Despite having played just two nights before, the Oles seemed well prepared in the first period, scoring first to take a one goal lead. Dylan Mueller's '09 goal, assisted by Andy Ockuly '08 and Jeff Budish '08, gave the Oles the early advantage. However, the Royals countered minutes later with a goal of their own to even the score, and another to make the score 2-1 in favor of Bethel at the first intermission. The Royals added two more goals in the middle of the second period, and tallied another late in the third. After five consecutive Bethel goals, the game ended 5-1.
Emphasizing opportunities at the net, the Royals took 39 shots on net, compared to the Oles 22. The imbalance made for a busy night for Ole goaltender Jeff Wilde '07. Additionally, Bethel played an exceptional game on defense, disrupting several prime Ole scoring opportunities. That Bethel played so well on both sides of the ice is not surprising; the MIAC regular season champions lead the MIAC in scoring offense and scoring defense.
While Bethel certainly deserved credit for their victory over a top-notch Ole squad, it bears noting that the Oles were fighting an uphill battle from the start. In addition to playing on their home ice, a critical advantage in playoff games, Bethel enjoyed a first round playoff bye. The Oles, conversely, had to play a tough game just two days earlier against a talented Gustavus team. The Oles gave an admirable effort, but their strength of heart was not enough to overcome the Royals' rested legs.
This season marks the fourth consecutive season head coach Sean Goldsworthy's team has headed to the playoffs. Consistently among the top teams in the conference, the Oles have effectively shaken their cupcake status of old and assumed a new reputation for competitiveness.
No longer in playoff competition, the Oles now turn to off-season training and preparation for next season. They prepare for good reason: Next year's squad is one of the most talented teams in recent Ole hockey memory. Ockuly, Budish and 2007 All-MIAC pick John Paulson '08 will anchor a strong senior class that contributed much to the Oles this season. Dylan Mueller '09, also named All-MIAC, Casey Dynan '09 and Nick Stalock '09 lead a competitive junior class, while Ben Umhoefer '10 and David Adams '10 will lead one of the most talented sophomore classes in the MIAC.
What remains to be seen is whether or not the 2007-08 team can come together like their predecessors to push for MIAC supremacy. If the 2007-08 squad can match its talent with the work ethic and heart of Ole teams before them, next season should be a banner year for St. Olaf hockey.