St. Peter, Minn. - The Gustavus men's hockey team picked up a crucial two points with a 4-3 victory over Hamline University on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. Facing the prospect of overtime, freshman Andy Pearson crashed the net and was able to bury the game-winning goal with just :17 seconds remaining in regulation.
"It was awesome," said Andy Pearson about the game-winning goal. "They chipped the puck out. It was up in the air and Adam Smyth reached up and grabbed it. I saw him going to the net, he went hard, threw it on net and it popped out right on my stick. I looked up at the clock and there was :17 seconds left."
Pearson's game-winner, the first of his career, allowed Gustavus to earn a critical split. Gustavus improves to 12-6-3 overall and 6-5-1 in the MIAC. Hamline heads into its bye weekend at 9-12-2 overall and 6-7-1 in league play. Both Gustavus and Hamline have 13 points within the MIAC and will have to wait for the results of Saturday's league contests before knowing where they sit in the standings.
Coming off last night's 4-0 loss in St. Paul, a strong start was a focal point for Gustavus tonight at home. After Zach May was tagged for checking from behind just :43 seconds into the game and given a game misconduct, Hamline was awarded a major penalty and that strong start looked to be in jeopardy. Fortunately, the Gusties were up to the task.
Austin Cihak was flagged for interference at the 3:17 mark and Gustavus took advantage of the 4-on-4 session. A Dane Erickson shot from the top of the left circle came off goaltender Matt Hemingway's pads and onto the lap of Adam Smyth. Smyth knocked home the put-back and Gustavus was up 1-0 at the 3:56 mark.
The sophomore forward took shots from just about every angle tonight, finishing the game with a season/team-high total of 10. Smyth, who recorded the assist on Pearson's game-winner, now has nine goals on the season, ranking second on the team.
Head Coach Brett Petersen felt that the major helped his squad focus on the task of killing the penalty, helping them to play more loose during the opening stages of the game. "After not scoring last night and being able to get goals early tonight was big for us," Petersen added. "Killing the major and being able to score early was a big momentum swing."
After going 0-for-9 on the power play over the last three games, the Gusties were able to snap the streak with a power play goal at the 12:22 mark and take a 2-0 lead. In what was Gustavus' second of three rebound goals, Ryan Johnson was on the doorstep to clean up a Ross Ring-Jarvi rebound.
"Getting pucks to the net was a focal point of the Gustavus game plan. "We got pucks to the net tonight and it was good to see that," commented Petersen. "We had been making too many passes in the past and tonight we were decisive in getting the puck on their goaltender."
"We had 12 shots on the power play tonight. We haven't had 12 shots on the power play in 12 games it feels like," joked Petersen.
Much like what was their spark on Thursday night, a power play goal got the ball rolling for the Pipers once again tonight. Joe Rubbelke was able to rifle a shot through a screen and into the back of the net at the 3:55 mark of the second period and cut the lead to 2-1.
Less than five minutes later, Sam Leslie took a rink-wide pass in stride from Brian Arrigoni up the right boards. Leslie raced towards the net all alone and beat McLean on a breakaway. McLean had a bead on the attack, making the initial save. Leslie was able to squeeze the puck home on his second effort and tie the game at 2-2 with over 11-minutes to play in the second period.
Dan Erickson's hard work along the boards finally paid off at the 15:01 of the period when the junior was able to jam the puck past the Hemingway for the go-ahead score (3-2). The goal, his first since Dec. 10 against Lawrence, was Erickson's first of the power play variety this season.
"Dane's high school coach was here tonight and Dane always plays great when he is here, so we might have to make that happen a little more often," laughed Petersen. "Dane finally got rewarded for his effort tonight. Sometimes he goes into these droughts where even though he is still working hard, he comes out with nothing on the scoresheet to show for it. Tonight, something finally went good and we finally got a little more balance scoring because of it."
No lead is safe in the final 20-miutes, a fact Gustavus learned last Friday after giving up four unanswered goals in the third period to come away with 4-4 tie with the Cobbers. Tyler Johnson was able to tie the game at 3-3 with a rebound goal at the 7:01.
With less than :30 seconds on the clock, Adam Smyth gained control of the puck at the right point and decided to challenge goaltender Hemingway one last time. After Smyth's initial attempt, the rebound came out to Andy Pearson who put the game in the book.
"We played pretty darn good in the first and pretty darn good in the third. They answered the bell a little bit in the second and it was a relatively even period," Petersen stated. "But all in all, it's a really big win. When the clock is ticking, you've got to take care of business at home and we accomplished that tonight."
Gustavus outshot the Pipers a season-high 47-to-26 in the game. That included a 20-to-9 and 15-to-6 shot edge in the first and third periods, respectively. Gustavus attempted a total of 62 shots on the night, only five of which were blocked by the defense.
John McLean picked up his 11th win of the season with the victory, improving to 11-4-0. Mclean made 23 saves in a complete 60-minutes. He now carries a goals against average of 2.07 and a save percentage of .925.
After being disqualified from Friday night's contest, would-be netminder Beau Christian had to sit out for Hamline. Matt Hemingway got the call and was peppered early and often, allowing all four goals and making 43 saves.
The Gustavus men's hockey team will be back on the ice Friday, Feb. 10 when it takes on Saint Mary's at 7:05 p.m. in St. Peter.