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MIAC notebook: Augsburg's attempt to stop a 33-game unbeaten streak comes oh so close

Although Augburg skated away with their (unofficial) shootout victory at the end of 65 hard minutes, the game between the Auggies and the defending national champions Adrian Bulldogs will go into the books officially as a 2-2 tie.

College hockey players face off
Augsburg senior forward Erik Palmqvist (17) takes a faceoff against Adrian's Sam Ruffin (9) on Thursday, Nov. 3 at Ed Saugestad Rink in Minneapolis.
Contributed / Kevin Healy for Augsburg University Athletics

MINNEAPOLIS — Thursday’s heavyweight matchup between No. 1 Adrian College and No. 4 Augsburg University had nearly everything: Two top-five teams. A packed Ed Saugestad Rink. A 33-game unbeaten streak on the line. An injured goaltender. A late game-tying goal.

The only thing missing was a game-winning goal. Although Augburg skated away with their (unofficial) shootout victory at the end of 65 hard minutes, the game between the Auggies and the defending national champions Bulldogs will go into the books officially as a 2-2 tie.

Augsburg head coach Greg May said the stalemate was ultimately the fairest result for the Division III Frozen Four semifinal rematch. Adrian won that game back in March, en route to a 31-1-0 record and its first national title.

Augsburg players skates up ice
Augsburg senior forward Austin Dollimer (12) leads a rush up the ice against Adrian College junior defenseman Jaden Shields (20) on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 at Ed Saugestad Rink in Minneapolis.
Contributed / Kevin Healy for Augsburg University Athletics

“It was just a good hockey game,” May said Friday morning. “I was talking to another former coach after the game last night and he said it felt like a playoff game in November, with the two teams and the quality of play that was out there.

“Probably the thing I was most proud of for our guys was just their resolve and their resilience to dig deep and fight back in the third period.”

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The Auggies (0-0-1) trailed 2-1 going into the final period and were, in the first 40 minutes, outshot by the Bulldogs 29-11.

I told them, ‘It’s still on the table, it’s achievable, but it’s still going to be hard as hell. You’re going to have to do something this period if you’re going to get there.’ And to their credit, they did get there.
Greg May, on Augsburg's 2-1 deficit after two periods

To make matters worse, Augsburg starting goalie Jack Robbel was injured in a collision with an Adrian player just three minutes into the third. Samuel Vyletelka had to come on for the remainder of the game cold.

All of these things, combined with the fact that their opponents hadn’t lost or even tied in more than a year, made the prospect of an Auggie comeback all the more daunting. At intermission, May’s message to his team was simple: Just calm down and know that still it’s just a one-shot game despite the lopsided shot numbers.

“I told them, ‘It’s still on the table, it’s achievable, but it’s still going to be hard as hell. You’re going to have to do something this period if you’re going to get there.’ And to their credit, they did get there,” May said.

The Auggies swarmed the Bulldog offensive zone, getting off shot after shot and barely letting their foot off the gas. Augsburg outshot Adrian 22-9 in the final frame, but even then it took nearly 15 minutes to tie it up. Austin Dollimer knocked a rebound past Bulldog goalie Dershahn Stewart on the power play to make it 2-2 with just more than five minutes to play in regulation.

Augsburg hockey players on the ice
Augsburg players celebrate a goal with its fans against Adrian on Thursday, Nov. 3 at Ed Saugestad Rink in Minneapolis.
Contributed / Kevin Healy for Augsburg University Athletics

“I don't think we changed anything as far as telling them they had to get more shots on goal or throw anything at the net or anything,”May said. “It was more just, hey, keep focusing on ourselves. To be honest, we got our butts kicked in the second period. They took it to us.”

Matus Spodniak and Ryan Pitoscia had both scored for Adrian in the second, a period that the Bulldogs dominated after Augsburg’s Fritz Belisle had opened the scoring earlier in the middle frame to give his team a 1-0 lead.

“It was kind of a collective effort,” May said. “We kept with our four lines basically all the way through the game. We had our fourth line against their first line with two minutes left in the game. They deserved to, they’re good enough to be out there with anybody.”

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Special recognition should also go out to Vyletelka, who made 13 saves against Adrian in relief of Robbel, who was removed from the game and is still being evaluated. No matter – May said the Auggies don’t really have a starter and a backup, they operate in the nets more on a 1a and 1b rotation.

“They’re both studs, so for him to be able to come in cold and shut the door on them was huge too,” May said.

May had said last month that although playing Adrian would be a good test for his team, championships aren’t won in November. He reiterated that on Friday following the draw, saying he wants to make sure the Auggies keep up their level of intensity when they take on Wisconsin-Stout on Saturday in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

“It’s one game, and now it’s on to the next,” May said. “The question is, can we be consistent? Adrian’s an easy team to get up for, obviously. It was the last team we played, guys on our team have a sour taste in their mouth for how it ended last year. Can we keep that same level of play, that same intensity, that same desire now on Saturday?”

Conference play begins

Four MIAC teams will get an early start on their conference schedules with Bethel taking on St. Olaf and Hamline battling St. Mary’s.

Ben Ward, Sam Wilhite, Jack Brown and Michael Savelkoul each scored for the Royals, who had only had five days of practice prior to the game

Bethel is off to a 2-0-0 start after a pair of dominating wins at Finlandia University. The Royals scored eight goals in each of the two games and made the long bus ride back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula more tolerable. Jarrett Cammarata scored four goals in the first game, he now leads the team with eight points. Justin Kelley had three goals over the weekend while Ben Ward and Braeden Bartoo each had two. In all 16 players got on the scoreboard against the Lions, who were 2-23-0 last season.

The Royals should have a more competitive series with St. Olaf, who are coming off their MIAC tournament championship from a season ago. The Oles played a single game against Northland College last weekend and won 7-1. Seven different players scored for the Oles in their season opener and Kelijah McElroy had a game-high three points with three assists.

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The other series features a pair of teams looking for their first victories. Hamline fell to Wisconsin-River Falls 4-0 in their season-opening game while St. Mary’s lost and tied in a high-scoring series with Lake Forest College. The Cardinals had a 5-4 lead in the series opener with the Foresters but allowed a late goal and ultimately lost in a shootout. In game two, St. Mary’s had a 3-2 lead after the first 20 minutes but Lake Forest scored four unanswered goals and won 6-3.

Hamline, who was 4-18-4 overall last season and finished with just one conference win, will look to lean on experienced goaltender Kevin Lake this season. Lake, a senior from Anchorage, Alaska, made 29 saves against River Falls.

St. Mary’s was 8-14-1 overall and 5-7-0 in the MIAC, good enough for sixth place. They will be led by senior forward Brady Lindauer, an all-MIAC honorable mention last season, and sophomore defenseman Callahan Nauss, who was an all-MIAC honorable mention as a freshman as well as a member of the MIAC and USCHO All-Rookie Teams.

MIAC Players of the Week

Laudon Poellinger of St. Mary’s was the MIAC Offensive Player of the Week for Oct. 31 while Bailey Huber of St. John’s was the Defensive Player of the week.

Poellinger, a sophomore forward from LaCrescent, Minnesota, had a hand in four of the Cardinals' eight goals over the weekend. He had goal and an assist in both of SMU’s games against Lake Forest last weekend.

Huber, a sophomore from Mahtomedi, Minnesota, made his first collegiate start and stopped 27 shots in the Johnnies’ 3-1, season-opening win at UW-River Falls on Oct. 29.

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