Not going down quietly: Tommies fight back, force game 3

St. Thomas captain Lucas Wahlin (center) celebrates his goal with his teammates during a Game 2 CCHA Quarterfinal against Lake Superior State on Mar. 9 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — The hardest thing to do in college hockey is to sweep a team on the road when its season is on the line and the St. Thomas men’s hockey squad was determined not to let that happen Saturday night.  

After defeating the Tommies 4-1 Friday, Lake Superior State had a chance to eliminate them and move on to the CCHA semifinals. However, UST blitzed LSSU for two quick first period goals and stayed in control from start to finish to earn a 4-2 victory and force a deciding Game 3 on Sunday.  

“Our backs were against the wall,” Tommies forward Noah Prokop said. “It was win or go home. So, I think as a team we have that belief that we know what we have in that locker room, and I think the message was pretty straightforward in what we needed to do tonight.” 

St. Thomas’ Liam Malmquist tries to cut off Lake Superior State’s Jared Westcott from getting to the puck during a Game 2 CCHA Quarterfinal Mar. 9 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

The odds weren’t exactly in UST’s favor heading into the game as it was playing without a full line chart for the third straight weekend and now, it had to win two games to keep their season going, but that problem didn’t faze the Tommies.  

“This group, we’ve been battling adversity all year, so it was nothing new to us,” Tommies forward Matthew Gleason said. “That was what we were saying before the game too. Yeah, our backs are against the wall, but this is who we are. We’re used to adversity. So, it’s just about going out there and performing.” 

When asked what it’s been like playing with such a shorthanded lineup for weeks, Gleason said the Tommies have rallied around each other.

“You look at the guy next to you and you know you’re going to war,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing too. We know we’ve gone through adversity, and you can lean on the guy next to you and you’re going to go out there and grind in the corners and do whatever you can to win. But at the end of the day, no one cares. Lake State doesn’t care what our lineup is. It’s just about us going out there and performing together.”

St. Thomas’ Carson Peters (21) tries to get around Lake Superior State’s Carter Batchelder during Game 2 of a CCHA Quarterfinal on Mar. 9 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

Unlike the previous night where they managed only three shots on net during the first period, the Tommies came out firing in the rematch and were rewarded with 14:13 left as team captain Lucas Wahlin fed Liam Malmquist on a rush and the forward fired the puck past Lakers goalie Ethan Langenegger to make it 1-0.  

Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said it was important that his team got on the scoreboard first as it helped them set up their plan.  

“Scoring first allows us to sustain our structure and not deviate from it,” he said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that. And it forces them to come out of their structure and force the game a little bit. They did a good job of coming back and pushing the pace a little bit, but I thought we handled ourselves fairly well.” 

A few minutes later, Wahlin padded the lead to two goals at the 11:09 mark. Collecting a loose puck near the Lakers net, he turned around and flipped it past Langenegger to give UST some extra cushion on the scoreboard.

St. Thomas’ Lucas Wahlin excitedly celebrates his goal against Lake Superior State during Game 2 of a CCHA Quarterfinal on Mar. 9 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

LSSU had a good opportunity to trim its deficit with just over three minutes left in the period, but Tommies goalie Aaron Trotter denied Connor Milburn and then managed to cover the puck during a flurry of sticks in front to help keep the score at 2-0.  

It was obvious from the first couple of minutes of the game that the Tommies were going with a different focus. On Friday, UST was more tentative, but it looked much more confident and easygoing Saturday.  

“I think just overall, we were skating a lot more tonight,” Gleason said. “We played a lot faster and that just allowed us to work off each other. Yesterday, there was a lot of standing around. So, it just led to a lot of pucks getting in deep and a lot of stationary guys not getting first touch. Tonight, I think the biggest thing was we were kind of just buzzing around and lines were rolling, and guys were just working off each other.” 

Things continued to go well for the Tommies in the second period as Jase Sofo picked up his first collegiate goal at the 3:12 mark. Sofo flung a weak shot on net that somehow got past Langenegger to push UST’s advantage to 3-0.

St. Thomas’ Carson Peters brings the puck into the Lake Superior State zone during Game 2 of a CCHA Quarterfinal on Mar. 9 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

The Lakers did get one goal back when Timo Bakos tapped a rebound past Trotter at the 12:18 mark, but UST answered back later just under three minutes later. With the Tommies on the power play and LSSU in desperate need of a line change, Prokop fed Wahlin in the slot. After Langenegger stopped Wahlin’s shot, the rebound went straight to Prokop, who shot it into a wide-open net to make it 4-1 Tommies.  

“I think we worked them for the full two minutes and if you get enough shots through, you’re going to get a good bounce,” Prokop said. “So, it just happened to be me, but it could’ve been any one of those guys on the ice. When you work a team like that for a full two minutes on the power play, you’re bound to get a good bounce.” 

In need of a goal to get back into it, the Lakers pulled backup goalie Easton Hesse for the extra attacker on the power play and got a goal from Milburn to trim UST’s lead to 4-2 at the 13:02 mark of the third period. However, that’s all LSSU could manage, and the Tommies closed out the win.  

Leave a Comment

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