Concordia (Minn.) succeeding with balanced offense, solid goaltending

Concordia wasn’t able to come away with a win in its weekend MIAC series with St. Thomas, but coach Chris Howe wasn’t hanging his head after the two losses to the nationally-ranked Tommies.

Concordia battled to a 2-2 tie in the first game, but lost the opportunity for a point in a shootout loss and then fell 4-2 in the series finale.

“We played a heck of a team over the weekend and we started off well with the two-goal lead [on Friday], but we missed out on an opportunity to make it 3-0,” Howe said. “St. Thomas was able to come back and force a tie. I thought on Saturday we just didn’t have our legs right away and we never got on track. But it’s a lesson learned for us. We can learn from the experience.”

Concordia had won four of five heading into its series with St. Thomas and it’s hardly out of the mix for the conference title.

The Cobbers, who reached the semifinal round of the MIAC tournament last season, are in third place with a 3-2-1 record. They are 6-3-1 overall. Concordia has 10 points, which puts it six points behind the Tommies and four points behind Gustavus Adolphus.

“Coach [Jeff] Boeser and I were talking over the weekend about how happy we are that the league is doing so well,” Howe said. “It’s very competitive and it’s going to be tight all year. You have to be ready to go each game because three points is on the line every night.”

Much of their success is a credit to a balanced offense and the play solid goaltending. Eight players have scored at least two goals for the Cobbers, including defenseman Caleb Suderman, who has struck for seven goals to go along with three assists.

“Caleb has really stepped up and he is a terrific hockey player,” Howe said. “He is one of those players that doesn’t come around too often. He is a great shooter and it’s great to see him play well. He’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Goalie Chris Neamonitis has been stellar as well. He has allowed only 19 goals and has made 325 saves. Neamonitis has started all 10 games for the Cobbers.

“We have had outstanding goaltending all year – Chris has been terrific in the net,” Howe said. “I also think our defense is doing a better job in front of him.”

Concordia will wrap up its first half of the season this weekend with a pair of games at Northland. It won’t play again until Jan. 7 when it takes on Wisconsin-River Falls.

Howe said he is counting on his players to take care of their bodies and find time to work out on the ice while on the upcoming holiday break. He also said that while the team is practice before the break, it will emphasize the importance of being focused for each game.

“We need to stay focused and be ready to play each game [because] here are no easy nights,” Howe said. “We want to prepare the best we can for every game and play our best every night. Hopefully, if we take care of our business, we’ll be in a position for a playoff spot.”

ON THE BOARD: It’s been a struggle for Hamline this season, but the Pipers finally got their first win of the year on Saturday as they edged Bethel 2-1.

Dan Bartkowiak scored the game-winner for the Pipers, who held a 33-26 edge in shots. It was the first goal of his collegiate career. Tyler Gonzales scored the goal for Hamline, which improved to 1-8-1 overall and to 1-3 in the MIAC. John Sellie-Hanson earned his first collegiate win as he made 25 saves.

BIG WIN: Saxton Soley made 25 saves to help St. John’s blank 15th-ranked Augsburg 5-0 on Saturday. It was the third career shutout of Soley’s career. The Johnnies held a 36-25 edge in shots and Alex Ach led the offense with two goals.

The Johnnies had struggled as of late, losing two in a row and four of their last six, including a 3-1 loss to Augsburg on Friday night. The five goals by the Johnnies was their second-highest goal total of the season.