Big payoff after long layoff

MARSHALL – After nine days without a game, the Marshall boys’ hockey team finally got back on the ice for the start of the Section 3A playoffs on Thursday night.

The Tigers showed few signs of rust during the game and, outside of a few minutes in total, dictated the play in a 4-0 win over No. 5 seed Windom Area at Lockwood Motors Ice Arena.

With such a long delay between games, the Tigers knew getting off to the right start was crucial if they were going to advance past the Eagles. And though they didn’t score in the opening 17 minutes, the Tigers were able to get that desired start to the postseason.

“We were very satisfied with that first period,” Marshall head coach Dave Coudert said. “We thought that (Windom) maybe had dominated us for about two minutes, but we gained control from that point on.”

Marshall nearly did get a goal in the first period, but Beau Mikel’s rebound try was negated by Quinn Horvath’s presence in the crease halfway through the period.

Horvath and Mikel would make amends later, however, factoring in on two of the Tigers’ goals.

Windom came out with another strong start in the second period, using their physicality to take away some of Marshall’s speed. Travis Janssen nearly put the Eagles on the board with his point blank attempt just a minute into the second period, but Marshall goalie Mason Campion kept his pads level and closed the door on the Windom captain.

Campion had 29 saves in the game while picking up the shutout. It was exactly the kind of goaltending performance teams are looking for in the playoffs and ensured that the Tigers would snap a three-game losing skid.

“Mason, to me, was our MVP,” Coudert said. “He made the saves, controlled his rebounds and when the rebounds were close he was able to cover it. He had one save that kind of caught him off guard, but he was able to recover and knock it away before it went in.”

Marshall proceeded to respond to Windom’s physical play by sending out their own line of grinders. Code-named the green line, Marshall’s third set of forwards used some big hits and an aggressive forecheck to bring momentum back on Marshall’s side.

“Windom brought the body and kind of slowed us down that way,” Coudert said. “We were fortunate we have our third line, the green line, they’re big and physical and know their roles. They were able to get out there and push back a little bit with the body and regain the momentum. The first two goals came after their shift, so they were able to get the momentum back for us.”

Adam McVey scored the first goal for the Tigers when his slapshot from the blueline beat Windom’s Ben Stubbe low on the stick side four minutes, nine seconds into the second period. Andrew Bell picked up an assist on the play.

Just over a minute later, the Tigers doubled their lead when Derek Rasmussen smashed home a feed from Horvath, who had been cycling the puck behind the net with Mikel to lure the defense away from Rasmussen.

Rasmussen’s first career playoff goal sent the Tigers into the locker room up 2-0, the toughest lead in sports.

“With Windom, they’ve got some great players, they’ve got some guys that can score three goals in three minutes, so we just told them to keep owning all three zones,” Coudert said of his message between the second and third periods. “Keep running our defensive zone like we’d been running it because we’re not giving up many opportunities.”

The Tigers wasted little time before adding onto their lead.

Horvath shelved a rebound into the top left corner of the goal 2:42 into the final period to give Marshall a 3-0 lead. The initial shot had come from Austin Leek, while Mikel was also denied in front of the net. Both players earned assists on the goal.

Windom showed little urgency in getting back into the game over its final 15 minutes, allowing Marshall to control play.

Following an Eagle timeout with less that three minutes remaining, Bell closed the book on the Windom season with an empty net goal to give the Tigers the 4-0 lead.

Up next for Marshall is a rematch with the No. 1 seed Luverne Cardinals. Marshall and Luverne split their season series, but it was Luverne who looked more impressive in their last meeting, a 7-0 win in Marshall on Jan. 3. The Cardinals crushed the Worthington Trojans 12-1 on Thursday to advance to the section semifinals.

“Luverne’s a great team and that’s why they were the first seed in the section,” Coudert said. “They’ve got two great lines, two and a half great lines. We beat them and dominated them in their rink. They did the same and then some in our rink. It’s going to be a great match. I’m looking forward to a great game that could go either way and come down to the goaltenders.”

The Tigers and Cardinals face off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where Marshall has won just one game ever.