Gustavus Adolphus College has traditionally been a house of horrors for the Marshall boys' hockey team. With just one win in over 10 years of section tournament competition at the St. Peter university, the Tigers had just one win at GAC.
On Saturday, however, the Tigers exorcised an old demon with a 5-3 win over No. 1 seed Luverne. Behind nine points from their seniors and 39 saves from goaltender Mason Campion, the No. 4 seed Tigers advanced to Wednesday's Section 3A finals with a come-from-behind win.
It took 14 minutes, 29 seconds before the Cardinals scored the games' opening goal. Logan Norman swatted home a rebound goal after Campion had stopped the first several attempts.
Rather than panic at falling behind, the Tigers turned to their veterans and evened the game on Tyler Untiedt's unassisted tally with just 28 seconds remaining in the first period.
"Of course right when it happens there might be a little panic, but we just said we'll get it back and the seniors kind of took charge," first-year Marshall head coach Dave Coudert said. "We put a full line of seniors out there and Tyler got a bad play by Luverne and we got a screen on the goalie. He was able to put it away and from that point on we stole the momentum back."
Untiedt picked up a defensive zone turnover by the Cardinals and fired a wrist shot past screened Luverne goalie Kendall Meyer.
Marshall1 2 2-5
Luverne1 0 2-3
L-Logan Norman (Gunnar Olson, Chaz Smedsrud), 14:29
M-Tyler Untiedt, 16:32
M-Quinn Horvath (Casper Larsen, Beau Mikel), 11:25
M-Corey Clark (Mikel), 15:15 PP
L-Skyler Wenninger (Austin Maxwell), 6:13 PP
M-Mikel (Untiedt), 14:03
M-Horvath (Untiedt), 15:45
L-Jordan Dingmann (Cole Desplinter, Smedsrud), 16:12
Shots on Goal: M-20, L-42.
Goaltenders: M-Mason Campion (39 saves), L-Kendall Meyer (15 saves).
Marshall continued to roll in the second period. Quinn Horvath scored the first of two goals with assists going to Casper Larsen and Beau Mikel 11:25 into the middle period. Corey Clark scored the second goal of the second period on the powerplay with Mikel assisting again.
The Tigers, although outshot 42-20, were able to keep Luverne out of its desired tempo by playing less aggressive defensively. Marshall's more reserved style of play helped the Tigers bounce back from a humbling 7-0 defeat to Luverne in Marshall on Jan. 3.
"We changed our gameplan," Coudert said. "Luverne has seen us twice and we had played a certain style. I think Luverne had expected us to continue that, but we decided to throw them a curve ball and change our style. Instead of letting our defense pinch every time, we decided to hold them back. It seemed to confuse Luverne a little bit and they weren't sure exactly what to do. Based on what we saw, they were set up expecting our defense to pinch in all the time and try to get the puck behind them. When they realized that the defensemen weren't pinching, we just clogged the neutral zone and put it back in deep. It seemed to definitely take them out of their gameplan."
Luverne made it a one-goal game when Skyler Wenninger scored on the powerplay 6:13 into the third period. Campion shut the door on the Cardinals for the next 10 minutes though, as Marshall added a pair of goals to take a 5-2 lead.
"Back-to-back games he's elevated his game and continues to out-shine the other team's goalie," Coudert said of his junior netminder. "We've settled into a different defensive zone style of play where we are going to give up more perimeter shots, but we're making sure he can see them. With a goalie of Mason's caliber, those aren't going to go in. The goals (Luverne) did get, they had to work hard to get them. Mason definitely stole the game for us for the most part."
Mikel got the first of Marshall's third-period goals with an assist going to Untiedt at the 14:03 mark. Horvath followed with his second of the game at 15:45 with Untiedt again assisting.
Jordan Dingmann scored for Luverne with 45 seconds remaining to bring the score to 5-3, but the clock would not allow the comeback as the Tigers advanced to just their second section final in team history.
The Tigers return to GAC on Wednesday to take on the No. 6 seed Hutchinson Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Hutchinson knocked off three-time reigning section champion New Ulm 3-2 on Saturday as well to reach the final.
Marshall and Hutchinson met on Dec. 1 with Marshall skating away with an 8-5 win. Coudert said that the Hutchinson team he watched on Saturday had little in common with the team Marshall defeated in the third game of the season.
"It's definitely not the same team that we saw at the beginning of the season," Coudert said. "They play a really tough schedule just to get ready for these type of games. They're battle tested and they've definitely improved from the last time that we saw them. Their goaltending has gotten a lot better and we're expecting it to be a completely different game."
Marshall must also avoid looking too far ahead. The Tigers are just one win away from making their first appearance at the fabled boys' state hockey tournament, but it could be a long three periods against Hutchinson if Marshall is too focused on St. Paul and not the game in St. Peter.
"I think there were two teams that lost on Saturday that were thinking too far down the road," Coudert said. "We're not even thinking state. We're thinking Wednesday and that's it. We'll just keep reminding these kids not to focus on the future when you haven't gotten there yet. We'll keep focus on Wednesday and if we get there, we get there."