MOORHEAD, Minn. (1/07/17)---Strong goaltending and sensational defense continue to be the calling card of Concordia since the start of December.
It was no surprise that the Cobbers got a stellar defensive effort for the second time on the weekend as they used a 38-save performance from freshman goalie Jacob Stephan and two goals from Mario Bianchi to beat Wis.-River Falls 2-1.
Concordia, who has not lost since November, wins its fifth straight game and ups it overall record to 9-4-0. River Falls has their four-game win streak come to a halt and falls to 6-9-1.
River Falls scored the game's first goal at 13:28 of the initial frame. The Falcons' Hunter Schneider cut to the middle of the crease before slotting a shot past Stephan in the Cobber net.
The maroon and gold tied the game less than a minute later when Bianchi scored his first of two on the afternoon. Senior Jeremy Johnson drove towards the net and in the ensuing rebound scramble Bianchi was able to slide the puck past the Falcon goaltender to tie the game at 1-1. Johnson and Dalton Mills were given the assists on the tally at 14:17.
On the ensuing River Falls offensive possession, Stephan made a brilliant save on a 2-on-1 to keep the game knotted at a goal apiece. The save was one of 38 for Stephan on the afternoon and kept momentum in Concordia's favor for the rest of the game.
The scoring in the first period, and for the entire game, finished three minutes after Bianchi's first goal. Johnson once again set up the strike from Bianchi. Johnson drove around the right side of the River Falls defense and then lifted a beautiful saucer pass that the sophomore tapped home for the home team's first lead of the afternoon. Tanner Okeson was credited with the second assist on Bianchi's second goal at 17:40.
After the offensive dynamo in the first period, both teams settled into a defensive battle which yielded no goals in the final 40 minutes of play. River Falls peppered Jacob Stephan with 26 shots in the two frames but the freshman from Eagle River, Wis. calmly shut the door on every shot to stretch the Concordia winning streak to five games.
The visitors had a flurry of chances in the final minute of the game, but the Cobber defense — led by stalwart efforts from Connor Kelly, Zach Doerring and Jeremy Johnson — held firm to give Concordia its third win over opponents from Wisconsin.
HIGH FIVE: The five-game win streak by Concordia is the most since the 2012-13 campaign when they also won five straight. The last time a CC team won more than five straight was in 1999-00 when they fashioned a seven-game win stretch. That was the year the Cobbers won the MIAC playoffs and lost to Wis.-Superior in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
BLOCK PARTY: The Cobbers blocked 14 shots on the afternoon to help out their goaltender. Six of Concordia's blocks came in the final minute of the game which sealed the victory for the home side. Stephan only faced two shots in the final minute thanks to the stout defensive effort from the CC.
BIG D: No, it's not a shout out to Dallas but a tribute to the Cobber defense which has not allowed more than two goals in any of its last five games. Concordia has only allowed 32 goals this season which is tied for second best in the conference.
SUPER MARIO: Mario Bianchi tallied his third straight two-point night with a pair of goals today. The sophomore has seven points in his last four games dating back to December 3. He now has four goals and seven assists for 11 points which is tied for second on the team. Bianchi has already set a career high in goals with four and is also on pace to break his point total of 15 from last season.
4-7-11 CREW: Bianchi, Jon Grebosky and Garrett Hendrickson are all tied for second place on the team in points with 11. All three have identical stat lines of four goals and seven assists.
GIVE IT AWAY JJ: Jeremy Johnson added two assists to his team-leading total of 10. Johnson's 10 helpers is a career high for the senior and he is currently tied for third in the MIAC in assists.
WHAT'S NEXT: Concordia will start the new semester with a pair of MIAC home games next weekend against Hamline. The Pipers head into the opening conference series of 2017 with a 6-5-3 overall record and a 3-3-0 mark in the MIAC.
CONCORDIA vs. WIS.-RIVER FALLS HIGHLIGHTS: