002 squad which went 11-3-1 in its final 15 games after starting the season 3-9-0.
“You got a lot of quality time together in planes, trains and automobiles when you tour Europe and get to spend some time with some guys you normally don’t and it was a very positive trip and that regard,” Petersen said. “We can only hope that the end result is half as good as it was back in ’02.”
A New Home for the Royals
Bethel has a new place to call home. After 29 seasons at Columbia Arena, the Royals are moving to rink #5 of the Schwan’s Super Rink at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Bethel won 4-3 over the Greater Metro Hockey League All-Stars on Tuesday in an exhibition game in their new home and the Royals will play their first official game there tonight against Lake Forest.
Bethel has had only one game, other than the exhibition, over the break, a 7-4 loss to Wisconsin-River Falls on Jan. 6. The Royals had the upper hand against the fourth-ranked team in the country for most of the game, taking a 3-1 lead into the third period before things went south in a hurry. The Falcons out-shot Bethel 14-4 in the final frame and scored six goals to the Royals’ one to improve to 12-2-1 on the year.
Player of the Week
On a four-game losing streak and coming off a 10-2 thrashing at the hands of River Falls, St. Mary’s needed something to get it back on track — that something was junior netminder Dan Smith. Smith stopped 40 of 41 shots against St. Scholastica as the Cardinals picked up the 3-1 victory.
Smith had the comfort of playing with a lead the entire game as St. Mary’s scored three goals in the first period, despite being out-shot 10-9 in that frame. Smith couldn’t let up in the second period as St. Scholastica ripped another 16 shots at him, but still could not break through. Smith lost the shutout with less than five minutes to go in the game, but stopped 15 of 16 shots in the final frame to pick up the victory. For the game, St. Scholastica out-shot the Cardinals 41-17.