Photo courtesy Eric Kelley, d3photography.com
For the first time, conference points were on the line for St. Scholastica in Milwaukee.
And the Saints used four power play goals to grab both the points from the table, defeating the Milwaukee School of Engineering 4-3 at the Kern Center.
It was St. Scholastic's inaugural game in their new conference, and it was a memorable, back-and-forth contest.
"I think power plays can sometimes take a little longer (to develop)," said St. Scholastica head coach Mark Wick, "so to come out and get four power play goals, we're certainly not going to complain about that."
It was an historic night, an anticipated night. The new layout and structure of the NCHA was finally on display.
MSOE welcomed the visitors to the league by scoring just 4:54 into the game. Patrick LeBeau scored his first of the season and the Raiders had the lead after the first.
But three Scholastica goals in a span of eight minutes stole the momentum. Derek Sutliffe, Brandon Nowakowski and Dylan Nowakowski scored with the man-advantage to wash away the deficit and grow a nice lead.
"Our number one unit has been the same for the past couple years," said Brandon Nowakowski. "So we've got a lot of chemistry there. We've done a lot of practicing the past week, so we're firing on all cylinders."
MSOE head coach Mark Ostapina wasn't pleased with his penalty kill units.
"We took too many penalties," said Ostapina. "There's no question we've got to be mentally stronger in how we do things."
Ostapina was pleased with how his team responded to the two-goal hole. MSOE got a power play goal of their own late in the second, from Gage Christianson, and Devin Schmitt scored short-handed in the third to tie the game.
"The fact that we showed a lot of character to come back and tie the game up, I was very impressed," said Ostapina.
With the game notted at 3-3 late in regulation, Dylan Nowakowski lit the lamp for the second time, swiping the lead for good. On the power play, of course.
Collin Rundell made 26 saves for the Saints. At the other end of the rink, Nick Kohn made 21 saves.
Players and coaches from both teams were excited about the new league make-up prior to the game. The play on the ice in Milwaukee lived up to the hype.
"When I first came in here, I thought there was going to be less contact," said Brandon Nowakowski. "But as we saw tonight ... a lot of big hits, a lot of phsicality."
"I think the message to the guys is, the NCHA has different (teams), but the NCHA isn't going to change," said Wick. "I think tonight's game is going to be what it's like all year, which is why we wanted to be part of this league."
MSOE Sports Information contributed to this report
Power Play Paces Saints to Victory