Pipers justify their ranking

Men’s hockey splits week with ranked foes UW-River Falls and UW-Superior.


Meagan Lynch

Sophomore defenseman Mitch Hall takes a shot at UW-Superior’s goalie. Hall had the game-winning overtime goal against the Yellowjackets last Saturday.

Paul Patane, Sports Editor

Sophomore defenseman Mitch Hall put the Pipers on his back, scoring the overtime winner against UW-Superior last Saturday in Oscar Johnson Arena. The 5-4 victory propelled the 15th ranked Hamline men’s hockey program past the 13th ranked team in the nation.

The win came two days after the Pipers lost 1-3 against 12th ranked UW-River Falls in River Falls.

It was a difficult stretch, but one that solidifies Hamline’s place as the only nationally ranked team in the conference. Being ranked and last season’s conference champions has raised the level of effort the Pipers frequently face.

“People are coming at us. They have our number and they are definitely coming harder at us,” Hall said.

Hall has built onto his quality first-year season, which included making the all-conference rookie team. It’s important for Hall to continue making strides forward as last season’s top defenseman and team captain Joe Rubbelke has graduated.

“Since his [Rubbelke’s] graduation, everyone in the defensive corps has had to increase their responsibility and raise their game to fill the void because not only one player can replace Rubes,” Hall said.

As a senior and captain, forward Brandon Zurn makes an effort to help prepare his younger teammates who are still developing their skillsets.

“I think we can mold our younger guys into being the same players that we are now, because we actually have the talent in some of the sophomore and freshman forwards,” Zurn said.

One of the new Pipers that’s starting to show up on opponent radars is first-year forward Mitch McPherson. In only six games, he’s scored four goals and racked up three assists. Often playing with Adams and Zurn, McPherson tries to supplement Hamline’s top offensive line, knowing he needs to help generate opportunities for his linemates.

“The kids that I play with on my line are the best in the nation, so that helps a lot,” McPherson said.

Senior forward and team captain Brandon Zurn gets the puck and moves it forward in the Pipers game against UW-Superior on Saturday, Nov. 14.
Meagan Lynch
Senior forward and team captain Brandon Zurn gets the puck and moves it forward in the Pipers game against UW-Superior on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Even though his Hamline career has just begun, McPherson appreciates the leadership his senior teammates have demonstrated.

“All of our seniors are great leaders, especially our captains Charlie [Adams, a senior] and Zurn. I think they do a really good job of getting the team ready and prepared for games,” McPherson said.

While last year’s team was known for being extremely fast, this season’s squad has increased its size and physicality, an upgrade that’s already paying dividends. The Pipers have also found additional goaltender depth as last year’s starter, John Sellie-Hanson, has teamed up with first-year Justin Quale, splitting minutes and starts. Quale had 35 saves against UW-Superior Saturday night.

“We have a lot of skill and now this year we have more size which helps us out,” McPherson said. “We obviously have a lot of scoring depth, too.”

Hall appreciates the contributions his new teammates have brought to the program, but he notes several returning players have been essential to the solid start this season.

“We’re a much more experienced team, bringing back a lot of players,” Hall said. “We’ve definitely reloaded with some players. It’s increased competition in practice and it’s making us all better every day. Everyone knows they have to perform every day in practice to keep their spot in the lineup and our team is just deeper all around,” Hall said.

Hall credits the intact continuity as a big bump for overall team chemistry.

“Our team chemistry is better than ever. Our seniors have taken a great leadership role, leading by example on and off the ice,” Hall said. “They definitely picked up right where they left off last year.”

The most notable example of team chemistry is life-long friends and teammates Adams and Zurn, who have already combined for 13 goals and 13 assists through six games. Against UW-Superior, Adams, Zurn and McPherson each scored a goal.

“Me and Charlie have always had great chemistry. We grew up together playing forever,” Zurn said.

With the win against Superior, the Pipers have improved to 3-1-2 (1-0-1 MIAC) on the season. They play next tomorrow, Nov. 19 against St. John’s in St. Cloud. They return to Oscar Johnson Arena on Saturday, Nov. 21 to complete their season series