Tommies rally past Nanooks, pick up program's first nonconference and overtime victory at Division I level
Freshman forward Josh Eernisse scores his first college goal in the 3-on-3 OT to lift St. Thomas to the win
MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — For the majority of Saturday night’s game against Alaska Fairbanks, the St. Thomas men’s hockey team looked as if it was going to let a good opportunity for a win slip away again.
The Tommies took an early lead just like on Friday, but blew it due to some costly penalties in the second period.
When things looked bleak, UST tied it early in the third period to force overtime and forward Josh Eernisse turned on the jets to score and give the Tommies a 3-2 comeback win. It was UST’s first nonconference and first overtime victory as an NCAA Division I program.
“We talked about early this morning about paying a price to win a game and learning how to win at this level and that sometimes you have to go through adversity and sometimes you have to deal with things that are not something you want to deal with,” Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said. “Certainly tonight, if you’d ask me as a coach how would you script the win, 4-1 and let’s get out of here. But in order for us to continue our process, it had to happen the way it did tonight where you’re up by a goal and you’re not really in it much.
"They were getting a lot of shots from the outside and they’re penetrating and then all of a sudden, you get into penalty trouble. And you’ve got to go through adversity and everybody has to step up," Blasi said. "Then guys aren’t playing because we’ve been down (a player) probably like 10 minutes in the second period. So, then you have to regroup in the third and our guys did a good job of getting pucks deep.
“I told our power play to be ready to go because you’re probably gonna get a chance and they certainly did and they buried it. Then we had another chance. But we got all four lines going in the third period, which I think helped and — lucky for us in overtime — we got a good bounce. I think our process is always to continue to learn how to win at this level ... So, you have to stay in it and you’ve got to be in the moment and you’ve got to take what the game gives you and I thought tonight we did that.”
Highlights from @TommieMHockey's first win of the year! #CCHA | #RollToms pic.twitter.com/op6pQ9i1P1— CCHA (@CCHAHockey) October 9, 2022
For Eernisse, he got a chance in overtime to show what Blasi said he does all the time in practice, which is to show off his speed. The play ended with his first college goal at 1:28 of the 3-on-3 overtime.
“It was just back and forth,” said Eernisse, a freshman from Apple Valley, Minn. “We had a rush there to begin with and they start coming back.
"(Cam Recchi) does a really good job of getting back there and covering for the 'D' and that all starts with a huge block from him. He gets down and eats that, those are the little things we talk about all the time. Doing those things. All of a sudden, it’s going back the other way, a little chip off the play there. I just beat the guy wide and I kind of knew where I was going the whole time. I just had the spot picked out and put it right where I wanted. That’s a good first feeling right there.”
“I knew right where I was going the whole time, I had the spot picked out and put it right where I wanted it.”— St. Thomas Men’s Hockey (@TommieMHockey) October 9, 2022
Josh Eernisse talks us through that final shot for the OT winner ⬇️#RollToms pic.twitter.com/wnOKru0MtN
Aaron Trotter, a sophomore from Victoria, British Columbia, made 34 saves to pick up his first college win for the Tommies.
Unlike Friday when the Tommies started off hot, it was Alaska that looked sharp. The Nanooks kept the puck in the Tommies' defensive zone for pretty much the first half of the first period and held UST without a shot for nine minutes. However, UST’s first shot was a good one as it got the Tommies on the scoreboard.
With the Tommies on a rush, Lucas Wahlin sent a shot on net that was saved by Nanooks goalie Matt Radomsky, but the rebound deflected up in the air and UST junior forward Mack Byers smacked it into the back of the net at 8:39 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Alaska took back control and the puck continued to spend the majority of the period in the Tommies’ end of the rink. UST withstood the pressure though with Trotter making some key saves and the Tommies killed off two Alaska power plays to maintain their slim lead going into the second period.
It was more of the same in the second period as the Nanooks kept control of the play and eventually were rewarded for their efforts with a couple goals. After being stymied by Trotter all game, Chase DuBois solved the netminder on a 5-on-3 power play by tucking a one-timer under the crossbar to tie the game at 1-1 at 12:57.
Later in the period, penalties burned the Tommies again as Brady Risk scored on another 5-on-3 power play, flipping a shot inside the right post to give Alaska a 2-1 lead at 17:42. UST trailed 22-5 in shots after two periods.
The Tommies tied the game on the power play at 2:03 of the third period as freshman forward Luc Laylin beat Radomsky high to tie the game, 2-2. UST started to finally put some sustained pressure on the Alaska defense and Trotter made two big sprawling saves in the final two minutes to push the game into overtime.
“I think we did our jobs to the best we could and they got some goals, but we battled through some adversity and I think it’s a huge character win,” Trotter said.
When asked how he was feeling after watching both games, Blasi said that his team is gradually making progress during its second DI season.
“I was real happy with our game last night, the way we played in spurts,” he said. “I was real happy the way we played our third period tonight and how we came back. I think we got a little better this weekend. I think we understand a little bit more.
"We’re not quite there yet, I don’t think, but we understand a little bit more how to win at this level and that’s an important lesson. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s still a process and our guys are obsessed with it. Even in the locker room now after the win, everybody’s talking about process. I think the guys are believing in what we’re trying to do.”