This past weekend, Gustavus Men’s Hockey was tasked with playing two games against two formidable opponents. They played against #5 UW Stevens Point, and #11 UW Eau Claire. The Stevens Point matchup turned out to be an absolute classic, as Gustavus battled back from a 4-2 deficit with eight minutes left in the third period to win the game 6-4. As for the Eau Claire game, Eau Claire was the team turning in a stellar third period putting up all four of the game’s goals in that period to beat Gustavus 4-0.
In the game against Stevens Point, Gustavus was up against the odds as the Pointers came into the game ranked fifth in the nation, coming off a 2022-23 campaign in which the Pointers went 20-6-4; a very strong hockey team. The game started poorly for the Gusties, as Stevens Point cashed in two goals early in the first period, however, with a minute left in the period, Junior Connor Mahoney scored on a breakaway making the score 2-1, but still in favor of the Pointers.
In the second period, the Gusties came out strong pushing the action, and getting plenty of chances on the net, however, none were converted. Partway through the period Gustavus shot, and thought they scored a goal, however, it was called off due to a penalty on Gustavus shortly before said shot. This led to some confusion and controversy, which was made even worse when Stevens Point scored on the ensuing power play. At the end of the second period, the score sat 3-1 with Stevens Point in the lead.
Gustavus came out aggressive in the third period, knowing that they needed at least two goals in order to keep their hopes alive. They got their first from Sophomore Nate Stone, as he buried a goal off of a beautiful assist from First-year Drew Holt when he faked a shot and caught the Pointers slipping. “With the fake shot, it was just improvised. I don’t often practice a play like that, but I was happy that it worked and Nate Stone made a great shot,” Holt commented on the assist.
However, just as the momentum was starting to get on the side of the Gusties, the Pointers took the wind out of the Gusties’ sails with a goal of their own making the score 4-2 in favor of UW-Stevens Point with 12 minutes left in the game.
To make matters even worse, Gustavus was given a penalty with nine minutes left in the game, leaving them shorthanded. Bloody but not beaten, the Gusties penalty kill unit got the puck and drove toward the Stevens Point net, when Stone delivered a perfect pass to teammate First-year Grant Ellings who buried the shorthanded goal, making the score 4-3, and putting Gustavus right back in the game.
The shorthanded goal really got the blood pumping for the fans as well as the team and the blood circulated even harder when the Pointers were given two penalties, one for an on-ice penalty and another for unsportsmanlike conduct due to complaining about said penalty. These two penalties led to a five-on-three power play for Gustavus, which Mahoney capitalized on, scoring his second goal of the game to tie the game at 4-4.
After a back-and-forth battle, the time was winding down in the third period, and overtime felt certain. With a minute left in the game Stevens Point got a great chance at a goal, however, Senior Jackson Hjelle made a sensational save, setting up Gustavus for a breakaway in which First-year Hunter Newhouse rifled a shot at the Stevens Point goalie which was deflected right into the stick of Junior Jack Suchy for the rebound, who buried the go-ahead goal for Gustavus. Miraculously with a minute left, the score was Gustavus: 5 Stevens Point: 4.
“It felt very good to score that goal, obviously at that time in the game, and the importance of it. It’s certainly a goal that I won’t forget, it was also a great play by my linemate Hunter Newhouse,” Suchy said of his goal.
With a minute left in the game, Gustavus had to focus, as the Pointers decided to pull their goalie giving them a man advantage on offense, which left the net wide open. The Gustavus defense stood tall, poking the puck out of the zone and right to a wide-open Stone who put the final goal home, making the final score Gustavus: 6 Stevens Point: 4.
The Gusties pulled off an amazing comeback, and the crowd loved it. The Gusties embraced their goalie in net and enjoyed their win. Stone, who finished with two goals and an assist, was named MIAC Player of the Week. “It’s always nice to be honored like that and it feels great, but it wouldn’t have happened without my teammates. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have been given this award so it’s really just thanks to them,” Stone said.
Gustavus answered many questions about the state of their hockey team in this game: they proved they can play with anyone in the country, that they are resilient, and will never give up. “I think this game just shows how resilient our group is – being down numerous times in the game even in the third – just sticking with it, was very cool to see and hopefully we can keep the train moving along,” Suchy said.
This train stops next in Blaine, Minnesota where Gustavus will take on Bethel on Nov. 17th, and then again against Bethel in Saint Peter on the 18th. Safe to say this team has proven they can compete with the best and the future looks bright for Gustavus Men’s Hockey. Make sure to wear your sunglasses, because it’s always sunny in Saint Peter.