Knocked back on their heels

MARSHALL – With the potential to take control of the Southwest Conference and establish a foothold for a top seed come section tournament time on the table, the Marshall boys’ hockey team must view its performance Thursday night as a missed opportunity.

Rather than repeat their performance from a month earlier, when the Tigers stormed into Luverne and came home with a 4-1 victory, Marshall was in turn clobbered by the Cardinals on their home rink, 7-0.

With so many possibilities hanging in the balance of the game, its no surprise that Marshall head coach Dave Coudert described the mood in the locker room after the game as “somber.”

“You make your own opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” Coudert said. “Hats off to Luverne for keeping us from making more opportunities. The mood is real sombre right now.”

The 7-0 final score was not indicative of the Tigers’ play for the majority of the game, as Marshall trailed just 2-0 with 10 seconds remaining in the second period. Things quickly took a turn for the worst, however, as a neutral zone turnover to Luverne’s Austin Maxwell culminated in a rebound goal for Chaz Smedsrud with just over two seconds to play in in the period.

Smedsrud found his way to the far post uncovered, then banged in a shot from Logan Norman to put the Cardinals up 3-0 with two-thirds of the game gone.

Marshall looked ready to strike back in the opening moments of the third period, but were unable to capitalize. The Cardinals responded and scored their fourth goal of the game on Smedsrud’s third, as Norman’s shot got away from Marshall goaltender Mason Campion and landed squarely on the stick of Smedsrud.

The Luverne freshman also scored the Cardinals’ second goal of the game at the 10 minute, 59 second mark of the second period, while picking up an assist on the game’s final goal. It was, however, the goal to complete the hat trick for Smedsrud which deflated the Tigers permanently.

“We tried to shake some things up and get some life out there,” Coudert said. “We were still in the game, but the next goal was the deciding factor. It kind of took the life right out of us. We started taking some bad penalties and gave them full control of the game from there.”

Following the third Smedsrud goal, the Tigers were whistled for five separate penalties for a total of 13 possible power play minutes for Luverne.

The Cardinals would strike for three power play goals over the final 12 minutes of the game to give the Tigers a beating they’re not likely to forget.

Even during the first two periods, when the Tigers were at full strength and still very much in the game, they had trouble getting any foothold in the offensive zone. Rather, an aggressive Luverne forecheck and superior puck movement kept Marshall pinned in its own zone for extended stretches of play.

“They’re good at moving the puck and attacking the puck and going after it,” Coudert said of the Cardinals. “We got pinned down in our zone and couldn’t get it out. They’re good at moving it around and always having a player in the right position to always keep the puck down in our zone.”

The Tigers, who fall to 5-6-1 on the season (3-2 SWC) with the loss, had their best opportunity to beat Cardinal goalie Kendall Meyer with 11 minutes to play in the opening period.

Following a scramble in front of the net, Tiger captain Beau Mikel had an open frame in front of him but whistled a snap shot off the cross bar. Both Marshall and Luverne would send players to the penalty box after the ensuing scrum, while the Tigers would seldom threaten Meyer’s shutout again during the game.

The past is prologue and with Thursday’s loss firmly secured in the past, the Tigers will try to use the game as fuel for their final 10 regular season games and, hopefully, a rubber match with the Cardinals during the playoffs.

“We know we’ll see them again, hopefully, in the playoffs,” Coudert said. “We’re 1-1 against them. We each beat each other in each other’s house and from this point on, it’s the low part of the season I’d say.

“From this point on we’ll start the march uphill. With the stretch we’ve got coming up, we can rebound. We’ve got some more home games. We’ll meet these guys again and hopefully make it a different story next time.”

Marshall’s next game will be another home conference contest on Tuesday, when the Tigers host the Worthington Trojans.