Cougars pounce past Cardinals

FAIRMONT – Mankato East/Loyola linemates Brandon Adams and Judd Schulz each had a chance to score hattricks, but both fell just one tally short in pacing the Cougars to a 9-3 nonconference victory over the Fairmont Area Cardinals on Tuesday night at Martin County Arena.

Adams and Schulz combined on the first goal of the game to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. Schulz slid a pass through the middle in front of the Cardinal goal, and Adams fired a wrister into the top shelf with 9 minutes and 20 seconds left in the opening period.

With his co-team leading fifth goal of the season, Rodney Engstrom evened the score 1:21 later for Fairmont Area.

Greg Claeys chased the puck down into the Cougar zone, zipping a pass behind the net to forward Brock Johnson. Johnson then spotted Engstrom on the blue line with a pass, which the junior defenseman rocketed through traffic under the crossbar.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Shane Sellner connected on a centering pass for a one-timer with a man advantage at the 1:22 mark of the first period to give the Cougars back the edge on the scoreboard.

Schulz and Jake Peller each recorded assists on Sellner’s go-ahead goal.

“I thought that the first period was a good one,” said Fairmont Area head coach Brady Meyer. “We stayed with them and Rodney got us a goal when we needed one. It seemed like it would be an evenly matched game.”

With the Cougars taking the momentum into the second period, they rattled off four unanswered goals to take the 6-1 lead.

Adams netted his second of the game just one minute into the period, sending a Schulz assist just inside the post.

The Cougars then got a fresh goal-scorer, Brad Johnson to snap a Peller assist through the crease for the three-goal lead.

Peller curved a shot that found its way behind Cardinal netminder Colton Cunning for the third goal of the period with 4:35 remaining, before Logan Lebert buried a Neil Nienaber pass just 23 seconds later.

“Penalties have been killing us the last three games. They scored two power play goals on us in this game, but you can’t win games when you are down a player,” said Meyer.

The Cardinals stopped the run when sophomore forward Ethan Lubenow fired the first of his two goals into the net.

Lubenow, who has a co-team best five goals on the season had scored at least one point in each of the Cardinal games since Dec. 27, with the streak ending Monday night in Le Sueur.

The sophomore restarted that trend when he buried a Sam Havnen rebound in the second period.

“Lubenow keeps getting better, and he had at least one point in each of our games since the holiday tournament game in December up until yesterday,” said Meyer. “So for him to come back and score two goals tonight was nice to see.”

After catching an Engstrom pass, Havnen carried the puck into the zone on a breakaway, firing a shot that Cougar goalie Will Behsman kicked aside for one of his 17 saves.

Lubenow drove the net, looking for the extra bounce, and fired a top-shelf tally for the Cardinals with 2:04 left in the period.

“The second period has been tough for us it seems all season,” said Meyer. “And once they started scoring, they got momentum and then the goals just kept coming it seemed.”

In the third, after it seeemed the Cardinals had taken back some momentum, the Cougars stopped any thought of a comeback.

Mankato East/Loyola defensemen Joe Billiar blasted a shot from the point for a score just 2:03 into the final frame of the game.

Schulz then followed that up with a pair of goals – scoring on a Brandon Treinen assist, before using a Peller pass to score with four minutes left.

Lubenow was once again able to find the net for the Cardinals in the final minutes, sending Claeys and Havnen assists into the goal to make it 9-3 with 1:20 remaining.

Havnen zipped a pass to Claeys, who found Lubenow in the slot and fired a shot just over Behsman’s shoulder for the score.

Cunning finished with 45 saves for the Cardinals, while the Cougars fired 54 shots on net.

The Cardinals sent 20 shots on net in the game. Behsman recorded 17 saves on the game to net the victory for the Cougars.

Fairmont Area (2-10, 0-3 South Central) plays host to St. Peter/Le Sueur-Henderson in a conference game on Thursday night at Martin County Arena in Fairmont.

Mankato East/Loyola (6-9) travels to Waseca to play a 7:30 p.m. nonconference game on Friday night against the Bluejays.

East/Loyola 2-4-3-9

Fairmont 1-1-1-3

Scoring Plays

1st Period

M – Brandon Adams (Judd Schulz), 9:20.

FA – Rodney Engstrom (Brock Johnson, Greg Claeys), 7:01.

M – Shane Sellner (Jake Peller, Judd Schulz), power play, 1:22.

2nd Period

M – Brandon Adams (Judd Schulz), 16:00.

M – Brad Johnson (Jake Peller), 14:24.

M – Jake Peller (unassisted), 4:35.

M – Logan Lebert (Neil Nienaber), 4:12.

FA – Ethan Lubenow (Sam Havnen, Rodney Engstrom), 2:04.

3rd Period

M – Joe Billiar (Logan Lebert), 14:57.

M – Judd Schulz (Brandon Treinen), 14:30.

M – Judd Schulz (Jake Peller), power play, 4:00.

FA – Ethan Lubenow (Greg Claeys, Sam Havnen), 1:20.

Shots on goal: Mankato East/Loyola 21-19-14-54; Fairmont Area 7-10-3-20.

Saves: Colton Cunning (FA) 19-15-11-45; Will Behsman (M) 6-9-2-17.

Penalties: Fairmont Area 8 for 24 minutes; Mankato East/Loyola 3 for 6 minutes.