St. Thomas dominates opponents, MIAC

It would be an understatement to say that St. Thomas has been on a bit of a roll lately.

For example, the team jumped two more spots in the poll this week. Previously ranked No. 7, St. Thomas is now No. 5, the highest-ranked team in the West Region.

St. Thomas is 11-0-1 in its last 12 games, including an 11-game winning streak, the longest current streak in NCAA men’s hockey this season and the longest stretch for hockey at the school in at least 25 seasons. The team’s last loss occurred over two months ago at Concordia (Min.), on December 2.

St. Thomas also wrapped up the regular season title in the MIAC last weekend against Bethel. It has 21 points in the MIAC and is 11 points ahead of second place teams St. John’s and St. Olaf. The 11-point margin is the biggest held by any of the 27 men’s and women’s conference leaders in NCAA hockey. St. Thomas will be off this week, but returns to action the following weekend.

“We don’t really follow any of that,” coach Jeff Boesser said. “It makes for good press, but starting Monday our concentration will be on playing Augsburg”.

The winning streak for St. Thomas has not been easy. There have been five one-goal games during that stretch. Three games have gone to overtime, with two of them coming against conference rival and defending MIAC champion Hamline.

“We have great respect all the teams we have played; any of those games could have gone the other way,” Boesser said. “Teams in the MIAC work on playing without the puck. There is good goaltending, real solid defense, and good coaches throughout the league. The MIAC is as good as it has ever been, and I really respect the teams and coaches. It is one of the better leagues in Division III.”

Although the team has only five seniors, St. Thomas has managed to infuse younger members into the mix, thanks in part to players having spent a couple of seasons at the junior level.

“All five seniors are great leaders, they lead in practice, but many of our younger players have played in the juniors for two years, so they’re not really the typical freshman; they are coming in as 20 to 21 year-olds,” Boesser said.

Senior captain Rob Philipp leads the team in goals with 12. He is second in scoring on the team with 25 points, following only junior Riley Horgan, who has 29 points. Philipp also leads the team with power-play and game-winning goals. Horgan has 22 assists, which is good for third in all of Division III.

“Rob was voted captain for a reason,” Boesser said. “He has been good on the power play and on the penalty kill, along with leading during practice.”

Freshman Chris Cass is third on the team in scoring with 22 points, and junior Travis Baker is next with 20 points. St. Thomas has 19 players that have scored goals during the season.

“We never talk about stats; we have some good players who aren’t even playing,” Boesser said. “We have four lines that roll throughout the game. We have had a good power play lately. There is no superstar on the team, just a team of hard workers.”

The St. Thomas power play has a 26 percent success rate, and the penalty kill has stopped over 86 percent of its opponents’ power play.

St. Thomas is a team that has lost just three games during the season, and all three were one-goal games. The team is also 4-0-2 in overtime games this year.

Boesser, who has been involved with St. Thomas for more than 30 years as a player and coach, has never seen such depth in goal as the team has now.

“We have three good goalies; this has been as good as the goaltending St. Thomas has ever had,” he said.

All three goaltenders have save percentages above .900.

Tyrone Simcoe has played a majority of the minutes, and is 8-3-1 on the season. The junior has a 2.64 goals-against average on the season.

Freshman netminder Drew Fielding is 8-0 on the season, including a January run where he won five games in a row.

“He had a rough beginning to the year; he came in with bronchitis and then came down with mono,” Boesser said.

After playing in 17 games last season, sophomore goaltender Geoff Sadjadi has only seen action in three games so far this year. One of those games was an impressive 3-1 victory at No. 9 Adrian over Thanksgiving.

St. Thomas has earned a first-round bye for the MIAC Tournament, which begins Friday, February 24.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week: Sean Burke, So., Finlandia. Burke began the weekend with a five-point night Friday. He scored two goals, including the game-winner, and added three assists. He added another game-winning goal in overtime the next night.

Defensive Player of the Week: Peter Emery, Fr., Lawrence. After being named Freshman of the Week last week, Emery eared Defensive player of the Week for his effort in goal against Marian. He stopped 50 of 53 shots Friday, and 25 of 27 shots on Saturday in Lawrence’s two victories.

Freshman of the Week: Scott Shackell, Adrian. Shackell posted a pair of wins for Adrian against Lake Forest. He made 26 saves Friday, and stopped 37 of 40 shots on Saturday. He leads the MCHA with a 2.09 goals-against average and is 10-2-1 in his rookie campaign.

Athlete of the Week: Peter Rohn, Sr., St. Olaf. Rohn had three goals and three assists for the weekend in St. Olaf’s sweep of Augsburg. He scored two goals in a span of 29 seconds Friday, with the second goal being the eventual game-winner. He scored St. Olaf’s first goal Saturday, and assisted on the next two to secure the sweep.

Player of the Week: Kyle Heck, So., Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Heck scored three of the four goals Wis.-Stevens Point tallied on the weekend. He scored both goals in Friday’s 2-1 victory over St. Scholastica. On Saturday, he scored a short-handed goal in a 2-2 overtime game against Wis.-Superior. Heck is the first player to be named the NCHA Player of the Week twice this season. He first won the award on November 1, 2011.