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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

Mission Accomplished: Oles win MIAC, but falter in NCAA first round

By Joel Stjernholm
Staff Writer

Friday, March 10, 2006

Until last Saturday's MIAC title game, the Oles had never played for a MIAC title. In fact, the Oles garnered their last conference title in 1938, before the MIAC was formed, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, and when dancing, like drinking, was not permitted at St. Olaf.

St. Olaf may still be a dry campus, but the hockey team's MIAC title drought is over. The Oles garnered their first MIAC title last Saturday, defeating St. Thomas 5-1 in St. Paul to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.

St. Olaf drew first blood midway through the first period when Joel Ihrie '06 tallied his fifth goal of the season on assists from John Egge '07 and Casey Dynan '09. St. Olaf goalie Dan Kehler '06 saved 16 shots in the first period, stifling the Tommy offense, and maintaining St. Olaf's 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Oles extended their lead minutes into the second period on John Paulson's '08 powerplay goal. Mitch Mudra '07 notched another Ole goal midway through the period, elevating the Oles to a 3-0 lead by the second intermission.

Despite beginning the third period with a three-goal lead, the Oles were not content to rest. Many were cognizant of a regular season match against St. Thomas in which the Tommies overcame a three-goal deficit to defeat the Oles 4-3.

Indeed, a comeback seemed possible early in the third period when the Tommies scored their first goal of the game, narrowing St. Olaf's lead to two goals. However, the comeback was not to be. The Oles regained their three goal lead when Egge scored midway through the third period. Dylan Mueller '09 scored his 11th goal of the season minutes later, making the score 5-1 in favor of the Oles.

The St. Olaf defense played a stingy third period, allowing only four shots on goal, as the Oles sealed their first conference title in 68 years.

Kehler made 27 saves in goal for an astronomical save percentage of 0.964.

While the game may have been monumental, the Oles were unfazed by the hype surrounding the title game.

“It's a lot like any other game we've played this season,” Casey Dynan '09 said. “Skating, passing, shooting ... We've been doing that all year. It doesn't change just because you're in the playoffs.”

Unfortunately, the Oles were unable to advance past the first round of the NCAA playoffs, falling to UW-Superior 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Despite numerous scoring opportunities, the Oles and Yellowjackets held each other scoreless through the first two periods of play and well into the third. Superior tallied the first goal of the game with 11 minutes left in the third period, taking a 1-0 lead. The Yellowjackets added a second goal with just three minutes to play, extending their lead to two goals. St. Olaf's Joel Ihrie '06 responded 20 seconds later, scoring on assists from John Egge '07 and Casey Dynan '09, bringing the Oles within one goal of Superior. Despite a vigorous last-minute offensive effort, the Oles were unable to even the score.

Dan Kehler '06 made 25 saves for the Oles in goal.

As the monumental 2005-2006 season comes to a close, returning Oles turn their attention to off-season training, while departing Oles contemplate life after hockey. Head coach Sean Goldsworthy '94 turns his attention to recruiting and player development. While some are undoubtedly frustrated at the season's premature end, time and reflection will prove that these Oles have little reason to be disappointed. These Oles have earned the title “MIAC champions,” and nothing can reduce that honor. Graduating players leave with the satisfaction of contributing to the most successful hockey team in St. Olaf history, while others return to assume a new position in MIAC competition: defending champions.

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