VADNAIS HEIGHTS — Seeking its second straight Suburban East Conference title, the Stillwater boys’ hockey team began its stretch drive with a convincing 9-0 victory over Mounds View on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Vadnais Sports Center.
It was the third straight conference victory for the Ponies (11-1 SEC, 17-3) since losing to White Bear Lake 2-1 on Jan. 14 — the first of three losses during a six-game stretch.
Stillwater closes out its conference schedule with four straight home games against Forest Lake, Woodbury, Cretin-Derham Hall and White Bear Lake. Cretin-Derham Hall (12-1, 14-6) joins the Ponies with just one loss in conference play.
“We’re tied with Cretin so every conference game the championship is on the line,” Ponies coach Matt Doman said. “We’ve got some big games coming up the last few.”
The Ponies, who outscored Mounds View by a combined 20-2 in two games this season, scored three times in the opening period to take charge. Matthew Stanton, who joined Luke Manning with two goals, scored at 3:22 and 11:17 to open the scoring for Stillwater, which also received a first-period tally from Mason Bartosh.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” Doman said. “We talked about our movement without the puck in order to create offense. We talked about it and we’ve worked on it and we did a pretty good job.”
Stillwater scored twice while skating short-handed in the second period, starting with TJ Sagissor’s goal at 1:35. Jesse Bjugstad scored to push Stillwater’s lead to 5-0 and Manning scored a short-handed goal at 4:26 and struck again in the final minute of the period to build a seven-goal cushion.
Michael Kaufman scored on the power play and Thomas Bruchu added the final goal for Stillwater in the third.
Goaltender Seth Eisele did not face a lot of pressure, but was up to the task while turning away 14 shots to earn his fifth shutout of the season. He also lowered his goals against average to 1.30 and raised his save percentage to .928.
“If we’re going to win a state championship, he’s going to play a huge role in that,” Doman said. “Some of those things, obviously the goaltender has to make a save, but it’s how the defenders play around him as well and hopefully that makes his job a little easier.
“Defensively speaking, it’s another part of the game that once you get into playoffs and the postseason you better be playing good defensively and we did a good job as far as our awareness and our positioning was solid.”
Stillwater 3 4 2 — 9
Mounds View 0 0 0 — 0
First period — 1. St, Matthew Stanton (Austin Murr, Noah Cates) 3:22; 2. St, Stanton (Cates, Murr) 11:17; 3. St, Mason Bartosh (Logan Huber, Joey Novalany) 13:18.
Second period — 4. St, TJ Sagissor (Luke Manning, Jesse Bjugstad) sh, 1:35; 5. St, Bjugstad (Manning, Sagissor) 2:42; 6. St, Manning (unassisted) sh, 4:26; 7. St, Manning (Cates, Bjugstad) 16:24.
Third period — 8. St, Michael Kauman (Cates, Stanton) pp, 1:08; 9. St, Thomas Bruchu (Murr, Jack Mapstone) 12:45.
Penalties — St, 6-20:00; MV, 3-6:00.
Saves — St (Seth Eisele) 3-8-3—14; MV (Brody Aufderheide) 13-8-x—21 and (Luke Neary) x-x-4—4.