Hockey team plays two-game series in Minnesota

Our hockey team went for a two-day battle in Minnesota in their Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) schedule. The series started Friday against the Saints, ranked 9-6-1 and 7-3-1 NCHA.

We started strong, with Sean Reynolds at only 1:44 getting assists from junior Mikkel Joehnk and freshman Matt Beranek to score. The Saints tied with a play by Derek Sutlifee at 10:31, and they finished three for two on the play. The Vikings came back with senior Lane King, with only 3:59 left in the first, scoring with assists from sophomores Josh Koepplinger and Nick Felan. The Saints were behind 1-2 at the end of the first period.

Our team, ranked 5-9-2 overall and 4-5-2 NCHA, came into the game ready and focused, but the Saints started the second period with a bombardment of three goals in just 1:34 from Brett Radford, Cole Golka, and Mike Nolan to make the score 4-2. Steven Phee added another score midway in the second, and two more were added in the third, to make it a 7-2 win for the Saints.

The Vikings had 21 shots on the goal, and the Saints got 49. Senior Mattias Söderquist started as goalie; he allowed four goals but made 22 saves! Freshman Evan Cline came in later and stopped 20 shots while only allowing three goals, and the Saints Zane Steeves stopped 19 shots. Overall the Vikings started strong, and then the Saints made four rapid fire scores in the second period.

Viking coach Micheal Szkodzinski stated, “This is a real young group that has a ton of talent. We like the pieces we have, but just need to put the whole puzzle together consistently. The players know it and are focused on being more consistent going forward.” This consistency will surely help them to only get better for their next games.

Saturday began the second day of the series. The Saints, (now 10-6-1 and 8-3-1 NCHA) came out with the first goal by Mike Nolan with only 18 seconds left in the first. In the second period Koepplinger tied at 8:59 off assists from King and senior Brad Mueller. Then the Vikings were able to keep the game tied all the way until the third period.

With 13 minutes left Cole Golka scored the winning shot for the Saints, making it a very close game, 2-1. The Vikings kept fighting and came back with 2:18 left when Saints player Sam Williams was whistled for elbowing. They added an extra attacker, with only 54 seconds left, and they pulled the goaltender but could not tie the game. Our sophomore Greg Procopio, in his first game back since an injury made 32 saves for the Vikings (now 5-10-2, and 4-6-2 NCHA). Zane Steeves had 25 saves for the Saints.

Coach Szkodzinski said of the weekend, “We played really well in spurts in Duluth- especially on Saturday. We simply have to find a way to play with passion for the entire 60 minutes. When we do, we have a chance to beat anyone on any night as we have seen this season.” Make sure to check out the team’s next games, Jan. 27 and 28, at Adrian. Coach Szkodzinski is optimistic for the rest if the season, commenting “We really like our group and are excited to see what we can do during the last month of the year [in hopes to earn another playoff position].”