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ISSUE 117 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/12/2004

Men blanked by top-ranked Johnnies

By Joel Stjernholm
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 12, 2004

Despite playing a challenging schedule and lacking playoff experience, the St. Olaf mens hockey team finally earned a coveted but elusive postseason berth after 13 years of drought.

Before the season, we were determined to make the playoffs and hopefully make a run, captain Mike Jewison 04 said.

The team was not among the favorites in the preseason MIAC polls, at least in part, no doubt, due to the stigma associated with over a decades worth of staying home while others compete for the conference title. Additionally, their schedule was arguably one of the toughest in the nation and included games against top-ranked St. Norbert, 4th-ranked St. Johns, 8th-ranked Lake Forest and 14th-ranked St. Thomas, as well as unranked powerhouses UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior and UW-Eau Claire.

The Ole skaters, well-aware of their critics, were not daunted or discouraged. Not only did the squad reach postseason play, they also defeated St. Marys 5-3 in the first round of the MIAC playoffs.

Although the team, riding the wave of a four-game winning streak, had gathered considerable playoff momentum, St. Johns held the Oles scoreless in a season-ending 5-0 defeat.

The score alone, however, is deceptive. The squad hung with the MIAC regular-season champions through the first two periods of Thursdays game before the Johnnies netted three goals, including an early power play score, in the final period to pull away.

So what is the key to the Oles newfound hockey success? According to first-team all-MIAC selection Ron Guild 06, the teams leading scorer with 31 points, the teams on-ice success reflects its rigorous off-season training regimen.

We worked really hard in the off-season, Guild said. I dropped about 15 pounds before the season to get that extra step.

Head coach Sean Goldsworthy identified strong leadership as one of the teams most valuable assets.

We have outstanding leadership from our three captains, Goldsworthy said of Jewison, Wally Cisewski 04 and Keith Townsend 05. The senior class has taken the program from competitive to a playoff-caliber team in their four years. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit for our success on the ice and our team chemistry.

Despite the departure of the talented senior class, which also includes first-team all-MIAC honoree Dan Norsten, the returning players insist that this years success will not be an aberration.

We had some pretty good first year players, Guild said. They definitely stepped up and played.

Although it is too early to anticipate who will be next years outstanding players, goalie Dan Kehler 06, all-MIAC honorable mention forward Townsend, leading goal-scorer Josh Biser 06, and Guild are expected to substantial contributors.

In light of St. Olafs recent hockey success, many students are left to wonder, now more than ever, why there is not a hockey arena on the Hill. College administrators have always seemed pleased with the prospect of owning an arena, which, aside from providing an on-campus hockey venue, would conceivably offer all students an opportunity to partake in skating and ice hockey activities. However, other building projects, such as the new Science Center, have priority over building funds in this time of budget deficit and financial strife.

For now, Ole hockey players and coaches are not concerned with building a hockey arena; they are working on building a hockey program that will turn St. Olafs recent winning ways into a winning tradition.

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