2022 St. Thomas (MN) vs Bowling Green - Men's

CCHA RinkRap: Heartbreak For Tommies

CCHA RinkRap: Heartbreak For Tommies

In spite of their place in the standings, and tragic defeats, the Tommies continue to battle in the uber-competitive CCHA.

Nov 14, 2022 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA RinkRap: Heartbreak For Tommies

Starting around 8:30 Saturday night, the St. Thomas Tommies took center stage for the CCHA, as all the other league games had been completed. Fans of college hockey tuned in for a coronation of sorts—the Tommies first win against a contender—as Rico Blasi’s charges were leading Bowling Green 2-1 at the start of the third period. 

Viewers became familiar with several players destined to become household names in the CCHA: the elastic goalie Aaron Trotter (57-save weekend); gigantic defenseman Braidan Simmons-Fischer, whose first career goal appeared to be the game-winner; and sophomore Cameron Recchi, who did a decent imitation of his old man, Stanley Cup champion Mark. The skaters in purple had turned the Mercer Madhouse into a mausoleum. 

Then, in the 55th minute of the game, it all came crashing down.

With Blasi staring in disbelief, BG defenseman Max Coyle gambled at the blue line, and not only kept the puck in the attacking zone, but placed a soft pass onto the tape of lethal mate Ethan Scardina. The Falcon junior calmly deposited the puck high into the twine behind Trotter, and the joint was jumping once again. Then, with 17 ticks left in regulation, the irrepressible Austen Swankler found a rebound on the STU doorstop, placing it high off the back iron, and it was over. 

Bowling Green had faced down the reality of losing to projected league doormat St. Thomas, and somehow left the ice in first place.

St. Thomas has spent two years under Blasi contending in tight games, but rarely winning. One wonders how much longer he can keep motivating his troops without the carrot of victory. The visitor’s locker room was moribund at 9:30 Saturday night in Bowling Green: spent tape, pools of melting ice, red-faced young men trying to find the strength to untie their skates. 

Determined BGSU student reporter Ben Shanahan ventured into the mess and plucked out senior transfer Garrett Daly, a defenseman who spent the previous three years battling for Ty Eigner’s Falcons. It didn’t take Daly long to realize that he was now the enemy at Slater Arena. 

“First shift,” said Daly, who managed to visit with Eigner for 15 minutes after Friday’s morning skate. That was before the puck dropped, when friendships were ignored by players fighting with clubs in tight spaces. Daly found himself in the middle of the drama Saturday, collecting two penalties, but drawing two others, on the hard ice of the CCHA. His penalty-killing mates bailed him out Saturday, never forcing Daly to take the skate of shame from the box. 

“Just glad that my teammates played with the energy to get the kill.”

All that energy was gone now, as the Tommies trudged to their bus for the extra-long ride back to St. Paul. All wondered when—and if—that breakthrough victory will come.


  • For fans who appreciate goaltending pitching duels on ice, Marquette was the place to be Friday night. Bemidji sophomore ace Mattias Sholl and Northern’s rising star Beni Halasz were locked in a mutual shutout for more than 58 minutes on the large ice of the Berry Events Center. It took a perfect shot from a natural goal scorer to break the skein, as Russian native Artem Shlaine fired a 20-foot wrister off the far post to beat Sholl, which stood up as the game-winner. There are now nine Russians playing NCAA hockey, the most since College Hockey Inc. has kept records.
  • The Lake State - Michigan Tech series appeared to be a re-awakening of sorts for the Lakers, winning a shootout behind the superb goaltending of junior goalie Ethan Langenegger—40 saves plus two more in the shootout. With a roster boasting 16 players 6-foot-1 or taller, the Lakers State are the giants of the CCHA. “They’re big and strong, and have a lot of skill,” said Huskies coach Joe Shawhan. The next night, however, found more frustration for the last-place Lakers. Tech’s Blake Pietila resumed his place atop the CCHA’s goaltending podium by shutting out LSSU, his league-leading fourth of the season. Lake Superior has been the primary victim of Pietila’s school-record 14 shoutouts, having been blanked four times by the senior from Howell, Michigan. Visions of Pietila’s stunning post-to-post saves surely accompanied the Lakers on their five-hour bus ride back to the Soo Saturday night.
  • Six thousand enthusiastic fans filled Michigan Tech’s John MacInnes Student Arena over two games this past weekend, making it the second most popular venue in the CCHA behind Mankato’s May Clinic Health System Events Center. CCHA Commissioner Don Lucia said he told current Minnesota coach Bob Motzko that he should bring his Gophers up to Houghton to play the Huskies. From the Twin Cities, “It’s only a three-movie bus ride,” said Lucia.
  • Tech got valued defensemen Chris Lipe and Brett Thorne back from injury for the Lake State series. “We couldn’t have gotten through this without them,” said coach Joe Shawhan in Friday’s post-game.

College Hockey, Inc. and Ben Shanahan contributed to this story.