CANTON — The “brutal” flow for which St. Lawrence forward Kyle Essery has become a sort of celebrity in ECAC Hockey was on full display Friday at Appleton Arena.
It was hard not to notice the sophomore, who scored twice and assisted on another, in St. Lawrence's 3-2 nonconference win over No. 18 Michigan Tech in front of 1,151 fans.
“You know what, the hair tonight gave me more power,” Essery said. “It was just flying through the back of the helmet, and I went right to the net, put it right in. I liked the second one because it looked so much better.”
Essery's second goal proved to be the game-winner and gave SLU a 3-0 lead heading into the third period.
At the time, though, the Saints (5-6-0 overall) faced a daunting third with a lead that, while solid, wasn't safe. Considering St. Lawrence hasn't achieved anything remarkable in a third period yet this year — something that goalie Matt Weninger knew too well — none was prematurely celebrating.
“We dominated them through two and came out a little laid back in the third period,” Weninger said. “Sometimes (three goal leads) are not the best because you sit back too much.”
The Saints took four penalties in the third period after taking just one in the first two frames and continued to give Michigan Tech (7-5-1) opportunities to get back in the game.
The Huskies did on its third power play of the period when Brett Olson put back a rebound at 12 minutes, 3 seconds to end the shutout bid.
“They have a good power play and they move the puck well,” Weninger said. “I think we did sit back too much. It's always kind of in the back of your mind to get the shutout, but the wins the most important.”
The Saints gave Michigan Tech one more power play inside of three minutes to play in the game. Weninger remained unflappable, finishing with 33 saves, and Essery continued his stellar efforts by disrupting passes and poking the puck out of the zone.
“(Essery) is a complete player,” SLU associate head coach Mike Hurlbut said. “Defensively, we really count on him to be strong in all situations. He's playing really well.”
It wasn't until 13 seconds left in the game that Michigan Tech scored its final goal with an extra attacker. By then, though, the drum was beating from the student section and the chants of S-L-U were echoing throughout Appleton Arena.
“Our discipline has been pretty good since the first couple games and we're really happy with how the guys have responded to our demand,” Hurlbut said. “Obviously we need to stay that way to be successful.”
It was the first nonconference win of the season for the Saints after failing on five previous efforts. It also marked the first win against a ranked opponent. St. Lawrence has now won five of its last six games.
Add to it that the freshmen again played a large offensive role in the last two contests and St. Lawrence is looking forward to the second half of the season and the rest of conference play, which resumes next week.
Against Michigan Tech, freshman Chris Martin notched his fourth goal of the year and assisted on one of Essery's scores.
“Everyone is just playing their roles and doing what they have to do,” Essery said. “If they continue doing that, they're going to be good for the next three years and we should have a pretty good team if we keep playing like we are.”
It's a much different last six games than St. Lawrence five straight losses to start the year. Since, the Saints aren't blowing out teams, but have won five grueling games with only one coming by more than one goal.
“We're getting there,” Hurlbut said. “Obviously, we have to be pleased with another win but we aren't going to be satisfied until we're playing well shift after shift and a nice relentless attack on our part.”
Until then, the Saints will surely and characteristically continue to play as hard as any opponent. And if it takes harnessing the power of brutal hair to win, Essery and the Saints will gladly comply.
“(The coaches) said it would be a big test and a big win for us,” Essery said. “We went right for it. (Tonight) was exactly what we wanted to do.”