Forward Jordan Lovick’s laser of a wrist shot in the second period led the No. 6-ranked St. Thomas men’s hockey team to a 2-1 victory Saturday night at St. Thomas Ice Arena over Gustavus Adolphus College in the MIAC championship, clinching an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Lovick’s goal in the second period turned out to be the game-winner as St. Thomas skated through a scoreless third period to win their first MIAC playoff title since 2010. Coach Jeff Boeser said the gritty, low-scoring game was another “typical” St. Thomas game in the playoffs.
“It was just a total team effort. Obviously it was another 2-1 game, typical St. Thomas hockey. (Goaltender Drew Fielding) played well, we played well defensively, and just not a whole lot of shots either way. It was a typical St. Thomas hockey win,” Boeser said. “We beat a good hockey team tonight. I mean, they are good.”
After winning a gritty 2-1 game against St. Olaf in the MIAC semifinals last weekend, St. Thomas relied on its goaltending and team defense for a second time in the playoffs to grind out another playoff win.
“This has been a long time since we’ve had this trophy,” Boeser said. “I’m very happy for the guys. They’ve worked really, really hard. I’m very, very happy for them.”
Both teams played strong defense throughout the game, and scoring chances came at a premium. St. Thomas finally opened the scoring late in the first period on a power-play goal from forward Thomas Williams.
Williams netted the first goal of the game after forward Nick Nielsen’s shot from the slot missed the net and bounced off the endboard to the front of the net.
“We missed the net on (the first goal) but we had a player that was ready and he got a backdoor rebound, and we’ll take it,” Boeser said. “We just keep saying we have to keep throwing pucks at the net. You never know what’ll happen.”
St. Thomas led 1-0 after one period of play, but Gustavus responded just 1:11 into the second period when Gustavus forward Corey Leivermann netted his conference-leading 18th goal of the season.
However, St. Thomas regained the lead with 1:15 remaining in the second period when Lovick went bar-down on a shot from above the tops of the faceoff circles.
“It was just kind of a 3-on-2 rush. I looked over to the wing and the defender was taking that away, so I just kind of ripped it through the (defense) and it happened to go in,” Lovick said.
“That was just a really nice shot. I don’t know if any goalie could have stopped that,” Boeser said.
Though Gustavus had a few dangerous scoring chances in the third period, St. Thomas managed to salt away the third period and skate to the MIAC title.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s hard to describe. I don’t know … I guess I’m kind of speechless right now,” defenseman Jeremy Hepler said.
For winning the conference playoffs, St. Thomas will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
“It’s been awhile for the playoff victory. It feels good. Obviously we’re trying to soak it in right now, but after that we’re moving on and looking for bigger and better things right now,” Lovick said.
Hepler said he’s proud of what the team has accomplished this season, but the team isn’t satisfied with just winning a conference title.
“I think it all comes from our hard work. We started working out back in April because we were unhappy with the way last year ended. We worked hard all the way through April, through the summer and through the fall,” Hepler said. “We’re not going to be satisfied until we get to the national championship.”
St. Thomas will learn its next opponent during the NCAA selection show Sunday night.
Jacob Sevening can be reached at email@example.com.