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ISSUE 120 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/14/2007

Reigning champs look to defend title

By Matthew Stortz
Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The St. Olaf men's hockey team clinched a MIAC playoff berth last weekend with a sweep of St. Mary's University. The Oles defeated the Cardinals 3-2 at home on Friday night, and 4-3 in Winona on Saturday, elevating their MIAC record to 8-4-2.

Saturday night's game opened with an early St. Mary's goal, as the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the first minute of play. Andy Ockuly '08 responded for the Oles, evening the score midway through the second period on assists from Dylan Mueller '09 and Jeff Budish '08.

The tie was shortlived, however, as St. Mary's netted a shorthanded goal just one minute later to reclaim a one goal lead. The second period ended with a 2-1 St. Mary's advantage, but the rest of the game belonged to the Oles. Budish scored early in the third period, assisted by Ockuly and Mueller, to even the score at two. Mueller scored a goal of his own midway through the third on assists from Ockuly and John Paulson '08, giving the Oles a 3-2 advantage and putting St. Mary's behind for good.

St. Olaf drew first blood on Saturday night when Budish netted a first period goal on assists from Paulson and Mueller. St. Mary's erased the Ole lead quickly, however, scoring two goals to take a 2-1 lead midway through the second period.

St. Olaf's Nick Stalock '09 tallied an unassisted second period goal to erase the Cardinals' lead, making the game 2-2 at the second intermission. Once again, the third period belonged to the Oles, who broke the tie with a goal from Ockuly and put St. Mary's away with an insurance goal from Stalock.

This season marks the fourth consecutive trip to the MIAC playoffs for St. Olaf. The Oles, who were MIAC tournament champions in 2006, now have a guaranteed opportunity to defend their title, but that doesn't mean they can take their remaining opponents lightly.

St. Olaf is off this upcoming weekend, then concludes its regular season with a two-game series against the Bethel Royals, currently first in the conference. Any number of scenarios would allow the Oles to finish in second or third place in MIAC play – beneficial because the top three teams are granted first-round playoff byes – but any scenario involves defeating Bethel. With a bye the Oles would need to win only two games to repeat as MIAC Champions.

The regular season-ending series with Bethel begins Feb. 23 at home, and finishes on Feb. 24 against Blaine. Face-off is set for 7 p.m. both nights.

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