The St. Olaf men's hockey team advanced to the MIAC playoff semi-finals with a 3-1 victory over Gustavus Tuesday in Northfield. The timely victory marks the first Ole win over Gustavus this season.
The Gusties jumped out to an early lead, tallying a goal less than one minute into the first period. The Gustie lead was short-lived, however, as Andy Ockuly '08 evened the score one minute later on assists from Jeff Budish '08 and Dylan Mueller '09. Bryan Osmondson '10 gave St. Olaf a one goal lead midway through the first on assists from Roger Trousdale '09 and Nick Stalock '09. The Oles carried their advantage into the first intermission.
If the first period was about offense, the second period was all about defense. Gustavus limited St. Olaf to just three shots on net for the entire period, and both teams prevented each other from developing scoring opportunities. By the time the dust had settled, the second period ended just as it had started, 2-1.
The third period featured defense as well, as both teams were held scoreless until Mike MacMillan '08 notched a power play goal with just over a minute left in the game on assists from Mueller and Budish. The insurance goal sealed a St. Olaf victory, allowing the Oles to advance to the MIAC semifinals.
Goalie Jeff Wilde '07 made 30 saves on the evening for an outstanding .968 save percentage.
Having disposed of the Gusties, the Oles now turn their attention to the semi-finals and their new foe, Bethel. The Royals will be a formidable opponent, winning the MIAC regular season title. Bethel enjoyed a first-round MIAC playoff bye as a privilege of their great regular season record, and will be well rested for the Thursday night's game.
Despite the advantage of home ice and fresh legs, the Royals would be foolish to look past the defending MIAC Champion Oles. The Oles have proven themselves a playoff team in each of the past four seasons, developing chemistry and arranging strategy in early season play only to crescendo each year through MIAC play and the playoffs. This season has been no different; the Oles, 1-5-0 after six games, finished MIAC play with a 9-5-2 conference record, and will be carrying momentum after defeating a tough Gustavus team.
We don't sleep we wait, said forward Brett Kistner '08 on St. Olaf's tendency to play their best hockey in the playoffs.
One thing is clear: neither the Oles nor the Royals can afford to be caught napping this Thursday. The Oles and Royals split during the regular season and the two teams seem to match up well. If their regular season contests are any indication, the first team caught snoozing will be eliminated from playoff competition.