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The Illinois State Redbirds hockey team found out they were ranked sixth, in the first ACHA poll of the year, before their weekend series against the University of St. Thomas.
St. Thomas came to ISU to play the Redbirds in a two game set starting Friday night and ending Saturday afternoon. St. Thomas came to town from Minnesota and were ranked 11th in the ACHA. It was a battle for ranking now, the 6th ranked Redbirds against the 11th ranked St. Thomas.
The first game, Friday night, was a well played game by both teams. It was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams, from start to finish. The Redbirds had the most scoring chances, but it was St. Thomas that finished on more of their opportunities. St. Thomas defeated the Redbirds in game one, 5-4 in overtime.
The Redbirds took the early 2-0 lead in the first period because of their high energy tempo to begin the game. Their first goal was scored by forward Chris Wagner and assisted by line mates, James Cioffi and Allen Urbaniak.
The second goal was scored by Redbird forward Eric Brown. Brown received a perfect back door pass from forward Phil O’Connor and redirected the pass behind the visitors goalie to give the Redbirds a 2-0 lead.
St. Thomas responded right back though with two quick goals to tie the game at 2-2.
Again, the Redbirds responded by scoring another pair of goals and regained their two goal lead. The third goal for the Redbirds was scored by forward Tim Putlak and assisted by line mates Chris Drinkwater and Andrew Jesernig.
In the same shift, Justin Brown scored the Redbirds fourth goal on nice passes from Jesernig and Drinkwater again. The Redbirds took the 4-2 lead. That lead would remain until the seven minute mark of the third period.
With very little time left in the game, the Redbirds collapsed. The visiting St. Thomas team scored two unanswered goals very late in the third period. What looked like a nice win for the Redbirds turned into a disappointment and an overtime game.
St. Thomas finished their comeback in overtime with a goal three minutes in the period. St. Thomas escaped game one with a 5-4 OT victory.
Looking to rebound from the tough loss the night before, the Redbirds came out flying again in game two. The game was identical to the first game, but this time the Redbirds did not collapse. They played a complete game that led to their 4-2 victory over St. Thomas.
The Redbirds again scored two early goals to take the 2-0 lead. The first goal was scored by forward Mike McKeague on a redirection. Assisting on the goal was defenseman Justin Brown and forward Eric Brown.
Then, Drinkwater scored the second goal of the game for his team and they led 2-0. Assisting on his goal was forward Putlak and Jesernig.
Here came St. Thomas. They scored two goals of their own, just like game one, and tied the game at 2-2.
The Redbirds were determined not to let this game slip away like game one. In the second period the Redbirds scored two more goals. The first goal was scored by forward Allan Urbaniak on an assist by forward Cioffi. The second goal of the period was scored by Jesernig and assisted by Drinkwater and defenseman Nick Santopoalo. The Redbirds finished the second period with the 4-2 lead, just as they did on Friday night.
The third period started the Redbirds stayed solid. They finished of St. Thomas and won 4-2. The Redbirds came away with three points out of a possible four points for the weekend. They proved to everyone why they are ranked 6th in the ACHA.