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July Rewind: Men's Hockey scraps and claws to MIAC title

Photo by Haley Staffon
Photo by Haley Staffon

Editor's Note: Starting July 7 and running through the rest of the month, Tommiesports.com will highlight 25 memorable events from St. Thomas' successful 2017-18 athletics year

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Men's Hockey gets No. 45

St. Thomas Men's Hockey has had more experienced teams than its 2017-18 squad. It's also had rosters with more pure talent, and more goal scorers. 

Thus Coach Jeff Boeser and his guys can feel good about most aspects of 2017-18, a season of twists and turns. Despite having no All-Americas, UST won the conference championship in an MIAC field with excellent parity. It also marked the program's 36th consecutive unbeaten season.

An overtime loss to Gustavus in the conference playoffs ended the campaign with a 16-9-1 record.

UST had graduated nine seniors from its 2016-17 team, and then had to play 17 games without injured co-captain and defenseman Jake Zeliznikar. The Toms started 2-3-1, inclduing a loss and a tie in its first conference series against St. Mary's.

Two close wins over conference favorite Augsburg helped jump start the season. In early January, the Tommies still stood just 7-6-1. Then a stretch with nine wins in 11 games to close the regular-season let them finish just barely atop the MIAC standings.

The championship was No. 45 in program history: 35 in the MIAC regular season, and 10 in the playoffs. That's also six crowns in the last seven years under Boeser, too.

Nothing came easy for the Purple and Grey. Sixteen of the Toms' 26 games ended in a tie, a one-goal decision, or had a one-goal margin extended by an empty-net goal.

The Toms had a seven-game win streak halted late in the season with a pair of 4-1 losses to St. John's. The Johnnies were in position to claim the title, but split two 2-1 games with Gustavus on the last weekend. St. Thomas needed a sweep of Hamline to pass the Johnnies for the MIAC title.

In the Friday night game, UST alllowed a late extra-attacker goal for a 3-3 tie, but Tanner Barnes scored with nine seconds left to avoid overtime and claim a 4-3 victory.

In Saturday night's crucial contest, Hamline raced to a 3-0 lead in the first period. St. Thomas backup goalie Andrew Rohlkohl came on in relief and over the last 51 minutes helped settle the defense, and five different Toms scored goals in a 6-5 victory. Ben Vikich scored his first two goals of the season to lead the comeback.

Defense again led the way for Boeser's team. UST allowed just 60 goals in regulation time in 26 games, including four empty netters. On offense, balance was usually the formula. The team's last nine goals of the season came from eight different players.

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Previous July Rewind stories:

July 7: Men's S&D Rule the Pool

July 8: Women's T&F Quartet Saves Best for Last

July 9: Academics, Give Em an A

July 10: UST Coaches get MIAC, Region Honors

July 11: Several '17-18 Sports Make Postseason Runs

July 12: Key Injury Doesn't Stop Volleyball 

July 13: These Twists Made '17-18 Unique

July 14: Twin Siblings Aid UST Teams

July 15: Spaulding Leads Toms' 20-0 MIAC Run