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ISSUE 116 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/21/2003

Men's hockey closes season; miss playoffs

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor

Friday, February 21, 2003

The men’s hockey team entered the final weekend of the season in a perilous position.

Trailing Concordia by a single point for the fifth and final playoff spot, a pair of wins would give the Oles enough points to advance. However, there was absolutely no margin for error. Even a tie would spell doom for the Oles.

Unfortunately, that was exactly what happened in the first of two games at Concordia. The Oles could not tally the winner in overtime and were forced to settle for a 2-2 tie. The next game must have evoked some serious déjà vu for the Oles. The games entered the extra session tied at 2-2 for the second time in as many days. This time, however, the Cobbers netted the winner to end the game, and the Ole’s season.

The loss dropped the team to seventh in the MIAC, but that doesn’t mean that the season was a complete bust. “I know everyone is disappointed because making the playoffs was the only real goal of the season, but we may look back later and feel we had a good year,” said Keith Townsend ‘05.

The Oles showed promise for next season in beating a pair of nationally ranked teams. After a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the league leading St. John’s, the Oles hit the road and earned a 4-3 win thanks to a fast start, a three goals in the first period and the outstanding play of goaltender Garret Hasti ‘04. Hasti withstood a barrage of shots in the final two periods to keep the Ole lead from evaporating. All in all, Hasti stopped 53 of 56 for a phenomenal, Patrick Roy-esque save percentage of .946.

The other memorable victory came as the Oles snapped an eleven-year winless streak against St. Thomas. The Oles dominated throughout in route to the 8-4 win. The win was more important then just snapping a streak that dated back more then a decade or beating a top MIAC team, it showed the depth of the team. Epitomizing team play and equal contribution, each of the four lines manufactured two goals in the win over the Tommies.

The Oles are very young, losing only a pair of Seniors in right forwards Jordan Bronce and Nick Hanson. Returning that many players, coupled with a budding sense of camaraderie, leaves lofty expectations for next season.

To foster team chemistry, the team participates in a special ritual every Thursday. Each player goes one-on-one with the goalie until they sneak the puck past the net minder. The player who doesn’t score must wear an orange helmet all week in practice. According to Townsend this leads to a “a lot of good natured ribbing from the whole team.”

The warning has been sent to the rest of the MIAC; these guys can play. Rest assured the team will work hard in the off season to insure that next season will be something special. Just how lofty are the expectations for next season? Townsend says it best. “We made some big strides this year to put Ole hockey on the map, both in the MIAC and nationally. I think everybody on the team will not except anything else than playoffs in 2004.”

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