Column: Momentum swing hurts New Ulm boys’ hockey team in 3A loss to L/D-C

Momentum can be a fickle thing in sports.

Saturday night in a Section 3A semifinal boys’ hockey game, the New Ulm Eagles jumped to a fast 2-0 lead over Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato.

But a goal by the Dragons to cut the New Ulm lead to 2-1 swung the momentum to L/DC as the Dragons tied the game after the first period and then scored three unanswered goals as the Dragons ended New Ulm’s season by a 7-4 score.

“Their goal was kind of a turning point in the game,” New Um coach Ryan Neuman said Monday. “I had thought that originally we should have been going on a power play but about 15 seconds later the referee made a call against us. They scored on their power play and it kind of shifted the tide of the game at that point.”

New Ulm had taken that 2-0 lead on two goals from sophomore Braxten Hoffmann.

“We had the momentum but when they scored on that power play it took the wind out of our sails,” Neuman said. “We should have been able to adjust and come back from that. But it is playoff hockey and there were a lot of nerves factoring in.”

Neuman said that going into the locker room tied at 2-2 his team came out “super-flat in the second period. It was probably one of the worst periods that we have played all year as a team.”

“That was surprising because the second period had been our best period all year,” Neuman said. “We scored the most goals and gave up the least. [L/DC got in a rhythm and continued to score goals.”

L/DC held a 5-2 lead after two periods on five straight goals.

“They outshot us 16-7 in that [second] period,” Neuman said. “We were on our heels and gave up four breakaways — we made a goalie switch [from Kyle Esser to Joey Gag] and Joey had three breakaways and the first shot he saw was a penalty shot. We made mistakes in that period that we did not make all season.”

Neuman said that he made some line adjustments going into the third period.

“We came out and scored a goal right away — we played a good third period — our guys did not quit. We had chances to make it closer but we did not capitalize. If we make that game a 5-4 game, a lot of things could have changed.”

Neuman felt that one of the factors that may have played into the game was the schedules that the two teams played during the regular season.

“Litchfield [and Hutchinson who will meet for the 3A title] both play a lot tougher conference schedule then the rest of the teams in the section,” Neuman said. “They are used to those dogfights. Teams like us, Marshall,Luverne — we do not play that tough competition all year so it is hard to adjust to. We score a bunch of goals on a team in the conference while they are used to tough competitive games and it showed. They are a good hockey team that plays good competition.

“We won 19 games this year but we were 3-6 outside of the Big South Conference.”

New Ulm outscored opponents 101-27 this season in Big South Conference regular season games.