BEAVER DAM, Wis. - No. 5 Marian University ACHA hockey (18-4-1, 14-2-0 NCHL) opened their Hap Cup defense defeating Saint Mary's (Minn.) 5-3 for the third consecutive game in the Hap Cup Semifinals.
Marian came out the aggressor in period one and controlled the pace of play, making St. Mary's University's play from their heals. Marian put shot after shot on SMU's Blair Sanders and were shut down each time. At the 13:35 mark Marian finally broke through when Kirill Proskurin cycled through the top of the zone and threw what seemed an innocuous wrist shot on net that Sanders could not handle, the puck sneaking under his arm, putting Marian on the scoreboard first. Marian looked to be headed to the locker rooms after the first 20 minutes of play with a 1-0 lead but as the puck in front of Marian goaltender Fredrik Radbjer was making its way to the left corner it was somehow redirected back towards the front of the net, ricocheting off a defenseman's skate and across the goal line. Radbjer had no time to react and SMU tied the game at one with 9.2 seconds before the first intermission.
SMU came out of the first intermission with a bit more zip in their step but still had a hard time matching Marian. The shots kept coming from Marian as well, with Sanders efforts keeping the score close. A shot from Daniel Roe at the top of the right circle found its way between the blocker arm and body of Sanders, breaking his save streak and giving Marian a 2-1 lead at 1:36 of the second period. Daniel Schmidt put a shot on Radbjer that he could not handle and the puck popped back out into the slot where the waiting stick of John O'Grady grabbed it and tallied the second SMU goal at 11:38. Thirty seconds later SMU would take the lead for the first time when Kale Johnstone took a pass from Doyle Peterson just above the left dot and released a monster wrist shot that deflected off the side of Radbjer and into the top corner of the net. Marian kept firing and firing and finally with 2:31 to go in the period Sheamus Stoyle found a wide open Christian Meisinger on the back door for an easy catch and shoot goal, tying the game at three. Despite Marian holding a 2-to-1 shot advantage Marian and SMU were tied 3-3 after two periods of play.
The start of the third period was a flurry of shots by Marian on Sanders. What looked like it was going to be an easy uncontested save by Sanders turned into a nightmare when his own guy deflected the puck to Marian's Jake Weldon on the right hash marks, who promptly buried the puck in the back of the net at the 2:12 mark. Every attempt by Marian to increase their lead was thwarted by Sanders and SMU had a few chances of their own to net the equalizer as the minutes of the third period ticked away. With 1:35 remaining in regulation SMU pulled Sanders for the extra attacker. They could not garner a shot on net however, and with five seconds on the clock Tanner Duffney skated into the SMU zone with the puck off a pass from Bryton Tomko and put the puck in the open net, sealing the 5-3 win.
For the victorious Marian Sabres Fredrik Radbjer turned away 23 of 26 shots on goal. Withstanding a barrage of shots in defeat, Blair Sanders stopped 48 of 52 shots on goal for SMU during his 58:25 of ice time.
Marian will now take on top-seeded Aurora for the Hap Cup tomorrow, Sunday, Feb. 19, with the puck dropping at 1:30 p.m. from the Beaver Dam Family Ice Center.