Mens Hockey Qualifies for National Tournament
Kevin Sethre, staff writer
Following a phenomenal regular season that saw them finish with a 22-3 overall record, the fourth-ranked Augsburg mens hockey team turned their focus to the MIAC playoffs, where they faced Gustavus Adolphus in the quarterfinals.
The Gusties, whose only win in conference play during the regular season came in a shootout against Hamline, had gained confidence from another comeback win against the Pipers in the previous round, and then came to Ed Saugestad Rink ready to play. They gave the Auggies all they could handle.
Augsburg took the lead late in the first period with a goal from Austin Dollimer at the 17:31 mark, with assists from Erik Palmqvist and Austin Martinsen, but Gustavus equalized 6:37 into the second. Grant Reichenbacher responded with a goal that was assisted by Fritz Belisle and Logan Kons to give the Auggies the lead again only two minutes later, but the Gusties tied it up again only four minutes later. They took that momentum into the locker room during the second intermission and took the lead 7:33 into the second period. Trailing 3-2, Augsburg got another goal from Dollimer, with assists from Martinsen and Gavin Holland, at the 14:06 mark to send the game into overtime. 7:35 into overtime, Martinsen scored the winning goal for the Auggies by tipping in a shot from Patrick O’Connor, who, along with Dollimer, was given the assist.
The win set up a matchup with Bethel, who Augsburg had blown out 8-2 in their last trip to the Ed in January. The Auggies routed the Royals once again in the semifinals, winning 7-0 thanks to four goals by Belisle. Martinsen, Andrew Hicks, and Kyler Yeo each scored one goal, and Keenan Lund, Mason Palmer, and Dollimer all provided multiple assists. Meanwhile, a suffocating defense limited Bethel to only seven shots on goal during the entire game.
Augsburg faced an upstart St. Olaf team in the final. The Oles had finished the regular season in seventh place out of nine teams in the MIAC, but they got hot once the playoffs started, upsetting second-place Concordia 3-2 and third place Saint John’s 3-1 on their way to their first appearance in the final since the 2011-12 season. The Auggies had won seven straight games against St. Olaf going back to Jan. 2018, including a 7-1 drubbing at Ed Saugestad Rink earlier in the season.
The Oles opened the scoring with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first period and added two more in the second to take a 3-0 lead into the third and final period. They would score another before the Auggies were able to answer. Jarod Blackowiak’s goal halfway through the period gave Augsburg some life, but St. Olaf responded with another goal six minutes later to seal the deal. Dollimer scored in the final minute of the game, but it was too little, too late for the Auggies.
Still, since the rest of the season had been so successful, the team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III National Tournament as the fourth seed. They will face either St. Norbert or St. Olaf on Saturday, March 19, at Ed Saugestad Rink. In their last tournament appearance at the end of the 2018-19 season, they visited St. Norbert and fell 4-3 in overtime after tying the game with three goals in the third period.