Heading onto the ice for the third period, Tartan forward Eric Olheiser decided he’d had enough.
After teammate Jake Jackson won a draw back to him a few seconds into the third, Olheiser collected the puck and noticed that no defenders were near him. That space was just what he needed to beat Minnehaha Academy's stubborn goaltender with a top-shelf wrist shot that forcefully knicked the crossbar and flipped into the net.
“I was wide open,” Olheiser said after the game. “Just wide open.”
The goal proved to be the winner in the Titan’s 3-2 victory over Minnehaha Academy on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Tartan Ice Arena in Oakdale.
If goals could talk, that one might have said “we’re done here.”
“That was huge,” Tartan coach Steve Romanchuk said. “That took a lot of pressure off the kids.”
The frustrated Titans had been piling shots on goaltender Matt Hultman all game and, after two periods, had only a tie score to show for it. Olheiser’s goal alleviated the frustration and allowed them to return to playing airtight defense in order to secure their third victory of the season.
“That’s what we needed the whole game,” Olheiser said of the goal, as well as the level of intensity that his team brought in the third. “We just had to get back to our spots. Whatever works for us we have to keep doing it, and not run around.”
On a very young Tartan team, Olheiser – a junior in his second year on the varsity – is considered a vet. Known for his passing ability, he leads the team in assists with eight in seven games.
Romanchuk sees more in Olheiser than his point totals.
“He’s our inspiration,” Romanchuk said. “He’s our guy that you can count on blocking shots. I think he probably leads our forwards in shot blocking. He works real hard, he’s always in the corners. He’s a digger.”
The Titans have played well so far this season, despite a tough schedule. Tartan has suffered losses to three teams ranked in the top 10 in the state in Class 1A -- 4-2 against No. 7 Rochester Lourds, 6-2 against No. 10 Mahtomedi and 5-3 to No. 6 Thief River Falls.
Tartan needs seasoned such as Olheiser to continue its nice start and carry it into conference play.
To prepare for his new role, Olheiser geared up in the weight room and worked hard in developmental camps to improve his speed and strength in the offseason. As a player who values physical play, both of these areas are important to him.
“I go into the boards hard, I go after 'em,” he said. “I’m a rough player.”
After the victory over Minnehaha Academy however, he did admit that being a scorer is a fun role to play as well.
“I pass the puck a lot so that’s why we get a lot of points,” he said. “But yeah of course, it’s always nice to score."
Minnehaha Academy has enjoyed a wonderful beginning to their season, following a tough year in which they went 3-22-0. With a record of 2-2-1, the Redhawks have almost matched their win total from their previous campaign and they have only played five games.
Although they have improved their overall game in almost every spot on the ice, a big part of their success this season is due to senior goaltender Matt Hultman.
The 6’2” tall goalie has been a tough customer to opposing offenses and carried Minnehaha through many of their games by saving 92 percent of shots while facing an average of nearly 47 per game.
“The bounce back is tremendous,” said Hultman. “The players have been playing well. We have a D zone this year, which has made a really big difference.”
In Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Tartan at Tartan Ice Arena in Oakdale, Hultman came up with 51 saves on 54 shots. Even though they lost, hitting the half-century mark on saves is nothing to scoff at. Throughout the game he was peppered by scoring chances, odd-man rushes, and especially, power play opportunities.
The Redhawks marched to the penalty box a total of seven times during the game, putting a lot of pressure on Hultman make saves.
“I was getting frustrated with the stupid penalties that were taken but I wasn’t frustrated with my defense at all,” he said after the game. “I just keep buckling down and try to push through it.”
Hultman began his career at Holy Angels before transferring to Minnehaha Academy as a sophomore and playing junior varsity. As a junior, he was called to start part of the way through the season when senior goaltender Tony Alexander went down with an injury.
Hultman made an impact on the ice and earned his time as a starter this year.
“My best strength I personally think is being able to scramble like crazy and just trying to keep the puck out of the net any way I possibly can,” he said.
Hultman showed off that ability in Tuesday’s game, stifling the Titans offense despite the barrage of pucks.
His performance forced Tartan coach Steve Romanchuk to think of new ways to try and score after he kept on making saves.
“Just keep moving the puck,” he said was the message to his team. “Don’t panic, keep your head. Try to tic-tac-toe it around… We encouraged them to try and take his eyes away, keep your stick on the ice for lower shots and see if we can get some deflections.”
Even Tartan’s star of the game, Eric Olheiser chimed in on Hultman.
“We hit him right in the chest for the most part, for more than half the shots,” he said, commenting Hultman’s size in the net.
“Their goalie played outstanding,” Romanchuk said.
The first two periods were anything but close in Tartan’s 3-2 victory over Minnehaha Academy on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
That is, except on the scoreboard.
The Titans (3-4-0) outshot the Redhawks 41-9 after two frames and dominated their offensive zone, yet the score was tied at 2.
The Redhawks (2-2-1) went down 2-0 with 1:32 left in the second period after a goal by Zach Ledman on the power play.
Seemingly crushed, Minnehaha Academy miraculously bounced back with 36 seconds left in the second when star winger Michael Fabie received a pass from Ryan Leo in the slot that he zipped past Tartan goaltender Evan Hauser. John Seibel also assisted on the play.
With only 18 seconds left in the second period, Ryan Leo erased all of the hard work put in by the Titans by finding the net while again wide open in the slot. John Seibel and Ryan Evenson assisted on his goal.
With the momentum swinging off the charts in favor of Minnehaha, The Titans needed to respond in the third and regain its offensive authority.
As quickly as the game had slipped away, the Titans again found themselves on top. Forward Eric Olheiser snagged a pass from Jake Jackson and beat goaltender Matt Hultman to make the score 3-2 just 19 seconds into the third.
Tartan finished with a 53-18 advantage in shots.
1. Matt Hultman, Minnehaha Academy
The 6-foot-2 senior goaltender kept cool under fire, and did he ever face some fire. The Redhawks were outshot 24-3 in the first period alone, and Hultman singlehandedly finished with a 54-17 advantage to keep the Redhawks in the game.
2. Jake Jackson, Tartan
The senior standout tallied two assists, including a great pass to teammate Eric Olheiser for the winning goal. Jackson is second on the Titans with nine points on the season. In general, whenever he was on the ice, scoring chances seemed to follow as Minnehaha Academy had a hard time containing him.
3. Eric Olheiser, Tartan
The junior forward provided the game winner just 19 seconds into the third period. It was his only point, but he still leads the Titans with 11, eight of which are assists. Olheiser rescued the Titans from any dejection over losing their lead in the second period and put a jump in the step of his teammates.