MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — St. John’s swept the St. Thomas men’s hockey team in their weekend series on Saturday night, winning 4-1 and led by a pair of goals from forward Robb Stautz.
The pivotal matchup between the top two teams in the MIAC vaulted St. John’s (10-4-0 MIAC, 15-6-2 overall) ahead of the Tommies (9-4-1 MIAC, 14-8-1 overall) by one point in the standings.
The game, highly physical and often chippy, was a much tighter affair than the final score reflects. St. Thomas out-shot the Johnnies but had a tough time capitalizing on opportunities in front of a packed crowd at St. Thomas Ice Arena.
“Sometimes you win games you should lose, and lose game you should win,” defender Brian LeBlanc said. “Tonight was just one of those games we should have won and didn’t bury our opportunities.”
The game’s first period saw no goals scored, as tight checking and disciplined defense prevailed.
St. Thomas conceded the first two goals of the game in the early portion of the second period despite controlling the offensive zone for a majority of the time. Both Johnnie goals were scored in similar fashion: Loose pucks careening around the St. Thomas goal-line were converted into points due to gritty efforts from St. Johns’ forwards Stautz and Sam Valerius.
St. Thomas added a goal of their own at the 11-minute mark of the second period as defender Derek Olmschek fired a wrist shot into the back of the net. Immediately after the goal was scored, Tommie forward Frankie Spellman laid out an opponent and was sent to the penalty box for roughing as tensions grew throughout the game.
Players were jawing at each other at the conclusion of the second period and had to be separated by referees on multiple occasions.
“There’s a couple of teams in this league that we just don’t get along with and St. John’s is one of them,” LeBlanc said. “It goes beyond hockey with the two schools, and there’s not a lot of love lost between us and St. John’s.”
St. Thomas ended the second period appearing to be in control but was unable to carry that momentum into the third period. The Johnnies held the Tommies to a mere four shots in the third period while tacking on two additional insurance goals late in the third period.
Even after the tough loss, coach Jeff Boeser’s spirits remain high.
“I still really like this group. They care, they work hard,” Boeser said. “Just watch out for the Tommies; we’re going to keep getting better, and we’re going to learn from this.”
St. Thomas will close out its regular season against Hamline next Friday and Saturday, but the season won’t end there. According to LeBlanc, the Tommies would relish in the chance to see the Johnnies once more in the postseason.
Kyle Manderfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.