FAIRMONT - New Ulm's Nicolas Gartner did not start Friday night's season-opening soccer game against Fairmont Area, but the senior midfielder made a big impact at Kot Soccer Complex.
Gartner hammered home a pair of first-half goals, while junior midfielder Jon Sehloff distributed three assists to steer the visiting Eagles to a 4-1 Big South Conference victory over the Cardinals in Fairmont.
"Not too bad for your first shift of the season," New Ulm mentor Jack Gronholz said jokingly to Gartner, who staked the purple-and-white to a 2-0 edge on the scoreboard.
With the hard-working Sehloff quarterbacking the Eagles' attack, Gartner produced the visitors' first goal of the campaign. Sehloff lofted a perfect approach from the left endline off a direct kick and Gartner used a header to find the Cardinals' open net for a 1-0 lead with 12:51 remaining.
Sehloff earned another direct kick from nearly the same spot almost 4 minutes later, with Gartner converting Josh Koelpin's rebound into a two-goal margin with 9:06 left before intermission.
Sehloff then lofted one of New Ulm's 14 corner kicks from the left endline, and the fleet-footed Noah Webb corraled the pass and found nothing but net for a 3-0 edge with 16:53 remaining in the second half.
Senior forward Sam Havnen then spoiled Eagles' goalkeeper Isaac Lager's shutout bid by converting a penalty kick at the 15:38 juncture. Havnen drove right before curling the ball into the left corner to slice the Cardinals' deficit to 3-1.
Ben Timmerman and Evan Ward then applied some offensive pressure down the stretch, but Lager proved worthy of the challenges. Timmerman drilled a curling shot from just left of the point that Lager snagged at the 11-minute mark. The New Ulm netminder then deflected Ward's breakaway blast down the pipe to maintain the Eagles' two-goal lead at the 9:28 juncture.
Christian Linan then added an insurance goal off a left-wing entry pass from Sam Hoppe to extend the visitors' lead to 4-1 with 5:28 left in regulation.
Lager finished with four saves for the Eagles, while Cardinal goalkeeper Kyle Tromanhauser Jr. produced a dozen stops.
Fairmont Area (0-1, 0-1 Big South) travels to St. Peter today, while New Ulm (1-0, 1-0) hits the road to Southwest Minnesota Christian on Tuesday.