It's the time of season when everybody starts 0-0. Hamline, the No. 5 seed (10-13-2 overall, 7-8-1 MIAC), opens the 2012 MIAC men's Hockey Playoffs Thursday at No. 4 St. Olaf (11-8-6, 7-6-3). Game time at the Northfield City Arena is set for 8:00 p.m.
It's been three months since these teams last saw each other. On November 18-19, HU spit a two-game set with the Oles, each team winning in their own rink. Despite outshooting the Oles, 26-25, HU ended up on the short end of a 4-0 score in the first game of the series. The Oles grabbed a 2-0 first period lead and held the Pipers at bay the rest of the way.
It was a different game the next night. Hamline moved smartly to a 3-0 second period lead only to see the Oles cut the margin to 3-2 after two periods. Austin Cihak made it 4-2 at 2:56 of the final frame. It proved to be a critical goal because the Oles countered with three minutes remaining.
HU again held a slight edge in shots, 32-29. The expected starting goalies (both seniors) have been superb for their respective teams. Beau Christian has been on fire lately for HU. He ran his consecutive minute shutout streak to nearly 200 minutes before giving up two in Hamline's season finale, a 2-1 loss to Concordia. St. Olaf's Ben Leis has been among the league leaders all season. He stands third in the league in Save Percentage (.927) and is tied for fourth in Goals-Against (2.24).
Most of the rest of the game's numbers are close, too. The Oles have a slight edge in Goals Scored (73-68). Hamline's 29 third period goals is the second highest figure in the league.
It makes for a good matchup with the winner getting a day to catch their breath before traveling to first place St. Thomas Saturday night (7:00 p.m.)
Two other notes for HU fans. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students and will be available at the door. There is a high school section game scheduled prior to this game. This may delay the starting time.