The Jayhawks graced the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena with a win to tie up the series against visitors South Dakota State, just before the highly-anticipated Border Showdown on the 15th and after their two away game victories. The players and coaches attributed the successful weekend to the increased confidence and effort in the push for Regionals in two weeks, ramping up the intensity of practices and plays.
Friday night’s game involved a dynamic start, despite South Dakota being short-benched with only ten players. Pressure on both goalies was applied generously during the back-and-forth action, but the visitors managed to score the first goal of the game with little over five minutes left in the period. The Jackrabbits scored another 30 seconds later, but were answered by #25 Dawson Engle with a goal to conclude the first third. The second period ushered in more shots from the Jayhawks, resulting in another Kansas goal by #9 Logan Haverstrom to tie the game. As the home team regained power, #12 Preston McConnell scored, South Dakota scored, and KU scored again with the help of #25 Engle in the final minute of the second period, the score at 4-3.
Penalties on South Dakota opened the third period, and #22 Miles Manson net one for the Jayhawks, followed by a goal seconds later from #16 freshman Breven Bennett. Another solid shot from #19 Reece Doty brought the board up to 7-3 in favor of the home team. Goaltender #29 Will Dufresne showed grace under pressure as he faced more attention from the increasingly desperate Jackrabbits, but the opposition still managed to score in the scuffles around the pipes. With less than six minutes left in the game, #18 Conor Ryan made a goal, followed by two from SDSU to make the score 8-6, but #8 Brad Glass wasted no time in scoring one more. To end the game, captain #23 Brent Bockman added a point to secure the Kansas win at 10-7, even though the harder play and physicality made for a significant challenge.
Both teams exhibited drive and hustle in the Saturday afternoon game, with goaltender #60 Cooper Johnston finally in between the pipes for Kansas. The KU offense added even more force on the SDSU net, and a goal from #22 Manson finally lit up the scoreboard after eight minutes of hard skating. The amplified Jayhawk offense left the home goalie lonesome on his end, with very few shot attempts from the opposition. More aggression from South Dakota pushed the Kansas players out of their zone in a match over the blue lines, the absence of goals increasing frustration for both teams. However, #12 McConnell ended the drought with a goal, and #8 Glass followed suit, taking advantage of South Dakota’s short bench to end the second period at 3-0. The third period saw another goal from #8 Glass two minutes in, supplemented by one from #19 Doty thirty seconds later. The adrenaline and score imbalance resulted in clashes and a misconduct penalty on SDSU, as well as #22 Manson scoring again with a later contribution from #7 Grant Anderson with 11:20 left in the game, bringing KU up 7-0. #25 Engle landed one in the net right after a faceoff win, and #10 Lucas Snyder wrapped up the intense game by scoring with two seconds left, leaving the Jayhawks victorious by 9-0 for the weekend and optimistic for the road ahead.
“It meant the world to me to go out and put my skates on one more time with my brothers,” said senior Lucas Snyder, who recently returned back to the ice after injury. “We are going to put our best foot forward. Andy has constantly expressed that this week and next week are the most important two weeks of practice and we need to get focused on what is ahead of us.”
“We kept focused and kept going,” said Head Coach Andy McConnell. “We also had a lot of guys that hadn’t played in a while, like Breven and Will, so to play through that was good, we did very well. However, we still need to score no matter how big or small the opposition is, close in on our opportunities, and capitalize for Regionals.”