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ISSUE 117 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/5/2004

Return to glory

By Joel Stjernholm
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 5, 2004

The St. Olaf mens hockey team returned to the MIAC playoffs with a bang Tuesday night, winning in their first postseason appearance since the 1991-92 season. The Oles traveled to Winona and defeated a fired-up St. Marys team.

The Cardinals dominated the play early on, scoring the only goal in the first period and outshooting the Oles 16-7. St. Olaf came back with a vengeance in the second period, however, scoring three consecutive goals. Joel Ihrie 05 got the Oles on the board, then Dan Norsten 04 broke the tie, scoring on a breakaway goal. Ihrie added his second goal of the period, blasting a laser by the Cardinal goalie from just inside the blue line. St. Marys cut the lead to one just before the end of the period.

Thirteen minutes into the final session, Wally Cisewski 04 put the Oles up for good. St. Marys came back with a goal late in the third period, but Pat Gilles 05 added an empty netter to give the Oles the 5-3 win.

The men earned their date with the Cardinals after clinching their first playoff birth in 13 seasons by defeating Hamline 3-1 at the State Fair Coliseum before a crowd of 271 Saturday.

The game started slowly, as both teams went scoreless through the first period. However, St. Olaf jumped to a 1-0 lead when Cisewski, assisted by Keith Townsend 05 and Ted Bickel 06, scored at 1:16 in the second period. St. Olaf took a 2-0 lead later in the second when Townsend scored a five-on-three power play goal at 10:58, assisted by Ron Guild 06 and Josh Biser 06. Gilles, assisted by Andy Heyne 05 and Norsten, added St. Olafs third and final goal of the game at 3:10 in the third period.

Hamlines Ryan Manke scored a power play goal in the third period at 19:01 to round out the scoring.

Despite their current success, the teams season was full of tumultuous ups and downs. Winless through their first six games, the Oles quickly gathered momentum, earning wins or ties in 13 of their remaining 19 games.

A mid-season slump put the streaky squad at risk of missing the playoffs, but the team put together a gritty season-ending run, winning their final three games by a total of nine goals.

We started off slow, but as the season progressed, our chemistry started to build, defensemen Mitch Mudra 07 said. Once we started clicking, we put together some great games.

The team often drew over 300 fans to the undersized Northfield Ice Arena for regular conference games. For bigger contests, such as their Jan. 23 meeting with St. Thomas, the team frequently played for over 500 spectators.

Many St. Olaf hockey fans made the long trip to Winona to cheer on their team. Despite being outnumbered, the Ole fans were consistently louder than the home crowd and drew the gratitude of the players.

The atmosphere was great, Mike Jewison 04 said. I appreciate the fans that came to support us.

Tuesdays victory earned the Oles a trip to Collegeville, Minn. for a date with MIAC regular season champions St. Johns. The Johnnies are currently ranked fourth in the nation and will provide a tough challenge for the upstart Oles.

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