The North Dakota Fighting Hawks made the trip to St. Cloud limping a bit after a six-game winless streak – something they hadn’t experienced for 14 years. They also were winless in the conference – another rarity for this program. But after a nearly perfect weekend of hockey they placed themselves in the SCSU record books. You see, the Huskies had never been shutout twice at home in a weekend series in the Division I era but that was now etched in the record books with 4-0 and 3-0 losses to UND.
Gone were last years stars Caggiula, Stecher, Schmaltz and LaDue for UND and Benik, Kossila, Russell, Prow and Lindgren for SCSU. In their place were a new crop of first-year players like Jost, Hoff and Bowen for the ‘Hawks and Ahcan, Cholowski and Poehling for the Huskies who were ready to stoke the rivalry between these two squads. With a 5-5-0 record between the teams in St. Cloud over the past 10 games certainly we’d see more of the same right? Not on this weekend. It was a new cast of characters for the Fighting Hawks that stepped forward and powered UND to the weekend sweep. Cam Johnson played 120 minutes of error-free hockey stopping all 26 shots on Friday and 36 on Saturday stunting a team that was scoring 4 goals per game heading into the series. In addition to the wins he was rewarded by being named NCHC Goalie of the Week. Sophomore Shane Gersich was unstoppable on Friday night getting a hat trick including the game-winning goal and for good measure, he added another in Saturday’s 3-0 win for his fourth goal of the weekend. Junior defenseman, Tucker Poolman was outstanding defensively and chipped in a goal and two assists and was named NCHC Defensive Player of the Week. Add to that some creative offensive play by super sophomore Brock Boesser and suddenly the defending national champs were back on track.
With the exception of the first five minutes or so on Friday, North Dakota simply was too much for the Huskies to handle. A 1-0 lead after period one was suddenly stretched to 4-0 after two periods and three goals by Gersich. UND was dominating in the faceoff circle, were beating the Huskies to loose pucks and then had Johnson back stopping whenever there was a breakdown. With their team speed, UND was perfectly at home on the Olympic sheet normally an advantage for the Huskies. UND also won the battle of power plays converting 1 of 3 while the Huskies failed on all four of their attempts. Suddenly North Dakota’s penalty kill which was less than 80% entering the series was suddenly looking formidable.
Saturday once again showcased another workmanlike effort by UND despite a better effort by the Huskies. Penalty trouble in the first period was capitalized on by North Dakota and they once again led 1-0 after 20 minutes. A creative play late in the second by Brock Boesser allowed Poolman to rifle one from the point for a 2-0 lead despite a pretty good period of play by the Huskies. But, the entire complexion of the game seemed to change after Judd Peterson was somehow stopped on a shorthanded breakaway early in the third period after a beautiful backhand-forehand move. Shortly thereafter Shane Gersich scored his fourth goal of the weekend and the result of the rematch was never in doubt after that. The Huskies were swept for the third time this season including four consecutive games at home. The losses dropped them to 2-4-0 in the conference and 15 points behind league leading UMD.
- Zach Driscoll started his fifth straight game for the Huskies on Saturday. He finished the weekend stopping 60 of 68 UND shots on goal for a .88 SV%. In my opinion more improvement by Driscoll including a number of outstanding saves.
- Former Burnsville, MN High School teammates Brock Boesser and Jack Ahcan battled for the first time as collegiate players. Boesser ended the series 0-3-3 with 8 SOG and +2. Ahcan was held without a point, had 2 SOG and was -1.
- Former teammates Zach Driscoll of SCSU and Tyson Jost of North Dakota faced off for the first time as well. Driscoll won the battle with the first round draft choice as he stopped all 6 SOG by Jost.
- The Poehling line was reunited once again on Saturday. The line was -1 with 6 shots on goal. They were so effective early in the second period on an extended shift it required North Dakota to call a timeout to regain their composure.
- Jon Lizotte was moved to forward replacing Jake Wahlin in the lineup. Lizotte skated on a line with Ben Storm and Daniel Tedesco. Lizotte was even in plus/minus and had one shot on goal.
- After a four-goal weekend Shane Gersich now has 10 goals on the season.
- St. Cloud native Austin Poganski was 0-1-1 with 4 shots and +1 for the series.
- After shutting out the Huskies twice, Cam Johnson’s record improves to 7-4-2 with a .915 SV% and 2.07 GAA.
- The Huskies were 0 for 8 on the power play in the series.
The Huskies have a two-week break before heading to Kalamazoo, MI to face the #18 ranked Western Michigan Broncos on December 2nd and 3rd.