By Jordan Atkins
The Lawrence University (Vikings) Hockey team split its two-game set against the Sabres of Marian University on Nov. 6 and 7. After a thrilling 3-2 victory at the Appleton Family Ice Center on Friday evening, the Vikes traveled to Fond du Lac the next day and were shut out by the Sabres 6-0. Because the series was tied, a shootout was required immediately afterwards to determine which team would have possession of the series’ traveling trophy for the next year. Marian won the shootout 2-1.
Leading the way for the Vikings on Friday night was junior and goaltender Mattias Soderqvist. He allowed two second-period goals, but stopped the rest of the 30 shots he faced. Soderqvist held off a barrage of shots on goal, while the Vikings were nursing a one-goal lead in the final period.
“Mattias played amazing,” said junior and defenseman Ryan Robertson of his goalie’s winning performance. “That was the key to the victory.”
Senior Matt Moore, sophomore Jake Kreutzer and senior Renato Engler provided the offense on Friday by scoring a goal apiece. “Everything was just clicking,” Robertson said.
“I thought we played really well,” said sophomore defenseman Matt Montemurro. “We played a full 60 minutes.”
On Saturday, Lawrence outpaced Marion 31-26 in shots on goal, but failed to push the puck past Marian’s goaltender Mike Baldwin even once as he picked up the first shutout of his collegiate career. Sodervqist went the distance for the Vikes and made 20 saves.
“We started to get away from the things we normally do,” said Montemurro. “Some guys got thrown out for chirping.”
“We took a lot of bad penalties and that hurt us,” added Robertson. “We couldn’t find the back of the net, but we had a lot of chances.”
The series represented the start of conference play for Lawrence (1-3). Unlike most other Viking athletic teams, which compete in the Midwest Conference, the hockey team is a member of the highly competitive Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA). The NCHA has made some changes this season by adding Aurora University to the league and modifying the playoff format.
The Vikes earned a bid to the league’s Harris Cup Playoffs last season by finishing seventh in the regular season. However, the team will need to improve upon their standing to qualify for the postseason this year. Despite the increasing league size, playoff qualification standards were tightened, and only the six best teams will compete for the cup.
Although qualifying will be harder, the team’s goal remains the same. “We know that we are a playoff contender,” said Montemurro. “We’ve improved a lot since last season. We have a lot of speed up front. We’ve got some big physical defensemen who can move the puck. I feel like we have a real special team this year.”
The team will enjoy a weekend off before traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for its series against Finlandia University on Nov. 20-21. Even without games to play, the Vikes will have business to attend to in practice. “Going back and just going over the fundamentals is always something really crucial,” said Montemurro in preparation for the upcoming matchups against the Finlandia Lions.
The Vikes also hope for the return of Engler and freshman Nick Felan for the games against the divisional rival. Both are currently out with concussions. The team will be without sophomore defenseman Brendan Vetter who injured his shoulder in last Saturday’s game and is expected to be out long-term.