By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER —
When the season began, Tyler Venne was the third-string goaltender for the Gustavus Adolphus men’s hockey team.
But season-ending injuries to the Gusties’ top two goalies thrust the senior from New Hope into the net for the long haul.
“We were blessed to have three,” coach Brett Petersen said. “We had really good depth there.”
Since Thanksgiving, Gustavus is 12-2-3, including a 9-1-2 record in the MIAC. Venne has started the last 13 games going into this weekend’s conference playoffs.
In last weekend’s series against St. Olaf, Venne allowed just one goal and had a 34-save shutout to knock the Oles from first place all the way to fifth in the league standings.
“Tyler had a really good weekend,” Petersen said. “He was far and away the best player on the ice. Not bad for a No. 3 goaltender. He’s taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity he’s had, and, being a senior, it’s a great way to end his career.”
Gustavus ended up as MIAC’s fourth seed and will host St. Olaf in the first round of the playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday night. The winner will play at top-seeded St. Thomas at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Gustavus, which has won six games in a row, has the best overall record in the MIAC but in league play finished one point out of first place, thanks to an 0-4-0 start to the conference season.
St. Thomas and St. John’s each finished with 21 points, while Concordia and Gustavus had 20 with the Cobbers holding the tiebreaker.
Concordia and St. John’s will play in the other semifinal Saturday. The championship game will take place on Saturday, March 2, at the home of the highest remaining seed.
“We’ve been on a good, little run,” Petersen said. “We’ve made a good, late push. I hope we continue to play well.”
Minnesota State freshman forward Dylan Margonari was named WCHA rookie of the week for his play in last weekend’s sweep of Michigan Tech.
Margonari scored the Mavericks’ first goal in each game and also had an assist for a three-point weekend.
It was the second time Margonari earned the award, receiving it in early November.
The WCHA’s other award winners were Nebraska Omaha forward Matt White (offensive) and Bemidji State goaltender Andrew Walsh (defensive).
Meanwhile, the Mavericks remained No. 9 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and bumped up from 10th to ninth in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings.
Prepping for playoffs
The second-ranked Gustavus women will wrap up the regular season when they play St. Benedict this weekend. Friday’s game is at St. Cloud, and Saturday’s is at 2 p.m. at the Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter.
The Gusties (22-0-1, 16-0-0 in MIAC) clinched the MIAC’s regular-season title two weeks ago and will be trying for their first perfect conference season since going 18-0-0 in 2007-08.
Gustavus will have the No. 1 seed for the conference playoffs, which begin next week.
The top five teams make the postseason, and the Gusties will host the winner of Tuesday’s game between the fourth and fifth seeds on Thursday, Feb. 28. The championship game will take place at the highest remaining seed on Saturday, March 2.
Mavs head to Ohio
The Minnesota State women will close out the regular season Friday and Saturday with a series at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are hoping wins over MSU will put them into the top four of the WCHA and secure a home series for the first round of the league playoffs. Minnesota State likely is locked into the sixth position, which means a trip to Wisconsin or North Dakota for the playoffs, depending on the outcome of this weekend’s games.
The Mavericks could slip to seventh place if St. Cloud State takes three or four points this weekend, an unlikely scenario considering the Huskies are playing No. 1 Minnesota, which is 32-0-0.
Sixth place would the highest finish for Minnesota State (10-18-4, 6-16-4 in WCHA) since 2008-09 when it tied for fifth.