The St. Olaf men entered the weekend series looking to extend their goal of making the MIAC playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, but knew they needed to lock up a couple points against the league-leading Royals.
Saturday's game at the Northfield Ice Arena featured an evenly-matched first period, with goaltender Jake Busch '09 turning away 16 shots to match his Bethel counterpart in the first 20 minutes.
Following Bethel's goal at the 7:07 mark of the second period, the flow of the game shifted as penalties piled up. The parade to the box began after a scuffle in front of the Bethel net saw three players from each team pick up matching minors. However, Roger Trousdale '09 was assessed an extra penalty in the skirmish which left the Oles on the penalty kill at the 13:45 mark of the second period.
Just 34 seconds into the penalty kill, center Sam Windsor '09 was called for slashing, putting the men into a five-on-three penalty-killing situation for nearly a minute and a half. Bethel's power play capitalized and beat Busch with quick passes resulting in an open back-door goal. This second-period goal stood as the game-winner.
John Paulson '08 drew the Oles back within one as he scored a power-play goal with just under eight minutes remaining. Paulson caught a pass at the point from Windsor, took a stride towards the middle of the ice and fired a quick wrist shot past the Bethel goalie's glove. Nick Stalock '09 picked up the second assist on the power-play goal, his eighth of the season.
However, the men could not solve Bethel's goalie, Aaron Damjanovich, a second time despite attempting 40 shots in the game. Jeff Budish '08 and Will Smith '09 each hit the net with four shots apiece in the game. Busch made 27 saves in net for the Oles.
Friday, the men played a strong opening half of the game, leading 2-0 on goals from Thor Josefson '09 and Justin Green '08. Budish and Mike MacMillan '08 picked up assists on the two goals, respectively.
But the next 20 minutes of hockey belonged to the Royals as they rattled in four unanswered goals, tallying power-play, short-handed and even-strength goals to put the Oles down 4-2. Forward Bryan Osmondson '10 notched his third goal of the year with just under two and a half minutes to play. Matt LaBombard '10 and Ben Umhoefer '10 set up the goal to give the men a chance at tying the game.
Despite outshooting the Royals 29-18, the men dropped their first of consecutive one-goal games and hampered their hopes at clinching the fifth and final playoff spot. St. Olaf is not mathematically eliminated, but the team must sweep second-ranked St. Thomas next weekend and the winless Concordia Cobbers need to sweep Gustavus in order for the Oles to be playoff bound for the fifth straight year.
In Friday's 7 p.m. home game versus St. Thomas, the Oles have the opportunity to deny the Tommies' bid for the regular season title. With a win this weekend, St. Thomas can leapfrog Bethel to claim the top seed in the upcoming playoffs.