The St. Cloud Norsemen got a couple of goals from a few unlikely sources; one player scoring his second goal in a Norsemen uniform, another scoring his first goal in the NAHL, and powered through on Ethan Dahlmeier’s second straight shutout over the Aberdeen Wings to prevail Friday night 3-0, win the series 3-0, and move on to the NAHL Central Division Championship Series.
The Norsemen set the tone in the first period outshooting the Wings 12-7 despite Aberdeen getting the only power play opportunity in the opening 20 minutes. Late in the first the Wings had the puck at the right point and attempted a shot but it was blocked by Andrew Clarke. Clarke found the puck at his feet and quickly went from defense to offense, waiting for the Aberdeen defenseman to give him an opening and banked the puck off the left boards ahead to Hogan Sinjem. Defenseman Carter Bradley saw an opportunity to join the rush and activated, screaming up the right wing side on an odd man rush with Sinjem. Sinjem sauced a pass to Bradley and Bradley got it off his stick as quickly as it landed there, one-timing a shot home through Cole Moore’s leg pads at the 16:20 mark of the first period.
“I saw Sinjem pick up the puck and I saw just one D back there so I was off to the races trying to get a 2-on-1 and just put it 5-hole,” explains Bradley. “Got it off my tape as quick as I could; kinda blacked out after that one.”
That would be the only tally of the first period and neither team could find the net in the second with Aberdeen getting the better of the shots on goal 9-7 with each team having one chance on the power play. A little over six minutes into the third Hunter Hanson battled with a Wing at center ice and outmuscled it over to Duke Kiffin. Hanson then peeled back and headed towards the Aberdeen net, opening himself up for a return pass that Kiffin hit him with. Lucca Munoz skated in on Hanson’s right and Hunter bumped the puck to Munoz and drove towards the net, looking for a potential return pass, redirection or rebound. But Munoz would offer none of those as he snapped a shot home at the top of the right circle 6:29 into the third, burying the puck in the top left corner.
“I saw Hanson, he’s a player with a lot of speed, and I saw him flying up the ice. I called for it, he kicked it out,” Munoz describes the play. “We’d been shooting glove all game and I decided to take him on his blocker side and lucky enough, it went in.”
The Norsemen buckled down in the third, keeping Aberdeen to just five shots on goal and not taking a single penalty in the last period, getting the only three power play chances of the frame. They didn’t convert on any of their man advantages but didn’t need to as they kept the puck out of their own net. In the last minute Kade Peterson broke up an Aberdeen rush at the center line and the puck pinballed around a couple Aberdeen players before it bounced to Kiffin just inside the Norsemen zone. From the blue line he hit Blake Perbix at the center line along the right wing boards and Perbix buried an empty net goal from there to seal the win with 49.8 seconds remaining.
St. Cloud surrendered just one goal in the three-game series versus Aberdeen and Ethan Dahlmeir played all three games against the Wings. St. Cloud Assistant Coach Brock Kautz, a former NAHL goaltender himself, knows how huge that was for his squad. “Obviously when you’re able to do that, it means you’re doing something right. He made some very timely saves early on and down the stretch that kind of allowed the score to stay where it was at. We gave up some opportunities, some Grade A chances, and he stood tall and answered the bell, which is exactly what you want out of a goalie in the playoffs,” compliments Kautz. “Pleased with his performance and we’re happy about that but obviously a big challenge moving forward versus Austin.”
The Austin Bruins also won their best-of-five series three games to none against the Minot Minotauros and will be St. Cloud’s second round opponent. Games 1, 2 and if needed Game 5 will be in Austin and those games can be viewed online at hockeytv.com.
Game 3 and if needed Game 4 will be at the MAC in St. Cloud. Dates and times are being finalized but keep an eye out for those announcements on social media and on the Norsemen website at stcloudnorsemen.com.
Once the dates are finalized, tickets will be available for purchase at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.