Leading Bison scorer Gunnar Goodmanson assisted on two Buffalo goals
By Rob LaPlante Sports Editor
With the regular season winding down, The Buffalo boys’ hockey team hopes for a better finish than the 4-4 overtime tie last Thursday, Feb. 6 at Hopkins.
A Royals goal with the goaltender pulled in the final minute of regulation spoiled what looked like a promising road win against a difficult Lake Conference opponent in Hopkins.
Twice the Bison battled back in the game from a one-goal deficit. Trailing 1-0 and 2-1, senior forward Hunter Thompson scored both goals to even the score 2-2 after two periods. It was Thompson’s ninth and 10th goals of the season, and seventh goal and 10th point the past four games.
“I’m finally starting to get some bounces to go my way,” said Thompson, who has found a home on the second line with fellow seniors Wilson Anderle and Jake Michalko. “The senior line is starting to really work well together. Wilson has been feeding me pretty good.”
The Bison took their first lead of the game just 31 seconds into period three when their top line connected on a goal by junior Jake Ramsey. Hopkins forward Josh Laven would tie the game for the third time at 5:48 of the third period with his second goal of the contest. But just 2:19 after Laven’s goal, it was Buffalo senior defenseman Justin Laven (no relation) taking a pass from junior Gunnar Goodmanson and rifling a shot past Hopkins goaltender Josh Kuehmichael for a 4-3 Bison lead.
Buffalo head coach Aaron Johnson said the Bison controlled play for most of the game, but things got unraveled a bit in the third period. Buffalo outshot the Royals 29-21 after two periods, but things changed drastically in period three and the overtime.
The Royals fired 22 third-period shots towards senior goalie Mikey Otten, and with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, it was Hopkins junior forward Jonah Shoemaker-Gagnon finally getting the equalizer with 18 seconds remaining on the clock.
“I thought we outplayed them for most the game,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure if the shots were 100-percent accurate, but once we got the lead we kind of got caught on our heels in the third period.”
Otten stopped eight more shots in the overtime and 47 of 51 overall in the game to help preserve a 4-4 overtime tie. With two games remaining on the schedule, Thompson said defense and goaltending will be key heading into the home stretch and into the playoffs.
“It would have been a fun game to have being they are a Lake Conference team,” Thompson said. “It was disappointing. We deserved to win there, but it was a bad bounce at the end there which has happened a lot. I think we’re feeling pretty confident though heading into sections and if Mikey is hot, he can lead us somewhere.”
Otten has set career highs this season in games played (22), minutes (1,060), wins (12), and a 2.45 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
The Bison just finished a hectic stretch in their schedule playing five games over a nine-day period, posting a 3-1-1 record over that span.
The six days off leading up to the 7 p.m. road game this Thursday, Feb. 13 at Princeton was a much needed break in the schedule.
“It comes at a great time,” Johnson said. “We’ve played a lot of games in a short period of time and a lot of guys are getting worn down. It was a nice chance for us to step away a bit and get a break late in the season.”
“It’s a nice little recovery period that’s for sure,” Thompson said. “It was a lot of fun in practice playing a 3-on-3 tournament, then on Monday things got back to normal.”
Buffalo’s game with Princeton still has implications as far as conference standings. The Bison (14-7-2 overall, 9-2 conference) trailed Rogers by one game heading into the Royals’ final conference game with Princeton this Saturday, Feb. 15. A Tigers win would create a co-conference championship with both the Royals and Bison.
Buffalo likely will be the No. 5 seed opening at No. 4 Bemidji starting next Tuesday, Feb. 18 when the Section 8AA playoffs begin. The Bison dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Lumberjacks earlier this season.