Blue Streaks return to ice in style with a 2-0 start



Matthew Pfeifer taking a faceoff over the weekend against Northern Illinois

Jack O'Rourke, Staff Reporter

A two year break from doing what you love stings. This was the case for the John Carroll University Hockey Team after not taking the ice since February 2020. The Blue Streaks opened their new campaign with a two game homestand against the Northern Illinois Huskies, as the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I Club Hockey season began.

On Friday, Sept. 17,  the Blue Streaks opened with a dominant 16 minutes of play, before senior Andrew Fralich deflected a pass by Matthew Pfeifer past the Huskies’ goalie for a 1-0 lead. Martin Moine stopped every shot that came his way in the first period, as both teams retreated to their locker rooms.

Less than five minutes into the middle period, sophomore Luke McNamara slid a puck between the goalie’s legs on a breakaway to double the Blue Streak advantage. Jimmy Grable and Brian Russell both provided tallies in the second, as Grable hit a one-timer and Russell picked a corner on the power play.

The Huskies scored twice in the third period, but Max Richter and Max Wopperer cushioned the Blue Streak lead, as the Blue and Gold took home a winner against Northern Illinois on Friday by a score of 6-2. Moine stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced in between the pipes.

“I haven’t played hockey in a year and a half,” said Richter. “It really took a toll on me mentally. Kirth [Max Kirth-Gruszczynski] and Fra [Andrew Fralich] really eased me into the game, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

The Blue Streaks had a quick turnaround, as Coach Scott Shantery’s team retook the ice at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon against Northern Illinois at Gilmour Academy.

Richter’s big weekend continued, as he tipped a shot from stalwart defenseman Patrick Gilbert into the net on a power play just minutes into the contest. Shortly after, sophomore Luke Karnofel scored his first career goal on a quick pass in the slot. 

Before the halfway point of the first period, freshman defenseman Tristan Weigand scored on a shot the goalie never saw from the point to extend the lead to 3-0. The Huskies settled down after a timeout call. 

Nate Cava performed strongly all night for the Blue Streaks in the net, and the defense played well in front of him. Jimmy Grable tallied a beautiful breakaway goal in the second period to extend the lead to 4-0.

The Huskies fought back, however, scoring three goals in a seven minute stretch between the end of the second and the beginning of the third period. The Blue Streaks found a way to pull it out behind excellent goaltending from Cava. A five on three penalty kill ended the game and included a major blocked shot with five seconds left from Patrick Gilbert. 

Max Wopperer was named one of the College Hockey Mid-America’s three stars of the week for his one goal and three assist performance over the weekend. 

“This is a huge weekend [ahead] for us,” said Shantery. “Normally it is a good chance for us to see where we are at, they’re a top 10 team and they are always a good barometer for us. I told the guys in the locker room that we are going down there to win two games next weekend. We know we have a team that can stack up with the best in the country.”

The Blue Streaks’ gears have turned towards a trip to Ohio University on Sept. 24 and 25 at Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

“Next weekend is a really tall task,” said senior star Jimmy Grable. “OU is one of, if not the best team we play all year. The last two years, we’ve gone in not expecting to lose but as huge underdogs. This year we are going in expecting to win one, if not get a sweep. We are really deep, we have 15 or 16 forwards that can play. It shows the new guys are awesome and that our veterans are ready to go.”