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Early in the season, Bison head coach Aaron Johnson called upon a number of first-year varsity players to step into unfamiliar roles due to a number of key players in and out of his lineup.
With four games remaining in the regular season, it’s the same new faces that are continuing to score big goals, evidenced in the Bison’s 4-3 home victory on Thursday, Jan. 29 in overtime over Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake (MAML).
Buffalo rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to claim an all-important two points and stay on pace with current conference leaders St. Michael-Albertville. After outshooting MAML 17-3 in the opening 17 minutes, the Bison skated to the locker room down 2-0.
“Their goalie was really good,” Johnson said. “The message after the first period was to not get frustrated. MAML is a scrappy team that plays hard and has a good goalie. We just tried to encourage our players and to continue to stay positive.”
Sophomore Cade Stensby finally was able to put a puck behind MAML goalie Nathan Isaacson just 47 seconds into period two. Exactly four minutes later, junior forward Nick Jensen, with assists from junior Gavin Welch and senior James McNamara, tied the game 2-2. The goal was Jensen’s first as a varsity hockey player.
“Nick is a great team player and the guys were pretty excited for him after he scored that goal,” Johnson said.
But like period one, MAML went into the second intermission ahead on the scoreboard as Jaden Jarmuzek’s power-play tally at 7:27 gave the Moose a 3-2 advantage. The Bison led in shots 35-6 after two periods.
Senior captain Gunnar Goodmanson tied the game 3-3 midway through period three on a power-play goal at 7:27. Buffalo again dominated play outshooting MAML 9-1 in the final period, but Isaacson had kept the Moose alive saving 41 of 44 shots fired his way.
Ironically, the one period where MAML outshot the Bison came in overtime. Junior goaltender Ben Zitur made seven saves in the extra session, but junior forward Brady Hartman took a pass from Stensby and buried his second goal of the season giving the Bison the win.
Johnson said it’s no irony that he’s getting contributions from his younger players in the lineup.
“Sophomores like Stensby, Tom Rooney and Nick Mueller were on the Bantam A team a year ago, and guys like Hartman and Welch are juniors playing varsity hockey for the first time,” Johnson said. “These guys have played almost a full varsity season now. They were given opportunities early in the year to play more minutes and now they are better players because of that.”
The victory improved the Bison’s conference mark to 6-1-0 overall and kept them one game behind STMA in the standings with one less game played than the Knights.
Both the Knights (8-1-0 conference) and Bison (7-1-0) earned conference wins on Saturday Jan. 31. Buffalo’s victory came in a convincing 17-1 road win over a struggling North Branch squad that previously had lost 17-0 to Rogers.
A coming-out party was had on the score sheet for Buffalo. Three players registered hat tricks. Seniors Jake Ramsey and Goodmanson both enjoyed career nights each registering three goals and four assists. Goodmanson’s third goal gave him the conference lead in goals (20) and points (44).
Buffalo scored four times in the first and third periods, and blew the game open
with a nine-goal second period effort. Ramsey and Rooney each scored three times in the middle stanza. It was Rooney’s first career varsity hat trick and eighth goal of the season.
For the third time in four games, Bison players scored their first career varsity goal. Four games ago it was Hartman in a 6-5 loss to STMA. Jensen netted his first against MAML and Mueller notched his first giving Buffalo a 10-0 lead over North Branch.
“A lot of guys had big individual nights,” Johnson said. “It was also the first start and first win this season for (junior) goalie Justin Hahnfeldt.”
Hahnfeldt, a transfer from Providence Academy, spent most the night watching as Buffalo outshot North Branch 73-15. With the game in running time, and with the score out of hand, Johnson said it was a very difficult situation to be in, and credited North Branch for not letting the game get out of control.
“Those games are very hard to coach. It’s not a great experience for both teams, but you try and respect the game and still play the game the right way all the way through,” Johnson said. “North Branch has a very difficult situation. They don’t have a rink so they drive 25 minutes to Chisago Lakes’ home rink to practice for only 50 minutes of ice time at 5 a.m. before school each day. They are very dedicated hockey players over there.”
Buffalo (12-9-0 overall) is next in action at 7 p.m. at home against Princeton.
Buffalo 4, MAML 3, OT
(Thursday, Jan. 29 at Buffalo)
Moose 2 1 0 0 - 3
Bison 0 2 1 1 - 4
First period: MAML – Nick Johnson (Trevor Nodland, Nate Maas) 13:56; MAML – Nodland (Casey Chiodo) 14:45, PP.
Second period: B – Cade Stensby (Gunnar Goodmanson, Reed Morehouse) 0:47; B – Nick Jensen (Gavin Welch, James McNamara) 4:47; MAML – Jaden Jarmuzek (Nodland, Maas) 7:27.
Third period: B – Goodmanson (Jake Ramsey, Morehouse) 7:27, PP.
Overtime: STMA – Brady Hartman (Stensby) 5:09.
Goalies: MAML – Nathan Isaacson (loss) 47 shots, 43 saves; B – Ben Zitur (win) 14 shots, 11 saves. Shots: MAML – 3-3-1-7 – 14; B – 17-18-9-3 – 47; Power Plays: MAML – 1-2; B – 1-5.
Buffalo 17, North Branch 1
(Saturday, Jan. 31 at North Branch)
Bison 4 9 4 - 17
Vikings 0 0 1 - 1
First period: B – Jerame Schuetzle (Jake Ramsey, Kevin Kemp) 6:03, PP; B – Kemp (Brady Hartman, Cade Stensby) 10:21; B – James McNamara (Nick Mueller) 11:22; B – Stensby (Hartman, Kemp) 15:47.
Second period: B – Gunnar Goodmanson (Jake Ramsey) 1:33; B – Ramsey (Jerame Schuetzle, Goodmanson) 1:51; B – Tom Rooney (Tim Pearson) 5:38; B – Ramsey (Goodmanson) 6:09; B – Ramsey (Nick Mueller) 8:34; B – Mueller (Ramsey, Goodmanson) 9:38; B – Rooney (Gavin Welch, Reed Morehouse) 12:19; B – Goodmanson (Schuetzle) 12:46; B – Rooney (Nick Jensen)16:45.
Third period: B – Goodmanson (unassisted) 1:07; B – McNamara (Mueller); NB – Matt Kratzke (Trevor Minor) 7:53; B – Schuetzle (Ramsey, Goodmanson) 12:18, PP; B – Kemp (Hartman) 15:11.
Goalies: B – Justin Hanhfeldt (win) 15 shots, 14 saves; NB – Josh Petrik (loss) 53 shots, 40 saves; Donovan Steffan 20 shots, 16 saves. Shots: B – 27-26-20 – 73; NB – 3-8-4 – 15; Power Plays: B – 2-2; NB – 0-0.