Yellowjackets, Saints Tie in seesaw opener
Yellowjackets 4, St. Scholastica 4
The old adage states that in the playoffs, hockey games come down to two things - goaltending and special teams. On Friday we learned that we don't have to wait until the playoffs for a game to be decided by those two things.
St. Scholastica's Colin Rundell made 47 saves and the Saints went 2-3 on the power play and also scored a goal with an extra attacker, as they and the Yellowjackets skated to a 4-4 tie in a thrill-a-minute, seesaw battle in the season opener.
The game featured high intensity for a first game, and the penalties called at the end of the overtime pave the way for what should be a thrilling rematch on Saturday.
In a rapidly played first period, the Yellowjackets held the territorial advantage as well as the lead in shots on goal, but the teams departed for the break tied at 1-1. Pat Dalbec (Superior, Wis.) opened the scoring for the Yellowjackets at 10:17 of the period. Dalbec streaked down the right side and let a shot go that was stopped and the Saints cleared the zone. The puck made its way to neutral ice where Brad Phenow (Sauk Rapids, Minn.) picked it up. He spotted Dalbec on the left boards at the St. Scholastica line and fed him the pass. Dalbec came into the zone on the left side and let a wrist shot go from the circle that beat Rundell on the glove side to make it 1-0. Minutes later, however, the Saints power play evened the game. Alex Valenti had the puck in the left circle and shot it wide. The carom off the end boards came perfectly out the other side and Chad Golanowski was there to tap it home and make it 1-1 at 14:39.
The second period was more of the same, but the Saints began to chip away at the territorial advantage of the Yellowjackets, and drew two penalties in the closing minutes of the period. Down two men, the Yellowjacket penalty kill was able to get rid of the first penalty, but with time dwindling on the second, the Saints converted. Austin Brown took a shot from the high slot that was blocked. The rebound off a defender came to Brett Corcoran in the left circle and his shot beat Garrett Tinkham (Paradise, Texas) to make it 2-1 Saints with just ten seconds remaining in the period.
The Yellowjackets would tie the score at 6:05 of the third period. Dalbec had the puck at center and fed Kyle Leahy (Fort St. John, British Columbia) on the right side, who carried into St. Scholastica territory. Leahy reached the right circle and his wrister beat Rundell between the pads to make it 2-2. The tie didn't last long, however, as Corcoran converted for the second time in the game just 37 seconds later to give the Saints another one-goal lead. Not long after, however, the Yellowjackets tied it up. Tom Budziakowski (Toronto, Ontario) had the puck on the right wing in Yellowjacket territory and sent the puck up ice to Brett Meyers (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), who had snuck behind the defense. Meyers gained separation and went in alone, taking a wrist shot that beat Rundell low on the stick side to again tie the game, 3-3 at 9:20.
The score remained tied until late, when a harmless looking play gave the Yellowjackets their second lead of the night. Dalbec sent the puck into the St. Scholastica zone and Leahy gave chase, catching up to the puck in the right circle. He centerd a pass that Joey Massingham (Duncan, British Columbia) got a stick on, deflecting it past Rundell to make it 4-3 at 17:04. Following a Saints timeout, the Yellowjackets held the puck in the offensive zone for a stretch, but the Saints broke out and came back the other way. In the offensive zone, they threw the puck to the front of the net and crashed four players. Tinkham got caught up in the pile and wasn't able to get to the loose puck, and Tyler Miller banged it home to tie the game at 4-4 with just 15 seconds to play.
In the overtime, Daman Milsom took a slashing penalty, his fourth of the game, and put the Yellowjackets on the power play. Great puck movement nearly ended the game on more than one occasion, but Rundell was up to the task each time. Once the penalty expired, the teams went back and forth in a wildly entertaining extra session. The Yellowjackets outshot the Saints 6-1 in overtime, but weren't able to get the winner and had to settle for a tie.
For the game, the Yellowjackets outshot St. Scholastica 51-28. Tinkham finished with 24 saves.
Leahy and Dalbec paced the Yellowjacket offense with a goal and an assist apiece. On the other side, Golanowski and Miller had a goal and an assist each while Carter Davis had two assists.
The Yellowjackets took nine penalties for 34 minutes while St. Scholastica took ten penalties for 31 minutes. The altercation at the end of the game resulted in Leahy and Ryan Hill (Hermantown, Minn.) as well as Corcoran for the Saints receiving ten minute misconducts, but all will be available for Saturday's game.
The Yellowjackets (0-0-1, 0-0-1 NCHA) and the Saints will play game two of their series on Saturday, October 29 at Mars-Lakeview Arena. Game time is 7:00 p.m. and can be heard live locally on 91.3 FM KUWS, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. If you are outside the local listening area you can tune in on the web at www.kuws.fm . Jon Garver will have the call.