Leading the best-of-five series 1-0, the St. Cloud Norsemen fell behind quickly to the Austin Bruins on Saturday, ultimately losing the game 6-1, and will host the Bruins for a pair this weekend with the series tied at one win apiece.
For the second night in a row the Norsemen gave up a goal early, this time 56 seconds in, when Walter Zacher in close but from a tough angle to the right of Ethan Dahlmeir scored to get the crowd into the game early. The frame had an eerily familiar feeling to the first period of Friday’s game with Austin getting a goal early, getting the lone power play chance of the period and it looked as if we would go to the locker room again with a 1-0 score but Carter Bradley got hit in the face with the puck from a shot at the blue line and as the puck fell to his feet Bradley made the smart decision and iced the puck. With Bradely in the hall being tended to by the athletic trainer, the Bruin’s Austin Salani won the ensuing offensive zone faceoff back and Damon Furuseth tapped it to James Goffredo at the right point. Goffredo threw it through a sea of bodies and it somehow touched nobody but the traffic took away Dahlmeir’s eyes and the puck couldn’t have been hand-placed any better in the top left corner to give Austin a 2-0 lead 17:44 into the contest.
The Norsemen switched goaltenders to start the second period putting in Tomáš Boľo but had a similar result as again the Bruins struck early in the period to make it 3-0. Austin was able to create a turnover at neutral ice and gain the zone then Dylan Cook worked the puck behind the net and fed Goffredo at the right circle. Dropping down to one knee Goffredo one-timed a shot in 1:14 into the frame. Shots on goal were pretty close in the first period going Austin’s way 8-6 but the Bruins really dominated in that category in the second with a 12-5 margin. Late in the period Josh Giulani took the puck behind the Norsemen cage and centered it into the slot and the feet of Zacher. Zacher kicked it to himself and despite having a St. Cloud player draped on him found a way to elevate a backhanded shot over Boľo’s right pad to make it 4-0 at the 14:52 mark and that score would hold up into the second intermission.
The third period was the best period of hockey the Norsemen played on Saturday as they got their most shots on goal and also it was the only frame where they didn’t give up a goal early, instead striking first. In a 4-on-3 man advantage but with their goalie pulled the Norsemen had five skaters to Austin’s three and all five got a touch on the power play goal. Tyler Dysart brought the puck into the zone from the left side and bumped it to the boards and Andrew Clarke. Clarke found Broten Sabo at the left point and he made a D-to-D pass to Daniels Murnieks who slid it back to Sabo at the same spot. Sabo found Blake Perbix, who was playing in his organization’s career high 181st game in the regular and postseason combined, and he dished to Dysart in the middle as the bumper who one-timed the puck home at the 9:51 mark. Unfortunately that’s as close as St. Cloud would get as Giulani scored an empty netter 14:37 into the period and Ocean Wallace tallied a power play goal to make the final 6-1. Austin outshot St. Cloud 8-7 in the third and 28-18 for the contest.
The two teams split the series in Austin which means we’re guaranteed at least four games in the best-of-five series. Game 3 is at the MAC this Friday night with the first 100 fans receiving a set of 2022-23 St. Cloud Norsemen trading cards, courtesy of Rengel Printing. Game 4 will also be in St. Cloud Saturday night with the puck dropping both nights at 7:00 and tickets can be purchased online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.
If both teams split in St. Cloud and it is needed, Game #5 would be back in Austin on Sunday starting at 5:05. If you can’t make the trip to Riverside Arena, that game can be seen on hockeytv.com.