Hot Hand Luc: Laylin’s big goal helps Tommies slay Lions

St. Thomas’ Luc Laylin fires the puck past Lindenwood goalie Trent Burnham to score the game-winning goal Saturday, Oct. 20 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Friday night, the St. Thomas men’s hockey team had an impressive offensive performance as the Tommies fired a school Division I record 63 shots on net, but despite that, they only managed a tie against Lindenwood.  

On Saturday, the Tommies only had 38 shots, but that amount was enough to earn them a win as Luc Laylin’s goal in the second period helped push UST past the Lions 3-1. Niagara transfer goalie Jake Sibbell also earned his first win as a Tommie, finishing with 15 saves.  

“I thought we played better structurally,” UST head coach Rico Blasi said. “We didn’t give them too many chances. We did really good keeping them to the outside and I thought that we defended really well tonight. The one goal they scored, whatever. So, I was happy with that. Happy to get the win. Hard team to play against. They really throw everything at you, and you’ve got to be on your toes all night long. I thought Sibbell played extremely well and made the saves he needed to. I’m just happy we got the win.”  

St. Thomas’ Luke Manning tries to pass the puck to a teammate as Lindenwood’s Mitch Allard defends during a game Oct. 21 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

Unlike Friday’s extremely one-sided first period where UST outshot LU 28-3, Saturday’s opening frame was much more evenly played. The Tommies still led in shots at 13-3, but the Lions did a better job clamping down in their zone and it was 0-0 heading into the second.  

In the next period, things started to click offensively for UST. At the 5:46 mark, Tommies forward Liam Malmquist sent a pass to Cooper Gay as he was skating toward the net and Gay fired the puck past Lions goalie Trent Burnham to make it 1-0. Later at the 12:46 mark, the Tommies struck again as Matthew Gleason fed Laylin in the slot and he snapped a wrister into the back of the net to put UST up 2-0 going into the third. Laylin also scored the night before and when asked about his hot hand, he said he’s keeping it simple.  

“I’m just getting pucks to the net and obviously getting shots on and just being in the right place at the right time,” Laylin said. “That’s what’s been happening so far.” 

UST appeared to be in control as the Lions couldn’t seem to get anything going in the Tommies’ zone, but that changed at the 12:13 mark. With the Tommies’ on a major power play, LU’s David Gagnon broke free on a breakaway, but his shot rang off the crossbar. However, teammate Jake Southgate was trailing the play and whacked the puck out of mid-air past Sibbell for a shorthanded goal, cutting the deficit to 2-1. The goal was originally waved off due to a high stick, but after a review, the officials decided to count it.

St. Thomas goalie Jake Sibbell covers the puck during the second period of a game against Lindenwood Oct. 21 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

Even though he lost his shutout bid, Sibbell thought he had a good night overall during his first start at home.

“I felt pretty big out there,” he said. “That’s the main thing, trying to stay big and watch the puck in. These guys do a good job during practice getting me the quality shots that I need to get ready for games like this, so I’m definitely feeling good.” 

The Tommies couldn’t get their offense going for the remaining part of the major power play and didn’t do much better on a minor power play shortly after the major expired. However, UST stayed stingy on defense and kept LU at bay after the Lions pulled Burnham for the extra attacker with two minutes left. Tommies captain Lucas Wahlin then clinched the victory with an empty netter with 40 seconds remaining to make it a 3-1 final.  

The Tommies had three major power plays on the weekend but didn’t score on any of them and Blasi said things are just a little off right now in that area.

“It’s tough when you get a major because your tendency is always to relax a little bit,” he said. “I thought we had some really good looks on the power play, which is really important. We’re just not clicking right now. We’ll keep working on it.” 

St. Thomas’ Cooper Gay tries to bring the puck into the Lindenwood zone during a game Oct. 21 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

The Tommies travel to Bemidji State next week to open the CCHA season and even though their record might not be what they were hoping for at this point, Blasi likes how his team has played so far.  

“We’re 2-3-1 and we’ve played some really good opponents,” he said. “I think our game is in a good place. We’ve got to continue to get better and focus on our process and play to our identity and that’s what we’ll continue to do. We know what we’re in for on Friday. Bemidji’s a nasty defensive team and doesn’t give you much. They’ve got good goaltending, and their D corps is solid, and they’ve got a couple good forwards. So, we’ve got to play well, but that’s true for any weekend. So, we’ll prepare like we need to and be ready to go.” 

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