FOND DU LAC, Wis. (SabreAthletics.com) - On an emotion-filled night, the Sabres honored the Class of 2014 with the greatest gift of all, a 7-2 win over NCHA rival Concordia Wis. Saturday night at the Blue Line.
Saturday marked the last regular season home game for the Sabres, as they will be on the road the next two weeks. Prior to the puck drop, seven seniors were honored for their commitment to the Blue and White. Seniors Robbie Bailey, Ashton Reinboldt, Matt Berger, Tyler Klein, Tanner Burton, Josh Baker, Chris Frederickson and Richard Hilton were all recognized and thanked for their time at Marian.
"The one thing we told each other at the beginning was to keep our emotions in check and I think from top to bottom we did that," senior Matt Berger said.
In Friday night's 3-0 win, Marian got off to the right foot, scoring just 37 seconds into the opening period on a goal from Klein. Wanting to replicate that success on Saturday, Marian came out charging hard and found their way to the lead at 14:39 of the first period. Freshman Derek Perl notched his third tally of the year on the man-advantage on an assist from juniors Matt Williams and Rjay Berra.
With the first period coming to an end, senior Robbie Bailey eluded a check from a Concordia defender and drove hard to the net, scoring with 40 seconds left to give Marian a two-goal lead. Following the goal, Trammel Lynes was whistled for his second penalty of the period, sending the Sabres back to the power play.
"Heading into the first intermission we were pumped up and everything was clicking for us," Burton said.
They would have to wait until period number two, but once again, Perl capitalized on the man-advantage to push Marian out to a 3-0 lead early in the second. Thinking that they were well on their way to a repeat of last night's game, Marian let off the gas just enough to allow Concordia Wis. to storm back.
In quick succession, Devin Stuermer and Kyle Fink scored at 6:26 and 6:59 to trim the Marian lead to one. The Sabres awoke from their slumber and hunkered down on defense to close out the second period without any further damage.
"We had control of the game with the 3-0 lead and I think it was a good teaching moment when we let them back in the game, 3-2," Head Coach AJ Aitken said.
Despite the setback, Aitken was confident in his squad.
"If someone told me we were up 3-2 going into the third in our barn, I would take it right now," Aitken said. "Our big guys came out and scored some goals and our team fed off that and we learned a lot in that third period about ourselves."
At 2:20 of the third period, the Falcons went short-handed for the third time and all it took was 12 seconds before junior Aaron Leonard banged home a rebound in front of goal to increase the Sabres lead to two. The goal for Leonard was his first of the season with junior Brian Berger and senior Tanner Burton earning the helpers.
After a power play drought that spanned nine games and 26 chances, the Sabres have converted on five of their last 23 chances, good for a 22 percent conversion rate.
"You see a lot in box scores now teams like St. Norbert going 4-for-5 on the power play and St. Scholastica's power play is rolling," Aitken said. "When you come down this time of the year you're going to get that opportunity and we just ask our guys to go 1-for-1."
Minutes later, senior Tyler Klein joined the scoring frenzy with his 12th goal of the season, to give Marian a 5-2 lead. Hoping to gain some ground back on the power-play, Concordia Wis. would be foiled again as senior Ashton Reinboldt darted out of the penalty box and took the deflection off of Berger to go in all alone on Domingo Torrenueva, beating him for his fourth goal of the year.
For good measure, freshman Brodie Jamieson chipped in his fifth goal of the year at 13:16 to spot the Sabres a five-goal lead. The scoring output matches a season-high for the Sabres, who won 7-3 over UW-Superior back in November.
With the game well in hand, Aitken made a personnel change that everyone at the Blue Line could cheer for. Senior Chris Frederickson was called off the bench and sent to the blue crease to make his first appearance in goal for the Sabres.
"Freddy [Chris Frederickson] is the kind of guy that comes here with a smile on his face everyday," Burton said. "We all wanted to get up big so that we could get him in the game and to see the smile on his face brought a tear to my eye."
"I'm so glad the guys gave him the opportunity to do that," Aitken said of the goaltender change. "He comes to the rink everyday with a smile on his face and he understands the situation with where he's at as the third-string goaltender. He puts the work in just like everyone else and he's a great locker room guy who will bleed 'Blue and White' for the rest of his life."
The Sabres will certainly relish the four points they were able to earn this weekend, but come Monday, they know its time to get back to work as they prepare for next weekend's series against Finlandia.
"Going up to Finlandia is not an easy place to play," Aitken said. "We just have to continue to have our hard hats on and go to work this week and have a good week of practice to go up there and take care of business."
Marian will play on Saturday, Feb. 8th and Sunday, Feb. 9th in Hancock, Mich.