Tommies trade punches with Gophers, Get Knocked out in Overtime

St. Thomas players Tobias Abrahamsson (top) and Cam Recchi try to cut off Minnesota’s Connor Kurth on his way to the net during a game Oct. 13 in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two years ago, the idea of the St. Thomas men’s hockey team trading punches with a top-ranked Minnesota team would be considered far-fetched by most people. 

On Friday night, that idea became a reality as the Tommies forced overtime with the mighty Golden Gophers, but they couldn’t deliver a knockout blow. Instead, it was Golden Gophers forward and St. Louis Blues prospect Jimmy Snuggerud who gave that punch as he scored his second goal of the night to give Minnesota a 6-5 victory.  

“I thought it was a great hockey game,” St. Thomas head coach Rico Blasi said. “Great environment. Both teams played hard tonight, and they made one extra play. “ 

Tommies forward Luke Manning was in the lineup two years ago during the last time the Tommies played at the Xcel Energy Center, which was a 2-0 loss to St. Cloud State. He said being on this year’s team is a “world of difference” from that squad.   

“Our attention to detail is just loads better on this team,” he said. “We take pride in that and don’t go a shift without trying to focus on the little things. And that starts in our own end, getting pucks out, and then go to work on their end once we do that. It’s fun playing on this team when we’ve got some more skill players too. Obviously, we’ve got some high-caliber, high-skilled players, so that helps out a little bit. But our work ethic and attention to detail is our biggest difference.” 

St. Thomas’ Tobias Abrahamsson tries to get the puck around Minnesota’s Garrett Pinoniemi during a game Oct. 13 in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

Holding a slim 3-2 lead at the start of the third, the Tommies padded it to two goals on a goal by captain Lucas Wahlin just 27 seconds into the period. However, the Gophers answered back with a Snuggerud tally 20 seconds later and New York Rangers draftee Brody Lamb scored his first goal of the game at the 2:08 mark to tie it at 4-4. Lamb then scored again at the 6:05 mark to make it 5-4 Gophers.  

The Tommies weren’t done yet though with Wahlin coming through again as he redirected a shot by Tobias Abrahamsson past Minnesota netminder Justen Close to tie things up at 5-5 at the 13:14 mark and force the extra session.  

“We battled back,” Wahlin said. “We were right there with the number one team in the nation. It is tough. Definitely a good hockey game and a good team. You know there’s going to be ups and downs in the game and you’ve just got to try to win every single battle possible. They got the last bounce, but that’s the way it goes. We’ll battle back tomorrow.” 

St. Thomas’ Mason Poolman tries to collect the puck in the Tommies zone as Minnesota’s Oliver Moore looks on during a game Oct. 13 in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

In the first period, Tommies goalie Aaron Trotter started things off by making nice saves on Rhett Pitlick and Lamb early, but Buffalo Sabres draft pick Aaron Huglen got one past him at the 7:45 mark. Huglen collected a loose puck by a scrum in front and beat a sprawling Trotter to make it 1-0 Minnesota.  

With 1:36 remaining in the period, the Gophers struck again as Jaxon Nelson got a drop pass from Oliver Moore and beat Trotter to make it 2-0 heading into the second. 

Trailing 2-0 to start the second, the Tommies finally caught fire offensively with their first goal coming on the penalty kill at the 3:27 mark. Wahlin got the puck out of the Tommies’ zone and raced up center ice before feeding a streaking Mack Byers, who then beat Close stick side to cut the deficit to one.  

At the 9:38 mark, UST tied things up on a nice play by Liam Malmquist. Defenseman Jake Ratzlaff sent a shot from the high slot that Malmquist redirected at the left post past Close to make it 2-2. Then with 2:33 left in the period, Manning gave the Tommies the lead. Colorado College transfer Matt Gleason stole the puck, sent it over to Malmquist and he fed Manning in front to give UST a 3-2 advantage going into the third.  

St. Thomas’ Cole Miller and Minnesota’s John Mittelstadt battle for positioning in front of Tommies goalie Aaron Trotter during a game Oct. 13 in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

When asked if there was any sort of moral victory he could take from the loss, Blasi said he thought his team continues to make progress with each game.  

“We’re taking our necessary steps, right?” he said. “We’re progressing in our process to make sure that we’re in these games more than we’re not. So, we were in that game tonight. Do I think we’re there yet? Probably not, but we’re getting close. And I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of our identity. I’m proud of our culture. We’ve got to continue to focus on that. That’s something that we have to, and I say we, I mean our leadership, our coaching staff, our entire team, because this is very much a collaborative effort in terms of our culture, and we’ve got to continue to hold each other accountable to the standard that we’ve set. We’re gonna win some games and we’re gonna lose some games. Our process tonight was pretty darn good. We made a couple mistakes. It happens, but so did they. The game is full of mistakes. It’s just the way it is, but your process has to be good, and I think our process is getting better and better every day.” 

The two teams battle tonight again, this time in Minneapolis. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m.  

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