Tommies Return Home, look to Lock UP Lions

St. Thomas goalie Aaron Trotter tries to gather the puck during a game against Minnesota Oct. 13 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — It’s tough for a hockey program to be tested by ranked opponents on back-to-back weekends to start the season, but the St. Thomas men’s team definitely lived up to the challenge. 

After splitting with St. Cloud State in the first series, the Tommies took No. 1 Minnesota to the limit before falling 6-5 in overtime Friday in front of a loud crowd at the Xcel Energy Center. Even though UST was swept last weekend, it definitely made a statement to the rest of the college hockey world that they’ve arrived, and they should be taken seriously by everyone.  

“We thought the energy on Friday night was great,” Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said Monday. “Our student body was great. Everybody that put on the game at the X was fantastic. I think they were entertained with a pretty good hockey game. Saturday night, I thought we played as structured of a game as we’ve played all year. It came down to a power play goal and a miscue on a 2-on-1. Other than that, I thought we had a pretty good weekend, but now we’ve got to go back to work and get ready for this week.” 

St. Thomas’ Tobias Abrahamsson tries to move the puck out of the Tommies’ zone during a game against Minnesota Oct. 13 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg

After Friday’s loss at the X, Blasi said that he thought his team was continuing to make progress and getting more consistent. He said he still felt that way three days later and added that they need to start turning those consistent performances into good outcomes as well.

“Yeah, I thought Saturday night, if you look at the big picture and the process, the chances were pretty much even,” he said. “They scored one power play goal that I thought we had really good assignments and it went off our stick right to (Gophers forward Jimmy) Snuggerud and then Snuggerud doesn’t need much room on the 2-on-1. We were tracking back pretty good. So, in terms of the process, I think we’re getting much better and more consistent, which is a big step and that’s why I said that on Friday. I have confidence that we’re getting better and we’re getting closer because of that consistency in our effort and our details and really, our overall game, and the way we prepare, and things like that. Are we there yet? No because we have to make sure that those translate to outcomes and until they do, we’re going to continue to work the process until we understand that there’s times that you’ve got to manage the game a little bit differently. Certainly, Friday night, we had opportunities to manage the game a little bit differently and we didn’t. Saturday, I thought we managed the game fairly well and we just didn’t finish around the net and that had a lot to do with their D and not giving us second chances and their goaltender playing well. So, we are getting closer, and we’ll continue to strive for that.” 

St. Thomas’ Mason Poolman tries to collect the puck in the Tommies’ zone during a game against Minnesota Oct. 13 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

Now, the Tommies have a new challenge and that’s Lindenwood. Unlike UST’s previous two opponents, the Lions are a very young program and are in somewhat of a similar situation to the Tommies. Lindenwood is currently 1-2-1 with the tie coming against now-No. 13 Ohio State in the Lions’ last game. Blasi described the Lions as big and strong and that they don’t “give you much room.” So, it’ll be an interesting weekend for the Tommies.  

“We looked at them this morning a little bit, but we’ll dive into them this afternoon and get a little bit more detailed on their lineup,” he said. “I know their goaltender (Trent Burnham) has played extremely well. He’s seeing a lot of rubber. I think on the weekend he had something like a 94 (percent) save percentage against Ohio State. So, we need to prepare the way we need to do it and that’s what we’ll do and be ready to go on Friday.” 

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday in Mendota Heights.  

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