Yellowjackets enjoy big opening weekend
NOTE: This story will be updated in Tuesday’s paper.
A new era of University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s hockey got underway with a pair of lopsided victories over the weekend at Wessman Arena.
Under the guidance of new head coach Rich McKenna the Yellowjackets defeated Northland College 9-2 Friday night and the Finlandia Lions 10-3 Saturday.
“We were able to score some goals and spread it out a bit,” McKenna said. “All four lines were fantastic all weekend.”
Enjoying a huge weekend was senior Jordan Neduzak, who recorded hat tricks both nights and had four assists, including three Saturday.
“It was a great way to start the season, for me personally, but more important for the team,” Neduzak said. “I try to take pride in helping the team out wherever I can. If it’s a hit, a blocked shot or scoring a goal, I’ll do whatever it takes. We just want to win this year.”
Senior captain Eric Shand, a defenseman, also had a big weekend with nine-points, including three assists Friday and a goal and five assists Saturday.
Three Yellowjackets picked up their first collegiate goals Friday– freshmen Jerry Miettunen and Bruno Birzitis, and sophomore Nik Kosman.
Pitching in on the weekend sweep was a trio of European players. Captain Anton Svenson (Sodertalje, Sweden) had a goal each night and five assists, including three Saturday. Miettunen (Tuusula, Finland) had a goal and two assists both nights; and Birzitis (Riga, Latvia) had a goal and three assists.
On Friday night, the Yellowjackets also got a goal from former Superior Spartan Daniel Litchke, two assists apiece from Ian Ecklund and Matt Audette, and one assist each from David Kenney, Kosman, Birzitis and Ethan James.
Ecklund added two goals and two assists Saturday night, Litchke scored his second goal of the season, and Viktor Sallhag (Vasteras, Sweden) scored a goal.
Friday night’s game was a stalemate for the opening 15 minutes, but the final five minutes belonged to the Yellowjackets as they scored three goals within a span of two minutes.
Svensson broke the ice at 15:13 with assists from Ecklund and Shand.
Miettunen, a defenseman, beat Northland goaltender AJ Smith with a slap shot from the left point at 17:02. Kosman and Kenney helped out on Miettunen’s first collegiate goal.
Eleven seconds later Neduzak took a feed from Shand, skated into the offensive zone and beat Smith from just outside the right post.
UWS outshot the Lumberjacks 30-13 in the opening period, including 13-3 on net.
“After practicing for two weeks, both teams were trying to figure out the flow of the game,” McKenna said. “I was expecting it to go that way it did for about the first 10 minutes, but after that we answered the bell.”
The Yellowjackets overcame a shot off the post and a pair of Northland power plays early in the second period before taking a 4-0 lead on Miettunen’s second goal of the game at 10:45.
One minute later the Lumberjacks got on the board on Oscar Larson’s power-play goal.
UWS got that goal back on Neduzak’s one-timer from the left circle at 14:41. The 5-on-3 power-play goal was assisted by Miettunen and Birzitis.
The Yellowjackets then blew the game open with two more goals 15 seconds apart.
Litchke redirected a pass from Audette past Smith at 18:38 and Neduzak completed his hat trick and Shand his playmaker at 18:53.
Ethan Wood was the winning goalie both nights, finishing with 21 saves Friday and 22 Saturday.
Northland College got 10 saves from A.J. Smith in the first period and 10 saves from Brett Young in the second and third periods. Matt Young and Alec Rounds combined to make 24 saves for Finlandia.
UWS held leads of 2-1 and 4-2 over Finlandia before exploding for six goals in the third period.
“We know we still have a lot of work to do,” Neduzak said. “Toward the end of Friday’s game we got a little sloppy, but we know what we have to do to correct it.”
UWS plays Augsburg Tuesday in Minneapolis and St. Thomas Saturday in Willmar. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
’JACKET JOTTINGS: Friday’s game was played before 426 fans, while 554 fans were on hand Saturday. … The Yellowjackets’ starting line of Ecklund, Svensson and Neduzak enjoyed a 23-point weekend with 10 points (four goals, six assists) Friday and 14 points (six goals, eight assists) Saturday.
Northland College 0 1 1 — 2
UW-Superior 3 4 2 — 9
First Period -- 1. UWS, Anton Svensson 1 (Ian Ecklund 1, Eric Shand 1), 15:13. 2. UWS, Jerry Miettunen 1 (Nik Kosman 1, David Kenney 1), 17:02. 3. UWS, Jordan Neduzak 1 (Shand 2), 17:13.
Second Period -- 4. UWS, Miettunen 2 (Svensson 1, Neduzak 1), 10:45. 5. NC, Oscar Larson (Josh Racek, Lucas DeBenedet), 11:45. 6. UWS, Neduzak 2 (Miettunen 1, Bruno Birzitis 1), 14:41 (5-on-3). 7. UWS, Daniel Litchke 1 (Matt Audette 1, Ethan James 1), 18:38. 8. UWS, Neduzak 3 (Shand 3), 18:53.
Third Period -- 9. UWS, Kosman 1 (Ecklund 2, Svensson 2), 11:49 (pp). 10. UWS, Birzitis 1 (Audette 2), 13:29. 11. NC, Chris Morgan (Ty Kraus), 17:12.
Saves: AJ Smith, NC, 10-x-x—10. Brett Young x-6-4—10. Ethan Wood, UWS, 3-9-9—21.
Finlandia 1 1 1 -- 3
UW-Superior 2 2 6 -- 10
First Period – 1. UWS, Eric Shand (Anton Svensson, Ian Ecklund), 5:03 (pp). 2. UWS, Svensson (Shand, Ecklund), 6:41. 3. FU, Max Seiter, 9:27 (sh).
Second Period – 4. UWS, Ecklund (Svensson, Neduzak), 1:20. 5. UWS, Neduzak (Svensson), 18)5. 6. FU, Andrew Martin (Chuck Marcoe, Matt Matyi), 19:20.
Third Period – 7. UWS, Jerry Miettunen (Neduzak, Ethan James), 6:45 (pp). 8. UWS, Ecklund (Shand), 9:36. 9. UWS, Neduzak (Bruno Birzitis, Shand), 11:43 (pp). 10. UWS, Victor Sallhag (Miettunen, Neduzak), 13:15 (pp). 11. UWS, Daniel Litchke (Birzitis, Shand), 15:31. 12. UWS, Daniel Sarnecki (Matyi), 15:54. 13. UWS, Neduzak (Nik Kosman, Shand), 19:24 (pp).
Saves – Matt Young, FU, 5-x-x—5. Alec Rounds, FU, x-11-8—19. Ethan Wood, UWS, 9-7-6—22.