Senior Andrew Kappers’ two goals and two assists Saturday helped lead the St. Thomas men’s hockey team to a 7-2 victory over Bethel and earn a spot in the MIAC playoffs.
After recording a hat trick against Bethel Friday night, Kappers’ two goals Saturday capped a seven-point weekend for the senior, who led St. Thomas to victory in his final regular-season game as a Tommie.
“I had a lot of family here, and this weekend meant a lot because it could be our last home game,” Kappers said. “In the past couple of years we’ve kind of had trouble on senior night, and it was good to come out and play a whole 60-minute game.”
The Tommies started the scoring first, jumping to an early 1-0 lead when junior Tommy O’Donnell beat Bethel goalie Cary Wood. Sophomore Ryan McArdle and senior Rob Johnson set up O’Donnell on the goal.
“I got the puck up to [McArdle], and he got it over to O’Donnell who buried the puck,” Johnson said. “It was pretty simple, just a cycling play. Nothing fancy.”
Johnson’s first-period assist marked the 100th point of his career.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Johnson said. “I’ve had some great teammates and been on some great teams. It feels great, but I’d give all [the points] up to get to the Frozen Four. That’s all I care about.”
Less than two minutes after O’Donnell’s goal, freshman Bryce Walker buried a shot for his second goal of the season, putting the Tommies up 2-0 early in the game.
“I always get worried sometimes when we score goals early,” coach Jeff Boeser said. “Not that I won’t take them, but sometimes mentally they just relax a little bit and think it’s going to be easy.”
Boeser’s concerns were realized when Bethel closed the first period with two goals in the period’s final three minutes. Forwards Chris Fiala and Jack Paul scored for the Royals. Paul’s goal came on a Royals’ power play.
“We kind of got a little lazy and thought we were just going to run away with it,” Kappers said. “We came in after the first and cooled it down, and we came back out ready to play.”
Kappers started things off for the Tommies in the second period by scoring his first goal of the game.
“It started in the d-zone,” Kappers said. “[Lipinski] drove down the side, and he just fired on net like he’s supposed to. I took a whack at it, and it somehow trickled through the five-hole.”
The Tommies added to their lead in the closing minutes of the second period when sophomore Travis Baker connected on a power-play goal. St. Thomas led 4-2 at the end of the second.
Down two goals, Bethel came out in the third period looking to score early but was at a disadvantage because of penalties. Kappers took advantage of short-handed Bethel by scoring during the power play for his second goal of the game and his 12th goal of the season.
“He’s been a phenomenal leader on and off the ice,” Boeser said. “He’s really grown in the last month, and I think he realized what it takes to be a leader. The team has just kind of jumped on his back.”
Penalties cost Bethel again midway through the third period when junior Matt Lipinski scored a power-play goal, which was his eighth goal of the season.
“Bethel’s the most penalized team in the MIAC,” Johnson said. “They’re not so much going to check you from behind, but they’re a chippier team. They like to get in your head, and if you let them, they’ll talk after the whistle.
“But it’s just part of the game. It’s how they play.”
In the final seconds of the third period, the Tommies added to their four-goal cushion when senior Evan Mackintosh scored on a pass from sophomore Spencer Brendel.
Freshman goalie Geoff Sadjadi had 23 saves for St. Thomas, and the team had a 47-25 advantage in shots on goal.
The Tommies are 4-0-2 in their last six games and have made the MIAC playoffs for the 26th straight year. The team has a bye next weekend and will find out its playoff opponent in eight days.
“We’ve got a little thing called the Stanley Cup where we play a 3-on-3 tournament,” Kappers said. “We’ll keep it fun, keep it loose. Heal our injuries, and then a week from Monday we’ll get ready for playoffs.”
Senior captain Phil Johnson is recovering from an arm injury. Johnson aggravated the same arm Friday night that he broke in December.
Ryan Shaver can be reached at Shav7005@stthomas.edu.