Augsburg off to fast start, unbeaten in first six games

Chris Brown knows what a slow start can do to a team.

Augsburg won just three of their first 10 games a year ago and while they finished strong, winning six of their final 10, the early struggles crushed the Auggies’ hopes for a MIAC tournament berth.

Brown believes that has served as motivation for this year’s team, which is unbeaten through six games at 5-0-1.

“We did really well in the second half last year and I think that carried over into the offseason and has helped us get off to a good start,” Brown said. “We saw how the season turned out for us last year and I think that got our attention. The guys are focused and are playing well so far.”

The Auggies aren’t overpowering opponents, earning four of its wins by just a goal, but they are doing enough to get the job done.

“We’re just playing good hockey right now,” Brown said. “We have more depth this year and are giving a great effort in each game.”

Augsburg has relied on several players to provide the scoring punch, including Nicholas Widing, who has scored five goals and dished out one assist.

Ben McClellan has tallied three goals, while Dylan Meier, Carl Krieger and Nicklas Almstrom have come through with two goals apiece. Augsburg has tallied 19 goals in all.

“We’re getting scoring from two of our lines consistently,” Brown said. “Most of our goals have been even-strength goals and that isn’t always easy to do. We have stayed disciplined and have done a good job of executing our offense.”

Defensively, the Auggies have relied on an all-around team effort to be successful. They have held opponents to 10 goals behind an aggressive effort that has resulted in limiting opportunities for opponents.

“We do a good job of pursuing the puck all over the rink and have done a better job of blocking shots this year,” Brown said. “Our defense is our strength. We have been solid on that end of the ice and our team defense has been a big part ofthe success of our goalie.”

Goaltender John Bretzman has started five games and has made 106 saves. He has given up all nine goals and owns a save percentage of .922.

Matthew Bartels has started one game and has tallied 13 saves.

“Our goaltending was an unknown going into the season because John hadn’t played a lot, but we watched him in practice and knew he was capable of being a good goalie,” Brown said. “He’s had to make some big saves for us and has proven he can step up when needed.”

One area where Augsburg would like to improve is in power-play situations. The Auggies are 3-of-31 on man-advantage opportunities.

“If we can do a better job of scoring on those chances and continue to do what we have been already, we are going to be a better team,” Brown said. “It’s something we will continue to work on.”

Augsburg hopes to build on its early-season momentum and be in a position to contend for a league title and playoff berth at the end of the year.

“We have a month break after Dec. 7 and that is going to be the challenge for us,” Brown said. “We have to be able to handle that break well so that we are ready to go in the second half of the year. If we can do that and keep getting better, we’ll be in good shape.”

DAUNTING TASK: St. Mary’s became the first team all season to score first against nationally-ranked Wisconsin-Stevens Point and even held a 2-1 lead in the second period. But the early goals weren’t enough as the Pointers rallied for a 6-4 win on Saturday.

Bob Marx scored twice in the loss, while Jed McGlasson and Nick Albergo both scored goals as well. Christian Gaffy made 46 saves, which is a career-high for him. He made 22 of those saves in the second period.

The Cardinals are 2-4 overall and will now turn their attention to St. John’s on Friday night. The Cardinals host the Johnnies in a two-game series and go into it having lost three of four. Their win during the stretch was a 3-1 victory over Wisconsin-Superior last Friday.

TOUGH GOALIE: John Sellie-Hanson made his first career start for Hamline on Saturday night and played well despite the Pipers’ 4-0 loss to Wisconsin-Superior.

Sellie-Hanson made 25 saves in the loss, showing that he has the potential to be a solid goalie as he gains more experience as a starter. He has played in two games this year and has allowed seven goals while making 26 saves.

One of the issues for the Pipers was their struggles on the power play. Hamline missed out on two opportunities in the game and is now 0-5-1 overall on the year.

CHALLENGING THE CHAMPS: Bethel gave the defending national champions all they could handle in a 2-1 loss to Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Saturday. The Royals fell behind 2-0, but scored on Grant Dye’s goal in the third period. Brock Raffaele and Colin Mayer assisted on the goal.

Bethel held a 29-26 edge in shots, but the aggressive play wasn’t enough to avoid its fifth one-goal loss of the year. The Royals are 0-5-1 on the season. Steven Bolton racked up 24 saves as he did his best to keep Bethel in the game.