Only a select few scholastic hockey players in the world ever get to skate on the same ice surface as Shattuck-St. Mary’s. The list of NHLers churned out by the nationally renowned prep school is beyond impressive.
Nichols has been one of the lucky programs the last four seasons, earning regularly scheduled meetings with the Faribault, Minn. outfit because it has shown the ability to hang with the Sabres.
Hanging is one thing. Beating is another. That’s something Nichols still hasn’t been able to figure out against SSM.
Every big mistake the Vikings made against the nation’s No. 1-ranked prep school ended up being costly ones as SSM defeated them, 5-1, Friday night before more than 1,000 fans at a packed Dann Memorial Rink on the Nichols campus.
Brett Willits scored the lone goal for the Vikings (12-14-3), who finish their two-game series with Shattuck (23-8-4), which made the long journey from Minnesota to Buffalo via bus, at noon Saturday at the Dann.
Charlie Dovorany scored twice short-handed for the winners. Emil Ohrvall and Paul Luebke scored first-period goals for SSM, which led 3-1 after 18 minutes. “We didn’t get off to a good start,” Vikings coach Jamie Printz said. “Played pretty well in stretches but not consistently enough against a team like that.”
For those who are unfamiliar with the Shattuck’s prep team, here’s a brief summary. The program has won nine USA Hockey national titles since 1999, including one back in 2003 when current Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby was enrolled in the school. Beside Crosby, ex-Buffalo Sabre Drew Stafford and current Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews also are program alumni.
SSM coming into Friday’s game ranked first in the country isn’t surprising. The team has 13 seniors hoping to add to the school’s national championship collection, while Nichols had just three take the ice Friday for its Senior Night festivities.
Just when it seemed the Vikings received a break it would need to draw first blood, it turns out the hockey gods were playing tricks on them. An innocent looking one-on-one down the left wing turned into a breakaway when a Nichols defender lost an edge trying to pivot, Dovorany was able to step into one from the left circle, overpowering goaltender Jerry Baerwitz just 5 minutes, 22 seconds into the game.
Another tough break led to the Sabres’ second goal as a Nichols player was slow to get back to his feet after crashing into the goalie at the offensive end. Shattauck won a battle on the wall and Ohrvall snapped a shot under the crossbar from the right hash to make it 2-0 with 6:28 left in the period. It looked like the rout was on when Luebke scored off a scramble in front three minutes later.
Then Willits scored before the end of the period short-handed to give Nichols a jolt of confidence.
“I’ll always remember the great players on that team and how good the were and how we were able to compete with them,” Willits said.
Nichols had a couple chances to pull within a goal in the second period, the best one being Matthew Gasuik ringing a shot off the post with the goalie out of position. After Nichols failed to convert a breakaway late in the period, de May struck on the power play to give the Sabres a three-goal cushion – stepping into a shot after another Nichols defender lost an edge pivoting.
“We score there, it’s 3-2 and the guys feel different because it’s early in the period,” Printz said. “But coming out of that period 3-1 instead of 4-1 it’s still a totally different energy level coming into the locker room.”
Shattuck finished with a 34-17 edge in shots.