Looking to make more progress: Tommies start December stretch with trip to Ferris State

St. Thomas’ Ryan O’Neill skates into the slot on his way to scoring a goal during a game against Lake Superior State Nov. 25 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — We’re two months into the college hockey season, and the St. Thomas men’s team is sitting pretty good right now.  

The Tommies (7-6-1, 5-3 CCHA) were on a five-game winning streak until Saturday’s loss to Lake Superior State and they’re currently sitting atop the CCHA standings with 15 points, two ahead of Bemidji State.  

“I thought we had a pretty good month of November,” UST head coach Rico Blasi said Monday. “We did some really good things and obviously got some outcomes. I’m excited about starting a new month and continuing to get better every day. The process hasn’t changed for us. We still have a long way to go and we’re looking forward to getting back on the ice and getting better.” 

St. Thomas’ Lucas Wahlin gets taken down in front of the Lake Superior State net before he can get his shot off during a a Nov. 24 game in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

After Friday’s victory over the Lakers, Blasi said that his squad wasn’t focusing on the standings, and he reiterated those thoughts Monday. He did say that he was pleased overall with how the season has been going recently though.

“We’re going to be very critical of what we do and how we play obviously,” Blasi said. “That’s just our job. I think our guys understand that we need to continue to focus on today and getting better. But we’ve certainly taken some steps forward. Like I said earlier, I think we have a long way to go, and our guys are working every day toward that. We’ve played some really good hockey in stretches and I don’t think we’ve been as consistent as we want to be and that’s probably true for a lot of teams around the country. But our focus is our team and we’re going to continue to focus on that.” 

One of the concerns going into last weekend was the Tommies’ power play, which had been struggling this year. However, the Tommies did score two power play goals against LSSU and Blasi said that they did tweak some things heading into the weekend.  

“You tinker a little bit with everything, whether it be 5 on 5, or your lines, or your power play,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to tinker with who you’re playing and make adjustments from there. I just think we’ve had really good looks, the puck hasn’t just gone in. And lately they’ve gone in, so it makes you look like you’ve got a good power play. It’s no different than anything else. We’ve got to continue to work on it.

“To me, it’s about timely goals. I would’ve liked a few on Saturday when we’re trying to get back, but there is another opponent on the ice that wants to win as well. So, sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to your opponent blocking shots, or good goaltending, or whatever. But we’re getting good looks and that’s the most important thing for us, and the main thing for us.” 

St. Thomas’ Mack Byers brings the puck into the Ferris State zone and tries to make a move toward the net during a game last December in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

December brings a new opponent for the Tommies and that’s Ferris State. The Bulldogs are currently sitting at the bottom of the CCHA standings, but their record (4-7-1, 2-4) might be deceiving and Ferris is known for surprising teams that overlook it.  

“They’re a good hockey team,” Blasi said. “This is a team that went to the final four in our league last year and they’re returning pretty much everybody. Well coached team. Always plays hard, always plays smart. It’s a tough place to play. We’ve got to be ready to play our best and it’s going to be a battle. They’re coming off an off weekend. Our league is very competitive from top to bottom, and you’ve got to be ready to play every night.” 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *