For the second year in a row, a team from the west will play in the finals of the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic. Last year it was St. Norbert. This year it will be Augsburg, thanks to a 6-2 victory over Babson.
A close deadlocked game through two periods suddenly turned into a route as the Auggies exploded for four goals. For Babson, it was worse than just the third period onslaught. The Beavers squandered a 2-0 lead.
“Obviously, the first period we weren’t moving our feet,” Augsburg coach Chris Brown said. “It was to be expected when we were on a bus for three days and it took 20 hours to get here, so I gave them a grace period on that. I thought as the game went on we started to move our feet better, handle the puck better, make plays with the puck, and play with more poise.”
“They played well,” Babson coach Jamie Rice said. “They dictated the pace of the game. They put a lot of pressure on us and executed on their rushes.”
Babson came out strong in the third period, applying consistent pressure. However, it was Augsburg that kept scoring goals, the first two coming on counterattacks.
Joel Sauer notched the first at 5:43 on a two-on-one. Sauer kept the puck on the right side as long as he possibly could using his teammate as a decoy, before finally flipping it past Skylar Nipps.
“The game could have gone either way,” Brown said. “When we converted on that two-on-one and Joel had great poise and made a beautiful play, that gave us some momentum.”
At 7:48, another counterattack while the teams were skating four aside produced a goal by Jim Jensen.
Seconds after a power play ended at 9:27, Augsburg made it 5-2 when Chris Johnson scored his second of the night. Babson replaced Nipps with Travis Clarke, but it didn’t help.
The Auggies finished the scoring at 11:40 with a tally by John Lennartson.
“We won the third period,” Brown said. “We went into the final period so many times this year tied or within one and we haven’t come out on top very often. This was a good time for us to get it done.”
It didn’t take long for Babson to welcome Augsburg to the east. The Beavers took the lead 34 seconds after the opening face off. An unmarked Brad Baldelli picked up the rebound in front, waited patiently, and easily wristed a shot into the net.
Augsburg had an excellent opportunity to tie the game midway through first period when they had a two-on-none breakaway. Sauer eventually carried the puck in, but Nipps stayed with Sauer’s every move, and made the stop.
Babson made it 2-0 just nine seconds after a too many men on the ice penalty by Augsburg at 13:31. Gabriel Chenard-Poirier fired a shot from the midpoint of the blue line. The rebound came right out to Terry Woods at the right face off circle. He had no problem one timing it into the unguarded near side.
“Our guys executed well,” Rice said of the quick start. “We came out and pressed hard.”
Augsburg finally got on the scoreboard on their fourth power play opportunity with 1:11 left in the period. Brandon Bukowski passed it from the right point to the left point. Chris Johnson fired a laser into the opposite upper corner.
Babson dug themselves a hole to start off the second period when they committed two consecutive penalties 18 seconds apart. However, thanks to some difficult saves by Nipps, Augsburg was unable to convert.
“We’re getting a lot of practice on it,” Rice said of the 11 penalties his team took resulting in eight power plays for Augsburg.
The Auggies did finally tie the game in the second period at 13:34 on a somewhat “lazy” goal. Mario Mjelleli skated the puck into the zone down the right side. He took a seemingly harmless shot that somehow found its way through the goaltender’s five-hole.
While many wondered whether this game would be destined for overtime, Augsburg’s explosion erased any of those thoughts.
Andrew Kent got the win with 38 saves as Babson out shot the Auggies, 40-26.
“At two times in the third period our goalie made big saves which is what we needed,” Brown said.
The Auggies (3-7-0) face the winner of the evening semifinal game between Skidmore and host Oswego.
“We just want our team to get better every period which is what our goal was tonight,” Brown said. “Play our type of hockey. It doesn’t matter who we play, just get better every game.”
Meanwhile, Babson (3-4-1) will play in the consolation game.
“Play for pride,” Rice said. “We only have 25 games in a year. So whether it’s a consolation game, 25 games goes by quickly. You have to really savor every moment.”