Beaver dam: Bemidji State shuts down injury-riddled Tommies

St. Thomas’ Luke Manning (16) and J.D. Metz try to move the puck further into the Bemidji State zone during a game Feb. 24 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Heading into Saturday night’s game against Bemidji State, the big storyline with the St. Thomas men’s hockey team was the growing list of injuries plagueing the roster and it was evident from the start that the problem was getting worse as the Tommies couldn’t put together a full line chart.  

Not surprisingly, the first place Beavers took advantage of UST’s injuries and got some key saves from goalie Mattias Sholl to earn a 3-1 victory. With the win, Bemidji can win the MacNaughton Cup outright by getting two points next weekend against Minnesota State, while one point will get the Beavers a share of the CCHA regular season title.  

Beavers head coach Tom Serratore said the game plan was to try to wear down the shorthanded Tommies and the strategy was successful.  

“Every whistle, we rolled out guys on 20, 25-second shifts,” he said. “We rolled four lines and we had to do that. We had to be fresh so we could wear them down in the offensive zone and make them defend.” 

St. Thomas’ Liam Malmquist skates up ice on a partial breakaway during a game against Bemidji State Feb. 24 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

For UST head coach Rico Blasi, it was another tough loss for his team in a season that is potentially slipping away. A few weeks ago, the Tommies were in first place and now, they could be on the verge of losing home ice in the first round of the playoffs.  

“I’m just proud of our team,” he said. “To have to battle like that with nine guys in the stands, there’s not much more you can say.” 

The first period was evenly played with both teams getting decent looks at the net. UST’s best chance came on a penalty shot at the 6:48 mark, but couldn’t capitalize. After getting taken down on a breakaway, Tommies captain Lucas Wahlin tried to beat Sholl glove side, but was denied by the junior netminder. Later in the period, Bemidji got on the scoreboard while on the power play when Kyle Looft sniped a shot past UST goalie Jake Sibell at the 13:12 mark to make it 1-0 heading into the second.  

While the opening period was back and forth, the second was all Beavers. Bemidji outshot the Tommies 20-6 in the period and had several good looks down low. However, Sibell was up to the task as he flopped his way all over the crease to stop every shot. His best save came with just under 14 minutes remaining as he used a scorpion kick to stop a great scoring chance in front by Beavers forward Austin Joopi.  

St. Thomas goalie Jake Sibell tracks the puck in front of the Tommies net during a game against Bemidji State Feb. 24 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

UST started to put a little more pressure on Sholl in the first few minutes of the third, but he locked down every Tommies opportunity. Sholl also got some scoring help at the 6:25 mark when Eric Pohlkamp rang a shot off the pipe and past Sibell to pad the Beavers’ lead to 2-0.  

At the 12:35 mark, Bemidji’s advantage got pushed to 3-0 as Vince Corcoran blasted a shot from the point past Sibell and it looked as if that would be the dagger. However, the Tommies didn’t give up as Liam Malmquist finally got a puck past Sholl just 23 seconds later as he backhanded a shot from the slot into the back of the net. But that’s all they could manage as the Tommies pulled Sibell with two minutes left for the extra attacker and couldn’t trim the deficit any further.  

The Tommies close out the regular season next week at Michigan Tech.  

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