MT. PROSPECT — For somebody who just scored two goals in a 3-0 win for his side — against heated rival Stevenson, no less — Saint Viator’s Reiden Mueller was not impressed with himself in the least.
“I did absolutely nothing,” Mueller said. “Honestly, the defense gave it all to me. It was all them. I just had to shoot it.”
The reason for Mueller’s vehement humility had everything to do with two sweet outlet passes sent to his stick by defensemen Sean Wilson and Carsen Hart.
Mueller naturally deserves credit for finishing on two scoring chances but his side’s ability to catch Stevenson in transition keyed both of his goals.
A Scholastic Hockey League game that saw a fast start from Saint Viator in a scoreless first period saw the game turn in the second. With just over nine minutes remaining in the period, at the tail end of a Stevenson power play, Wilson won a puck at the boards on the right side and went around a Stevenson player.
Wilson found Mueller ahead in transition and Mueller went in alone on net to give Saint Viator a 1-0 lead.
“That was all Sean Wilson, grinding on the boards,” Mueller said. “He chipped it out and I was alone.”
Five minutes later, it was Hart’s turn to spearhead a transition goal. From deep in Saint Viator’s defensive zone, a seam opened up the middle of the ice. Mueller flashed for the puck and Hart sent a long pass up the gut that sprang Mueller and once again sent him in alone on net.
Mueller finished on the play to give the Lions a 2-0 lead.
“I was going to go off the glass but then I picked my head up,” Hart said. “I saw (Mueller) down the middle and I just stretched it.”
Stevenson entered the game missing two or three of its top scorers for various reasons. The Patriots still found scoring chances and were only out-shot by the Lions 22-19, but Saint Viator (2-3-0 in SHL play) and goalie Dominic Grimaldi kept them at bay.
Grimaldi shined in the second period. Stevenson had 12 shots in the period but Grimaldi was on point, both on shots taken from point-blank range amid a crowded goalmouth and on quality shots from distance.
One week after shutting out a high-scoring team in Glenbrook North, the Lions repeated the feat against Stevenson.
“That’s on our goalies. Our goalies save our butts,” Mueller said.
“We’ve got a three-man rotation and they’re all solid,” Hart said of Saint Viator’s goaltending core, which includes Brian Biehl and Michael Massaro.
Stevenson goalie Jonathan Adler also had a better day than the final score might suggest. He stood tall under Saint Viator’s first-period attacking pressure to keep the slate clean.
Giving up two breakaways and a third goal on a wide-open look on a defensive misstep was obviously less than ideal for Stevenson. Especially since the Patriots entered the game without forwards Davis Jegers and Alan Wu, and lost forwards Rafael Biedron and Cam Schneider during the game.
Stevenson forward Dylan Jette did what he could to help dig his side out of a hole, but it wasn’t to be.
“Dylan Jette has been playing really well and I thought he had a good game today and had a couple opportunities,” Wood said. “I thought Adler had an amazing game, for sure, and Nolan Jones played really well. We were shorthanded tonight but I was proud of how we competed. I thought we held on for a while and then ran out of gas a little bit.
“We did a real nice job at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third period. They were all over us at the start and then in the middle of the game we just made two huge mistakes on two breakaways, and the goal at the end came on a bad turnover. But those are easy to correct.”
The game’s third goal came late in the third period when Saint Viator’s Sean Nutley found Will Minarik on the weak side and Minarik’s one-timer stretched the back netting with five minutes remaining.
Stevenson (2-2-0 in SHL play) left Saint Viator’s home ice with a loss, but a long season guarantees a few more cracks at their local rival.
“If we had a few more of our players out there, and we weren’t taking bad penalties, I think we definitely would have gotten a few goals,” Adler said.
“I liked the intensity that everyone was bringing. They weren’t slow and they were trying their hardest out there. We made some mistakes on those breakaways but it’s all good. We were able to get some shots on goal but their goalie played really good.”