Feb. 13, 2009

Courtesy of St. Scholastica

DULUTH, Minn. – The St. Scholastica Saints hockey team has played in its share of important games this season, facing eight nationally ranked teams, but none may be bigger than this Friday night’s game against border rival Wisconsin-Superior.

When the puck drops at 7:05 p.m. in Wessman Arena, the No. 2 YellowJackets will have already clinched a first-place finish in the National Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) and home-ice advantage throughout the NCHA Peter’s Cup Tournament starting next week, but don’t for one second believe they have nothing to play for: this team wants revenge for a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Saints one month ago in Duluth.

While the Saints can’t earn their first ever NCHA regular season title, they still have plenty to play for themselves. After a winless streak against Superior that lasted fifteen years, the Saints need to prove that the lop-sided victory on January 17 was not a fluke and that they are, once again, for real. The victory marked the first time since 1986 that the Saints had gone two consecutive games without a loss to Superior, but now, the teams are 3-3-1 in their past seven meetings*.

The Saints have more on the line than just pride; a second-place finish in the NCHA and home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs could be theirs with a victory AND a Wis.-Stout loss or tie against Wis.-River Falls. Furthermore, the Saints would set themselves up for a possible NCAA Division-III tournament berth with a victory tomorrow night and a run deep into the NCHA playoffs, which would be greatly aided by keeping all of their games in the northland.

While history may not be in favor of the Saints against Wis.-Superior, their record against ranked opponents speaks for itself – 6-1-1, with their lone loss coming at the hands of then-No. 1 St. Norbert College. Superior is not without success against ranked opponents, but their 3-1-1 record which includes a loss to St. Scholastica, does not compare.

Superior does have the edge on St. Scholastica though in that the Yellowjackets have lost just one of their past 21 games (three ties). The Saints have won 14 of their past 16 (one tie), but have three losses in their past 21 contests. The Yellowjackets lead the NCHA in goals per game with 4.54, but the Saints are the top team for save percentage with .929. Ironcially, both teams are tied for goals allowed at 2.04 per game.

If the game in Duluth is any indication, Superior’s Wessman Arena will fill up fast, but as always, fans can listen to the Saints on ESPN Radio 560–WEBC.

Players to Watch:
St. Scholastica
F AJ Tucker (Sr.-Fort Frances, Ont.) – 15 G, 15 A, 30 Pts … Ranked #14 in Saints all-time scoring list … Ranked third in conference scoring … Four goals in first meeting against Wis.-Superior
F Joey Martini (Sr.-Calgary, Alta.) – 14 G, 14 A, 28 Pts … Ranked eighth in NCHA scoring … Fourth in conference with six powerplay goals … Scored two goals last Saturday night … Team high three-game winning goals [Tie-Jordan Chong (Jr.-North Vancouver, B.C.)]
G Steve Bounds (Sr.-Airdrie, Alta.) – 16-4-2 overall record in 2008-09, including four shutouts … On pace to set new school records in goals against average(1.85) and save percentage (.936) … Third in conference for goals against average, first in saves and shutouts

Wis.-Superior
F Chris Wilson (Jr.-Prince Albert, Sask.) – 13 G, 17 A, 30 Pts … Power play goal in first meeting with Saints … Fourth in conference in shots taken and points scored … Owns team season highs in game-winning goals (seven) and PP goals (four)
F Braden Desmet (Jr.-Strathmore, Alta.) – 12 G, 16 A, 28 Pts … Shooting percentage of .250 (12-48) … Eighth in NCHA in scoring … Four game-winning goals this season (T-Second in conference) …
G Chad Beiswinger (Sr.-Moorhead, Minn.) – 18-2-3 overall record in 2008-09, including three shutouts … 564 saves, .920 save percentage, 2.01 GAA … allowed season-high seven goals against St. Scholastica in first meeting … third in conference for saves, fifth in goals against average

*includes 2006 playoff mini-game; Saints defeated Yellowjackets 2-1.