Reed Morehouse fires shot from point (photos by Rob LaPlante).
By Rob LaPlante
A Buffalo versus St. Michael-Albertville boys’ hockey matchup may not have the same hype as an Edina versus Minnetonka, but it certainly isn’t lacking the flare.
With a conference title up for grabs, a see-saw battle resulted in a thrilling 6-5 overtime win for the Knights on Saturday, Jan. 24 at the Buffalo Civic Center.
The Bison enjoyed a one-goal advantage five different times in the contest, only to see STMA battle back each time. With 1:22 left in regulation, the Knights forced the final equalizer that forced overtime after senior Logan Nelson tied it 5-5 scoring one of three power-play goals in the game for the Knights.
Captain Gunnar Goodmanson crushes STMA's Nick Putnam (Photo by Rob LaPlante).
With two minutes elapsed in the extra session, STMA senior Tyler Hayes made a move past two Buffalo defenders and tucked in a backhand past Bison junior goalie Ben Zitur for the game winner.
“The whole motto has been, ‘if we can take it, make it,’” said Hayes, who also assisted on STMA’s second goal scored by sophomore Nick Putnam. “That’s all I had left in the tank and I put it out there and got lucky with that shot a little bit by curling it in.”
It was one of six shots to go past Zitur, but Buffalo’s workhorse goaltender still made 30 saves, most of them coming with pressure in his face.
Zitur said it was extremely disappointing to let a game slip away against a conference rival.
“We might have got a little cocky there being up a goal five times against a big rival,” Zitur said. “There was a lot of trash talk during the game. There was a lot going on and we may have got away from things a bit. Give them credit, they buried on their chances.”
Junior forward Brady Hartman gave the Bison early life scoring his first career varsity goal on the power play for Buffalo’s second goal.
The game featured seemingly a big hit on every play and a scrum after every whistle. Retaliatory penalties by both teams in the third period nearly cost each team the game in regulation.
An interference call to Bison senior Jerame Schuetzle resulted in STMA tying the score 4-4 at the 4:08 mark of the third period. Schuetzle was in the middle of things for the Bison all evening. His two second-period goals gave the Bison a 4-3 advantage after two periods.
With the game tied, a slashing call by the Knights resulted in a power-play goal and a 5-4 Bison lead with 3:18 left in regulation scored by senior Jake Ramsey.
A slashing call on Buffalo on a failed breakaway attempt by Hayes gave the Knights one last chance and with 1:22 left in regulation, Nelson forced the overtime scoring his second goal of the game and 19th goal of the season.
“We probably ended up with a few more penalties than they did, but we have to finish the game. Simple as that,” said Bison head coach Aaron Johnson, who visibly was disappointed after letting a key win slip away. “You can’t lead a game five different times and not find a way to win. That’s the disappointing thing, we didn’t finish the job.”
The overtime session saw both teams exchange chances, but towards the end of his shift, Hayes made a move around two Bison defenders and curled a backhand shot past Zitur for the winner.
“STMA had guys taking shots off forearms. They had guys taking shots off of heads,” Johnson said. “The difference with (STMA) compared to others in this conference is they were very comfortable throwing other lines out against our top line. They are a really good hockey team. They have juniors that have been to the state tournament at the bantam level and they are winners all the way up, and that kind of showed in the third period.”
Michael Sawdey and Logan Nelson battle for loose puck near center. Sawdey scored the game-winning goal against the Packers Tuesday night. It was his first varsity goal.
With both teams coming into the matchup fighting for the top spot in the Mississippi 8 conference, a Bison win would have put them two ahead of STMA in the loss column. Buffalo came in with a perfect 5-0-0 conference record and the Knights had a 6-1-0 mark.
The Knights are searching for their first ever Mississippi 8 title. Rogers and Buffalo are the only teams to win the conference since its inception 10 years ago.
Buffalo has six conference games left and STMA has five remaining prior to the rematch on Thursday, Feb. 12 with a potential Mississippi 8 title on the line at STMA.
Bison players celebrate after Jake Ramsey gave Bison late 5-4 lead. Meanwhile, a Knight fan signals his disapproval with class.
“This was a bad break with a bad finish,” Zitur said. “Our team is good enough to win this conference and I have no doubt in my mind we can go into St. Michael and get a win.”
While this was only the second time STMA has ever defeated Buffalo (the last coming in a 5-3 Knights victory Jan. 24, 2013 at the STMA Arena), both teams know this is becoming a very competitive and heated rivalry.
“I think it’s got to be our top rival,” Johnson said. “It’s a unique environment. Sometimes it goes a little far where things happen you don’t want to see happen. Emotions can go a little too far. I think both sides would say the same thing and keep it more in just playing the game.”
“It would probably come down to the wire in a game seven if we played them in a best-of-seven series,” said Hayes. “We knew it would be a dogfight for the conference and we had this game circled on our calendar.”
BISON 3, PACKERS 1
Sophomore Cade Stensby scored twice and junior Michael Sawdey netted his first career varsity goal in a 3-1 Bison win on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at South St. Paul.
STMA 6, Buffalo 5 OT
(Saturday, Jan. 24 at Buffalo)
Knights 2 1 2 1 - 6
Bison 2 2 1 0 - 5
First period: B – Gunnar Goodmanson (unassisted) 9:28, SH; STMA – Cody Reckard (Tucker Bjorlin, Connor Greenwood) 10:00, PP; B – Brady Hartman (Nick Mueller, Cade Stensby) 13:51, PP; STMA – Nick Putnam (Tyler Hayes) 16:12.
Second period: B – Jerame Schuetzle (Jake Ramsey, Goodmanson) 7:05; STMA – Logan Nelson (unassisted) 9:15; B – Schuetzle (Reed Morehouse) 14:45.
Third period: STMA – Jack Kelly (Zach Erickson, Cam Furstenberg) 4:08, PP; B – Ramsey (Morehouse, Goodmanson) 13:42, PP; STMA – Nelson (Erickson) 15:38, PP.
Overtime: STMA – Hayes (Carson Wooters) 2:00.
Goalies: STMA – Kyle Hayden (win) 26 shots, 21 saves; B – Ben Zitur (loss) 37 shots, 31 saves. Shots: STMA – 9-8-17-3 – 37; B – 8-10-7-1 – 26; Power Plays: STMA – 3-4; B – 2-3.
Buffalo 3, South St. Paul 1
(Tuesday, Jan. 27 at St. Paul)
Bison 0 3 0 - 3
Packers1 0 0 - 1
First period: SSP - Ted Frid (Brenden Shanley, Cameron Buhl) 7:35, PP.
Second period: B - Cade Stensby (Kevin Kemp) 3:14; B - Michael Sawdey (Gunnar Goodmanson) 13:00; B - Stensby (Jerame Schuetle, Jake Ramsey) 16:42, PP.
Third period: No scoring.
Goalies: B – Ben Zitur (win) 30 shots, 29 saves; SSP – Kyle Jacobs (loss) 23 shots, 20 saves. Shots: B –9-10-4 – 23; SSP – 12-9-9 – 30. Power Plays: B – 1-5; SSP – 1-5.