Opening a season with a win is always sweet, but opening up the season with a shutout is just a little bit sweeter. This is exactly what the Lawrence men’s hockey team did on Wednesday, blanking the Soo Thunderbirds, of Sault Saint Marie Ontario, to skate away with a 3-0 win.The first period was a defensive affair. Both teams had chances to score but neither could put away a goal. Freshman Evan Johnson started between the pipes for the Vikes, making several big saves in the first period to keep the score at zeroes.
Anyone disappointed at the lack of scoring in the first period got their satisfaction in the second period, the Vikes put up their first goal of the season. At 1:19 into the second period a turnover gave the puck to junior Mike Ackley who passed it to sophomore Marc Howe, who then fed it over to Nick Jennette, a junior, at the top of the circle. The goalie came across but not before Jennette tallied his first goal on a high blocker side shot.
The Vikings’ next goal came at 6:49 into the second when Scott Minarcik, a freshman from Lake Forest, Illinois, pounced on a rebound in front of the net. Minarcik tried to get the puck past the Thunderbirds’ goaltender a couple of times, but couldn’t work past the goalie. Minarcik then pulled the puck back and roofed it up over the goaltender’s pad to score his first goal as a college athlete. Assists went to senior Josh Peterson and freshman Matt Jacobs on the goal.
The remainder of the second period went scoreless and freshman goalie Jimmy Ryan came in near the half way mark to split the time with Johnson. It is tough for a goaltender to come in cold, but Ryan took up right where Johnson left off, making big saves when called upon.
The two goaltenders combined to make a total of 30 saves for the shutout, eliciting praise from Captain Peterson: “Both goalies played very, very well.” The solid goaltending of both Johnson and Ryan gave Head Coach Mike Szkodzinski the ability to play either of the two and be confident in their shot-stopping abilities.
Neil Wallace scored the lone goal in the third period. Wallace scored an unassisted mark at 12:43 of the third period when a Soo defenseman made an errant pass that Wallace picked off at the top of the circle. Wallace walked in alone, made a move on the goaltender and slid the puck past the Soo goaltender.
The game was an exhibition, therefore it does not count on the Vikings’ overall record; but it allows the Vikings to take momentum into next week’s game at St. Norbert. Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Vikes head up to take on the Green Knights. St. Norbert is the current national runner-up and ranked second in the preseason national USCHO poll. The non-conference game is at 7 p.m. at the Cornerstone Community Center in De Pere.