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Gene's Blog: Four teams give fans early Xmas presents

Gene's Blog: Four teams give fans early Xmas presents

Call it the Ten Days of Christmas for St. Thomas sports fans.

From Dec. 7-16, the four Tommie hockey and basketball teams each posted a significant victory that gained regional attention (and in some cases national attention).

Those St. Thomas coaches now hope those wins can provide a dose of confidence and be a springboard to continued success in January.

Two of the victories came against top-seven ranked opponents. And two of those St. Thomas teams -- Women's Hockey and Women's Basketball -- are now ranked in the top five nationally with a combined 20-0 record.

Here's a quick look at the four wins and what they mean for the respective Tommie teams:

 

Men's Hockey

The Win: St. Thomas traveled on Dec. 7 to play a solid UW-Stout team in Menomonie. The Purple were just 2-12-1 against Wisconsin teams on the road over the last seven seasons, but they overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and won 7-4.

The Impact: St. Thomas was coming off a 0-1-1 weekend against top-10 ranked Augsburg. It previously had lost a pair of 2-1 road decisions to top Wisconsin squads Stevens Point and Eau Claire. The Pointers and Blugolds have a combined 24-2-4 record. Coach Jeff Boeser's Toms needed a reboot at Stout, and got it with this victory.

Headliner: The Purple's Tanner Barnes recorded his first collegiate hat trick to help rally past the Blue Devils, who are now 9-4-1.

Fun to Watch: St. Thomas' Luke Radetic has scored 12 points through 11 college games. The Chesterfield, Mo., native shares the Division III lead in goals by a freshman with nine, including a goal scored in each of his last six games. Fellow freshman goalie Cam Burggrabe of Marquette, Mich., has been steady (3-0-1, .917 save percentage, 2.44 goals-against average).

Up Next: The Tommies (5-4-2) are home on Jan. 4-5 to face UW-River Falls and UW-Superior. River Falls has a 7-3 win at Augsburg, and Superior was tied 1-1 into the third period on the road against the Auggies before falling 3-1.

Point of Pride: St. Thomas has won or shared six of the last seven MIAC championships and has posted 36 consecutive winning seasons.

Did You Know?: St. Thomas has eight seniors and nine juniors on its 28-man roster.

 

Women's Hockey

The Win: St. Thomas took a 10-0 record into last week's home test against No. 4-ranked UW-River Falls. The Falcons scored a goal just 92 seconds into the game, but the Toms played strong second and third periods to take a 3-1 victory.

The Impact: St. Thomas ended a 10-game win streak for River Falls, which was 34-3-1 against MIAC teams since November 2015. It also ended six-game series losing streak to the Falcons, and let the Toms match their best season start (11-0) in program history. The Purple climbed to No. 4 in this week's D3.Hockey.com poll and extended their NCAA-best unbeaten streak to 24.

Headliners: The Purple's Allison Parnell, Maddy Fiedler and Shae McLean scored goals, and Kenzie Torpy stopped 22 of 23 shots.

Fun to Watch: St. Thomas' last 13 goals have come from 10 different players. Fiedler has recorded 11 goals and 12 assists over her last 21 games to help St. Thomas go 18-0-3 in those contests.

Up Next: The first-place Tommies are home Jan. 5 to play St. Scholastica, then play a big MIAC series against Gustavus on Jan. 11-12.

Point of Pride: Coach Tom Palkowski's team went unbeaten on the 2018 calendar year over 24 games (19-0-5), and is 17-0-1 in its last 18 contests. In their last 30 games against conference opponents, the Toms are 23-1-6.

Did You Know?: Out of all 256 NCAA hockey teams of both genders in season stats, St. Thomas is one of only three unbeaten teams (with Stevens Point, men 13-0-2, William Smith women, 10-0), and ranks second in fewest goals allowed (five).

 

Men's Basketball

The Win: St. Thomas played host to No. 7-ranked and once-beaten UW-Stevens Point last Saturday in Schoenecker Arena. A fun, crisp game saw Point take a 45-44 lead with 12:00 to play before the momentum flipped. The Toms used a 24-6 run to pull away for a 73-57 victory, their fourth win over the Pointers in their last five meetings.

The Impact: St. Thomas has won eight in a row after a 78-77 road loss in its season opener, and is quietly building a postseason resume. When the Tommies won or shared 12 MIAC championships from 2005-2017. they were generally the hunted. Coach John Tauer now has an unranked 2018-19 team -- picked for fourth in the preseason MIAC coaches' poll -- that has the mentality of a hunter.

Headliners: A different Purple role player seems to step up every game to ignite the team. Players like Elijan Hannah, Tommy Anderson and Burt Hedstrom have the skills of a starter but bring an energy needed off the bench. Saturday, St. Thomas had a 30-2 advantage in bench points, and on the season the Toms average a plus 33-14 margin from bench players. In each of their last 12 home victories the Tommies have posted a bench scoring advantage over the opponent.

Fun to Watch: Freshmen guards Anders Nelson (Edina) and Riley Miller (Benilde-St. Margaret's) have combined for 202 points, including a 25-of-61 clip from 3-point range. Miller has 17 assists and five turnovers while averaging 16 minutes a game off the bench.

Up Next: The co-MIAC leading Tommies are home Jan. 2 and Jan. 5 to play Gustavus and Hamline, the first two of 10 January games.

Point of Pride: St. Thomas is shooting 49.8 percent from the field, averaging just 12 turnovers, and making 10 treys a game.

Did You Know?: Saturday night's win over Point was the program's 100th win over nine seasons in the new Schoenecker Arena in the AARC (100-15).

 

Women's Basketball

The Win: A well-coached Trinity University team of San Antonio came to Schoenecker on Sunday with a 5-1 record as it's chasing a seventh consecutive 20-win season. The Tigers handed co-MIAC leader Augsburg just its second loss one day earlier in a 40-minute battle. But on this day, St. Thomas shot 57 percent from the floor and pulled away to win 92-50.

The Impact: In two of the previous three seasons, St. Thomas took an unexpected home loss in this week before final exams. Coach Ruth Sinn's Toms climbed to 9-0 and have built five long streaks: 25 consecutive regular-season wins; 15 home wins in a row; 33 road victories in a row; 58 wins in a row against conference competition; and 80 consecutive times ranked in the top-25 poll.

Headliners: Sunday was Hannah Spaulding's day. The senior All-America center went for 22 points, 14 boards, five assists and four blocks and became the 13th Tommie female hoops star to surpass 1,000 career points.

Fun to Watch: Senior point guard Kaylie Brazil has to be among the MIAC's most underrated players. Over her last three games, the senior had no turnovers, 10 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and 36 points, including five 3-point baskets. In 36 of her 39 starts over the last two seasons, Brazil has had two or less turnovers.

Up Next: The co-MIAC leading Tommies play Dec. 29-30 against two good teams in the Wartburg tournament. They resume MAC play at Gustavus on Jan. 2 and return home Jan. 4 to face Hamline, the first two of nine January games.

Point of Pride: St. Thomas is shooting 51.5 percent from the field (second best in Division III), including 42.3 percent from behind the arc (fourth best in D-III).

Did You Know?: Spaulding now has 1,001 points, 490 rebounds, 138 blocks and 69 assists in 91 career games. Since she joined the top-nine rotation in 2016-17, the Tommies are 67-4, including a 44-0 mark against MIAC teams. 

 

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Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is working his 25th season at St. Thomas and 31st overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at ejmcgivern@stthomas.edu