Plenty of smiles greeted the faces of the Buffalo boys’ hockey team just hours prior to ringing in the new year.
A 4-1 victory last Saturday, Dec. 31 over Mounds View completed a successful stint competing in the Silver Division of the Schwan Cup Tournament in Blaine.
The Bison went 2-1 over the 3-day tourney, finishing third in the Silver Division – their highest placing in three years.
Only a 2-0 loss on Friday, Dec. 30 to the Breck Mustangs spoiled what was an otherwise successful tournament, which began with a convincing 5-2 win on Thursday, Dec. 29 over the Mahtomedi Zephyrs.
Breck came into the tournament ranked No. 4 in Class A. Mahtomedi was ranked No. 6 in the same class.
“It was a good weekend for us,” said Bison head coach Aaron Johnson. “It’s really good competition down here.”
Senior Blake Habisch got things rolling, registering two goals and one assist in the first period of the Bison’s opening-day win over the Zephyrs.
Buffalo led 3-0 after one period and 5-2 after two. Sophomore Cal James, playing in only his third career varsity game, scored the Bison’s fourth goal early in period two.
Bison players celebrate a first-period shorthanded goal scored by Blake Habisch in Buffalo’s 4-1 New Year’s Eve victory over Mounds View. Pictured (left-right): Habisch, Nick Mueller, and Tom Rooney. The Bison went 2-1 to capture third place in the Silver
Sophomore Treyton Welch battles through a Zephyr player in the opening game of the Schwan Cup.
Seniors Cade Stensby and Stone Goodmanson assisted on James’ goal, who was moved up from the junior varsity squad due to injuries.
It was one of three assists in the game for Stensby.
“Cade shot it and the puck came right to my stick. I just shot it in,” said James, who played as an extra forward instead of his usual defense position. “I was kind of surprised at first. But, I’m really happy and glad I could contribute to the team.”
Buffalo rolled three lines the entire contest against a Mahtomedi squad that finished second in last year’s holiday tournament.
“Our goal is to be one of the better double-A programs, so you have to be able to roll three lines,” Johnson said. “We stressed that from the start. We have confidence in all three groups, especially that third group. They are playing great as a trio.”
Buffalo’s third line connected for the fifth goal and a 5-0 lead when sophomore Treyton Welch scored his third goal of the season, assisted by senior Connor Kuhlmann and sophomore defenseman Ben Lindvall.
Mahtomedi ended sophomore goalie Nathan Mueller’s bid for his third shutout of the season scoring a pair of goals in the second period.
While the score may not indicate it, Mueller’s play in the second period and parts of the third may have preserved the Bison win.
“We had a very poor second period, but Nathan held us in there,” Johnson said. “He is so calm and collected. We’re not going to give up any cheap ones with him in net. Teams are going to have to earn their goals. He’s really good and he was our best player.”
Mueller’s strong play continued throughout the tournament. Buffalo was outplayed for most the first period against Breck, but the teams skated to the locker room scoreless at the first intermission.
Breck took a 2-0 lead midway through period two on goals by Mitch Machlitt and Grant Parrish.
Neither team would score after that. The Mustangs outshot Buffalo 28-13.
“Nathan played really well, especially early,” Johnson said. “Especially the first period and the start of the second. We were a little on our heels and they were taking it to us. Once we got scored on, we actually got going. They are really good and we didn’t get many good looks. We competed really hard in the second half of that game.”
It was the second time in as many years Breck defeated Buffalo in the Schwan Cup. The Bison lost 7-1 to the Mustangs a year ago.
Dating back to his coaching days at Orono, Johnson said he’s seen enough of the Mustangs.
“I coached at Orono for six years and we had to play them in sections many times,” Johnson said. “Now we come to Buffalo to coach. It seems like we can’t get away from them.”
The Mueller brothers continue to play at a high level.
Senior captains Rooney, Habisch, & Stensby celebrate a goal versus the Zephyrs.
Senior Stone Goodmanson scored his first goal of the season against Mounds View.
Cade Stensby's highlight reel goal sparked the Bison in the 3rd place game.
Breck eventually won this year’s Silver Division championship with a 3-2 shootout win last Saturday over St. Michael-Albertville. The game officially ends as a 2-2 overtime tie.
Buffalo’s 3rd place win over Mounds View started similar to the Mahtomedi game. Habisch opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at 15:03 of period one.
The Bison extended their lead to 3-0 with second-period goals by Welch and Stensby. Colin Baird scored on a breakaway for the Mustangs, spoiling Mueller’s shutout bid with 4:24 remaining. Senior John McNamara made it 4-1 just nine seconds after Baird’s goal.
The victory put Buffalo back to .500 (6-6-0 overall) heading into the second half of the season, which started with a home game Tuesday, Jan. 3 versus Lakeville South.
Factoring in a schedule that’s seen the Bison face three teams that qualified for last year’s state tournament, and nine ranked teams this season, players and coaches head into the second half of the year optimistic.
“We’ve played some pretty good teams,” James said. “Coming here (Schwan Cup) and playing teams we haven’t played before that we know are good is a great challenge.”
“Probably a B,” said Johnson, when asked to give a letter grade on his team’s performance over the first half of the season. “Outside of the Monticello loss, we’ve been happy with our efforts. We’ve played a tough schedule and been in tight games with tough teams. Hopefully it’s a springboard to a good second half.”
The schedule didn’t ease up after the Schwan Cup. The string of top-20 teams continued with the Bison falling 3-1 at home on Tuesday against No. 15 ranked Lakeville South.
The Cougars made a 1-0 lead stand until the 7:12 mark of period three when Adam Harvey extended it to 2-0.
Nick Mueller’s power-play goal 34 seconds later for the Bison made it 2-1. But Lakeville South iced it on Jace Otremba’s goal at 13:20.
Nathan Mueller made 34 saves in goal for the Bison (6-7-0).
Buffalo hosts St. Francis on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.
Schwan Cup (Day 1)
Buffalo 5, Mahtomedi 1
(Thursday, Dec. 29 at Blaine)
Zephyrs 0 2 0 - 2
Bison 3 2 0 - 5
First period: B -- Blake Habsich (Joe McNamara) SH, 12:56; B -- Habisch (Luke Ramsey, Cade Stensby) PP, 15:00; B -- Nick Mueller (Habsich, Stensby) PP, 15:33.
Second period: B -- Cal James (Stensby, Stone Goodmanson) 4:06; B -- Treyton Welch (Connor Kuhlmann, Ben Lindvall) 5:57; M -- Colin Hagstrom (Matt Vannelli) 6:44; M -- Luke Posner (Hagstrom, Nikolai Dulak) PP, 14:15.
Third period: No scoring.
Goalies: M – Bailey Huber (loss) 14 shots, 9 saves; Josh Campbell 5 shots, 5 saves; B – Nathan Mueller (win) 24 shots, 22 saves; Shots: M – 7-9-8 – 24; B – 11-5-3 – 19. Power Plays: M – 1-4; B – 2-2.
Schwan Cup (Day 2)
Breck 2, Buffalo 0
(Friday, Dec. 30 at Blaine)
Bison 0 0 0 - 0
Mustangs 0 2 0 - 2
First period: No scoring.
Second period: BM -- Mitch Machlitt (Will Torgerson) 6:58; BM -- Grant Parrish (Austin Heidemann) 8:56.
Third period: No scoring.
Goalies: BB – Nathan Mueller (loss) 28 shots, 26 saves; BM -- Linden Olness (win) 13 shots, 13 saves. Shots: BB – 5-5-3 – 13; BM – 9-13-6 – 28. Power Plays: BB – 0-2; BM – 0-1.
Schwan Cup (Day 3)
Buffalo 4, Mounds View 1
(Saturday, Dec. 31 at Blaine)
Mustangs 0 0 1 - 1
Bison 1 2 1 - 4
First period: B -- Blake Habisch (Jack Stevens, Tom Rooney) SH, 15:03.
Second period: B -- Treyton Welch (Joe McNamara, Ben Klein) PP, 3:47; B -- Cade Stensby (Connor Kuhlmann, Welch) 12:52.
Third period: MV -- Colin Baird (unassisted) 12:36; B -- Stone Goodmanson (Joe McNamara, Ben Klein) 12:45.
Goalies: MV – Brody Aufderheide (loss) 25 shots, 21 saves; B -- Nathan Mueller (win) 17 shots, 16 saves. Shots: MV – 6-6-5 – 17; B – 8-8-9 – 25. Power Plays: MV – 0-5; B – 1-3.
Lakeville South 3, Buffalo 1
(Tuesday, Jan. 3 at Buffalo)
Cougars 1 0 2 - 3
Bison 0 0 1 - 1
First period: LS -- Bradley Golant (Ethan Boche, Sam Malinski) 12:54.
Second period: No scoring.
Third period: LS -- Adam Harvey (unassisted) 7:12; B -- Nick Mueller (Tom Rooney, Blake Habisch) PP, 7:46; LS -- Jace Otremba (Joey Novak) 13:20.
Goalies: LS – Isaiah DiLaura (win) 15 shots, 14 saves; B -- Nathan Mueller (win) 37 shots, 34 saves. Shots: LS – 11-10-16 – 37; B – 1-5-9 – 15. Power Plays: LS – 0-2; B – 1-3.