HU Pipers pipe down BU Royals

Piper men’s hockey picks up five points in two-game conference series versus the Bethel Royals.

First-year defender Jaycob McCombs looks to show the opposition how tough it is to play at the Piper Pit down at Oscar Johnson Arena on Dec. 6, 2014.

Gino Terrell, Sports Editor

Cory Laylin, Hamline Pipers men’s ice hockey head coach, said the Pipers are looking to prove they’re better this year than previous years and done so last weekend with a shootout win last Friday, Dec. 5, and a regulation win on Saturday, Dec. 6, in their two game series against Bethel.

“Every time someone plays against the Hamline Pipers they’re going to know they’re going to need ice bags and it’s going to be a tough battle,” Laylin said. “We want to be a hard team to play against and that’s the bottom line.”

This past weekend’s series against the Royals the Pipers sent their message to the MIAC. They overcame a 5-1 third period deficit to force overtime and eventually came away with a shootout win on Dec. 5, to gain two points in conference. The next day, Dec. 6, the momentum carried over as they gained three points in conference with a 2-1 win in regulation.

Coming into last weekend’s series, the Pipers had two points in conference stemming from their two-game series against Gustavus on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22. In both games the Pipers took the Gusties into shootouts but were defeated both times.

“We want to have an opportunity to win late in the game and we had opportunities to win both games,” Laylin said. “Gustavus is one of the top teams in our league and we had them shakin’ in their boots.”

Laylin said the results could have easily flipped in their favor.

“We got to where we wanted to be, we just couldn’t quite put it over the edge,” he said, “[but] coming away with something is better than coming out with nothing.”

The Pipers not only showed the MIAC they can hang with a top team in the conference, they showed they have talented individuals as well. Junior forward and assistant captain Charlie Adams had a +2 performance the weekend against Gustavus and was rewarded with a MIAC Men’s Hockey Athlete of the Week honor. He scored two goals that series and added an assist.

Adams was the second Piper to receive the honor this season as his teammate sophomore goalie John Sellie-Hanson was honored on Nov. 3, after the opening week of the season.

Laylin said in their series against Bethel he was looking for the team to gain some more points. Using their speed and playing well on defense were two things Laylin highlighted as keys to being successful against Bethel.

Last Friday, Dec. 5, the Pipers traveled to Blaine to face the Royals. After the Royals scored four goals, two in the first two periods, the Pipers made a goalie change to sub first-year goalie Erick Majerle into the game as he made his college debut. Majerle went on to allow only one goal, which was in the third period.

First-year defender Jacob McCombs was determined to not let the Royals fifth goal be the nail in the coffin for the Pipers as he responded with a goal of his own in less than a minute. Also on the backend contributing was first-year Jesse Kessler as he scored the Pipers third goal of the game to capitalize on a power play situation to bring the game within two, 5-3.

In the final six minutes of regulation, Adams and junior forward Brandon Zurn both scored to force overtime. Following a shutout overtime, the Pipers went to their third consecutive shootout scenario and Pipers’ first-year defender Mitch Hall led the team to win their first shootout of the season.

“I just watched my guys before me, Novy [junior forward and assistant captain Kevin Novakovich] and Zurn. They went and deked so I just told myself to shoot. I think they faked the goalie for me and I just walked down nice and slow and saw a corner and hit it,” Hall said.

In game two, the Pipers hosted the Royals home at Oscar Johnson Arena. The Pipers played a physical game as junior forwards Buzz Tryggeseth and Cody Mason set the tone with a few big checks in the opening period to help Majerle in the defensive zone in his first career start at goalie.

Novakovich scored early with a goal in the first period, assisted by McCombs, to give the Pipers an early lead. Majerle didn’t blink in his opening period as he came up with eight saves. In the second, the Royals broke through with one goal but Majerle managed to hold them off for the rest of the night and finished with 22 saves.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the second period, the Pipers won a faceoff in their offensive zone. The puck eventually landed in the crosshairs of Novakovich’s stick and he saw an opportunity and took his shot. The puck found the back of the net to put the Pipers up 2-1.

“Basically we’re just trying to make sure we’re on the same page off the faceoff,” Novakovich said. “We weren’t looking for any corners or anything, just trying to score and it worked out.”

Assisting on the play was McCombs and senior team captain Joe Rubbelke. Late in the third period, with less than thirty seconds remaining, the Royals were threatening inside the Pipers defensive zone but Majerle held them off to pick up the win. After the game, Majerle said it was an exciting weekend for him.

“In the shootout yesterday it was exciting for a first debut I guess,” Majerle said. “It was nerve wracking at first, [but] I just tried to keep my game and hold on for the win.”

Before their next home game on Jan. 9, against Lake Forest they will travel to Wis. for a game against UW-River Falls on Dec. 12. The Pipers are 4-3-3 with seven points in conference. Laylin said the team’s start this season has teams in the MIAC viewing them differently than before.

“I think they know we’re for real. I think they know we have a good all-around team. Beating the two teams in Wisconsin too sends a message nationally that there’s something going on here at Hamline,” Laylin said. “It’s fun for our guys because they’re feeling something is transforming which is fun to be a part of.”