By Rob LaPlante
Each year when conference rivals Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville butt heads in boys hockey, you can throw the records out the window.
Saturday’s 8-4 Bison win at the STMA Arena was another prime example. The Knights set the tone early on a wicked slap shot from the top of the slot scored by their star defenseman Connor Spetz. The Bison tied the game 1-1 on a goal in the final minute of the period scored by junior standout Gunnar Goodmanson.
The play developed after Goodmanson hit Spetz along the boards leading to a 2-on-1 breakout. With Spetz out of position, Goodmanson took junior linemate Jerame Schuetzle’s pass and broke free before tucking a forehand shot past the right pad of STMA freshman goaltender Kyle Hayden. Goodmanson was shoved hard into the net by Spetz moments after scoring the goal.
It was his conference leading 20th goal of the season, and afterwards he celebrated by leaping into the glass of the STMA student section.
With STMA and other teams of late trying to rattle the Bison’s leading scorer, Goodmanson said he embraces the physical part of the game and it was his hit on Spetz that got the train rolling.
“For sure, it’s a lot of fun,” said Goodmanson, on playing a physical game. “I can tell teams try and get in my head. I just try to let it not bother me.”
STMA sophomore Tucker Bjorlin opened the scoring in period two with an even strength goal at the 2:29 mark. Leading 2-1, the wheels came unglued for a Knights team that took four consecutive minor penalties, resulting in five unanswered goals, including two while the Bison enjoyed a 2-man power-play advantage.
Buffalo head coach Aaron Johnson said his team’s ability to stay out of the penalty box was the key.
“A key coming into this game was which team would be more disciplined, and I thought our guys were the more disciplined team,” Johnson said. “We took some penalties, but they were clean hard penalties where guys were playing hard. We didn’t let the rivalry game get to us and I thought that was the difference right there.”
Buffalo’s five goals came over a span of 10 minutes. Goodmanson and junior Jake Ramsey led the charge that period. Goodmanson scored two goals and two assists and Ramsey scored twice and assisted on another. Also scoring was senior forward Jake Michalko, who had a puck deflect off his chest after he crashed hard to the net.
Goodmanson’s hat trick was his third this season and brought his career-high goal total to 22 and counting. His five points was also a single-game career high.
“I’m having so much fun this year,” Goodmanson said. “I think our whole team is. We play as a team and we’re winning a lot of games. It’s awesome.”
STMA gained a bit of momentum late in period two on a goal by their “Kid Line.” Freshman defender Jack Kelly tipped in a pass from freshman Mitch Bourgerie that slipped past senior goalie Mikey Otten to cut the Bison lead to 6-3.
But similar to the second period, STMA’s lac of discipline showed up again after Spetz was called for a 5-minute major and game misconduct for his hit to the head on Bison sophomore Michael Sawdey.
Schuetzle and senior Wilson Anderle converted two more power-play goals during the major penalty. Squeezed between the two goals was a short-handed tally by Connor Smith of STMA. The Bison went 4-for-9 with the man advantage, and STMA was held scoreless on five power-play attempts.
Buffalo’s top line of Goodmanson (3 goals, 2 assists), Ramsey (2 goals, 2 assists) and Schuetzle (1 goal, 1 assist) combined for 11 total points. Anderle, Michalko and senior Hunter Thompson each registered two points.
Buffalo (11-6-1 overall, 7-1-0 conference) currently is tied with Rogers for the conference lead with 14 points. The Royals, however, are 7-0-0 with a game in hand over the Bison.
“We need Rogers to slip up one time,” Johnson said.
Buffalo’s game with Monticello on Tuesday was postponed and made up Wednesday night (result unavaliable). The Bison return home for three straight home games starting Thursday, Jan. 30 with a non-conference tilt against River Falls (WI). Saturday, Feb. 1 they host North Branch and Monday Feb. 3 is a makeup game against St. Francis. All games start at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center.