The Missouri State club hockey team opened the season this weekend, defeating Illinois State twice.
The first period on Friday was relatively even with both teams scoring a goal. Freshman defenseman Noah Brusse scored for Missouri State.
The rest of the game was not as close. Illinois State did not score, while the Ice Bears got goals from senior forward Hunter Cooley, freshman forwards Cody Flann and Jared Bratton, and junior Garrett Wojcicki.
Senior goaltender Bailey Stephens made 28 saves on 29 shots to get the victory.
“We were really assertive Friday,” assistant coach Josh Bell said. “We made plays happen. We weren’t waiting for (ISU) to come to us.”
Missouri State got off to a worse start Saturday. After a scoreless first period, Illinois State blew open the scoring with three goals in less than seven minutes.
Head coach Jeremy Law said his young team was not mentally prepared for the game.
“We showed up to the game and probably thought that since we won 5-1 the night before, it would be an easy game,” Law said. “That was apparent right from the first period.”
The team would give Law something to be happy about when freshman forward Kayson Gallant scored late in the second, then sophomore forward Evan Ross scored on a power play to shrink ISU’s lead to 3-2 heading into the final frame.
Shortly after the third period began sophomore winger Jacob Wiethaupt would score to tie the game. Forty seconds after Wiethaupt’s goal, sophomore forward Terrance Josephson found the back of the net.
Missouri State carried the 4-3 lead to the buzzer to complete the series sweep.
“I liked the resiliency we showed to come back,” Law said. “A lot of times when you get down 3-0 you feel defeated — and you play defeated. So I think we knew we were capable of coming back. It was a lesson learned.”
The Ice Bears are a younger team this year compared to what Law has had in the past. Nearly half of the goals were scored by freshmen. When the Ice Bears were protecting their 4-3 lead late on Saturday, at least one of freshman defensemen duo Noah Brusse and Noah Malthaner were on the ice nearly the whole time.
Law said he likes how they are all settling in.
“We’ve got a handful of freshmen that are getting big minutes right now,” Law said. “We’re a young team and when you have those freshmen playing on top lines and pairs — it's good for the future of the team.
The Ice Bears are on the road next weekend at Lindenwood University, playing on Sept. 24 and 25.
Lindenwood is a perennial contender for the American Collegiate Hockey Association's National Championship and is pursuing a move to the NCAA Division I level. The Ice Bears went 0-3-1 last season against the Lions.
Follow Stephen Terrill on Twitter, @stevethe2nd
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