#17/19 SCSU HUSKIES VS #16/13 WMU BRONCOS
The #18 (USCHO) #19 (US College Hockey|USA Today) St. Cloud State University Huskies (6-6-0 | 2-4-0 ) face the #16 (USCHO) #13 (US College Hockey|USA Today) Western Michigan University Broncos (7-3-2 | 3-3-0) in a key NCHC series Friday, December 2 and Saturday, December 3 at the Lawson Ice Rink in Kalamazoo, MI. Game times are 6:00 PM CT Friday and 6:00 PM CT Saturday.
Tickets: Tickets are available online through the WMU Ticket office or in person at the Lawson Ice Rink
TV: No television coverage of this series
Video Stream: NCHC.TV
HEAD TO HEAD
SCSU and Bob Motzko lead the all-time series at the Division I level 9-4-2. SCSU is 5-0-0 in the last 5 and 8-1-1 in the last 10 and in Kalamazoo the Huskies are 5-0-1. The Huskies last faced the Broncos on 3/12/16 in St. Cloud in the NCHC quarterfinals with the Huskies winning 4-2 to advance to the 2016 Frozen Faceoff. Western Michigan last defeated SCSU on 1/24/15 in St. Cloud by a score of 3-2. The Huskies outscored WMU 39-13 in the six games played between the two teams last season.
The WMU Broncos were idle last weekend. On November 18 and 19 the Broncos hosted the Air Force Academy in non-conference play skating to a 5-5 overtime tie on Friday and rebounding for a 4-1 win in the Saturday rematch. In the series opener, four different WMU players scored to stake the Broncos to a 4-1 lead after period one. However, they were unable to sustain the lead as they were outscored by the Falcons 3-1 in the final two periods to salvage a 5-5 overtime tie. Griffin Molino led the Broncos with two goals and Taylor Fleming led the team with three assists. Goaltender Trevor Gorsuch stopped 26/31 AFA shots on goal ( .838 SV%) in the tie. In the rematch, WMU broke open a 1-1 tie after one period to score the next three goals including two by Mathew Iacopelli in the 4-1 victory. Collin Olson got the start in goal and turned aside 17/18 shots on goal (.944 SV %) to log the win.
The Huskies also had last weekend off after dropping a pair to the University of North Dakota the weekend before. In a frustrating start to the weekend series, North Dakota stretched a 1-0 lead after one period to 4-0 after two periods to bury the Huskies. Shane Gersich led North Dakota with a hat trick and Cam Johnson picked up the shutout in the win. The Huskies were outshot 40-26 for the game and were 0 for 4 on the man-advantage. Zach Driscoll stopped 27/32 SOG (.843 SV%) and Jeff Smith stopped all 8 shots he faced in the loss. On Saturday, UND duplicated the effort scoring single goals in each period and Cam Johnson once again stonewalled the Huskies in a 3-0 shutout. In a better effort by the Huskies, shots on goal were even at 36-36. SCSU was held scoreless in four attempts on the power play while the Huskies allowed 2 goals in 5 man-advantage opportunities for UND. SCSU’s Zach Driscoll stopped 33/36 SOG ( .91 SV% ) in the loss. The back to back shutout wins by North Dakota was the first time in the Division I era that the Huskies were shutout in a home weekend series.
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY BRONCOS
The Broncos have raised some eyebrows with their 7-3-2 start to the 2016-17 season. A much more balanced team, the Broncos are currently #4 in the nation in team offense scoring 3.83 goals per game while yielding 2.75 goals per game. That’s compared to the 2015-16 season when the Broncos scored just 2.22 goals per game while giving up 3.94 goals per game – both placing them near the bottom nationally. The resurgence is attributed to a well-rounded offense, contributions by both upper and underclassmen and positionally by both the forwards and defensemen. Aside from statistics, the team is also nicely balanced from a roster standpoint with thirteen upperclassmen and sixteen underclassmen.
Leadership at the forward position comes from captain Sheldon Dries, a crafty and energetic forward who has an outside chance of being a 100 point career scorer by the end of this season. So far in 2016-17 he has 3-6-9 in 12 games. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the explosion in scoring from sophomore Matheson Iacopelli who had 1 goal and 6 assists in 27 games in 2015-16. Currently he leads the squad in points with 12 goals and 4 assists for 16 points in 12 games. Currently ranked second in goal scoring in the country, Iacopelli has had six multiple point games thus far this season.Other forwards to keep an eye on are German import, Frederick Tiffels who has been surprisingly quiet at 2-4-6, sophomore Griffen Molino (4-7-11) and first-year power forward Wade Allison (6-3-6) who can be a game changer.
At defense, the squad is led by Junior, Scott Moldenhauser an imposing 6’4″ 225 (3-6-9) and the experience of senior Chris Dienes who has played in 115 career games. Fellow senior, Taylor Fleming from Waconia, MN has catapulted from 6 assists in 2015-16 to 12 assists in 12 games already this season. Added support comes from 6′ 200 pound defender, Corey Schueneman, a sophomore who has 2-5-7. In goal, sophomore Trevor Gorsuch has played in 9 of the teams 12 games logging a 4-3-2 record, 2.90 GAA and .901 SV%. Backup goaltender Collin Olson won his last start vs the Air Force Academy.
Special teams have been effective this season so far for the Broncos. The power play is currently ranked 5th in the country at 24.14% and the penalty kill has been successful as well at 83.3%.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES
One word describes the Huskies so far this season – “inconsistent”. It’s been difficult to predict which team will show up for a series. However, an unusual bit of consistency has been that the Huskies have not split a weekend series so far this season. They have either swept their opponent or been swept by their opponent. For example, after outscoring Colorado College 11-4 on the road on November 11 and 12, the Huskies returned home the following weekend to be shutout by a combined score of 7-0 by UND. Evidence of their challenges at offense has a first-year defenseman, Jack Ahcan, leading the team in points with 2-8-10. Leading goal scorer, Judd Peterson started the season with 10 points in 9 games but has no points in the last three games. Sophomore Mikey Eyssimont is the teams leading conference scorer with 5 points placing him 21st in the NCHC. Additionally, the coaching staff is still looking for the right line combinations already using 19 different forward line combinations so far this season. The most successful line combination has been the Eyssimont | Winiecki | Newell line with 14 points. It probably makes sense that the Huskies record is 6-6-0 being that they have matched their opponents in goals this season at 41-41.
Defensively, it’s been a mixed bag with three defenseman in the plus of +/- and four in the negative. First-year defenseman Jack Ahcan is having an outstanding season tied for the lead in team points with 10 and +3. Sophomore Jimmy Schuldt is 2-6-8 +6 and sophomore Will Borgen is 0-7-7 +4. Goaltending is a work in progress and trending up with sophomore transfer Jeff Smith and first-year Zach Driscoll sharing duties. Driscoll appears to have emerged as the lead goaltender logging both games last series vs North Dakota and finishing the weekend stopping 60 of 68 UND shots on goal (.88 SV%). Zach Driscoll is currently 5-4-0 with a 3.22 GAA and .888 SV%. Combined numbers for the SCSU netminders are 3.49 GAA and .878 SV%. These numbers need to improve if the Huskies are to be successful the balance of the season.
Statistically, there is little to crow about. SCSU is #14 in the country in offense at 3.42 goals per game and coincidentally allowing 3.42 goals per game placing them #51 in that category. The power play is ranked 32nd converting 16.67% and the penalty kill at 48th at 79.5%. As always, the Huskies spend little time in the penalty box and are currently ranked #58th out of 60 teams.
Improvements across the board in offense, defense, special teams and goaltending needs to occur if they are to climb the standings the second half of the season.
Forget about the SCSU six game winning streak or outscoring the Broncos 39-13 last season. This is a much improved WMU team and the Huskies will have their hands full at a rink with a definate home ice advantage with the backing of the “Lawson Lunatics”. The Broncos are undefeated at home this season with the only blemish a 5-5 overtime tie with the Air Force Academy. They’ve averaged five goals per game and have only allowed 2.33 goals per game – they’ve been very good on their home ice. Statistically, the Broncos are superior in every offensive and defensive category including special teams when compared to the Huskies. They are also an older, more experienced squad with thirteen upperclassmen and with six NHL drafted players certainly have some high end talent.
No doubt the Broncos will be looking to avenge the embarrassing 11-1 defeat last November on their home ice. Key players for the Broncos to keep an eye on are forwards Sheldon Dries, Frederick Tiffels, Matheson Iacopelli, Griffen Molino and Wade Allison. On defense Scott Moldenhauser, Chris Dienes, Taylor Fleming and Corey Schueneman lead a solid core of players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos rotate goalies this weekend with Gorsuch the starter on Friday.
After this series, the Huskies will be one-third of the way through their conference schedule. Already eights points out of second place, the Huskies need to keep pace with the top four teams and that includes this weeks opponent, WMU. Certainly patience is a virtue with this young squad but with a brutally tough NCHC schedule it’ll be necessary to develop some consistency and improved team play. The Huskies will need a better performance out of their special teams that was shut out in eight tries last weekend. And of course, after getting shutout in two consecutive games, the Huskies need to kick their offense in gear. The goaltending needs to continue to take steps forward and once again they’ll be tested by an improved offensive team in the Broncos. Physically, WMU has a larger presence and the Huskies will need to use their speed to cope with the style play we’re used to from the Broncos on a smaller ice surface. It’ll should be a raucous environment considering the success the Broncos have been having at home and a new experience for those players that have not competed at Lawson Rink before. In my opinion, a road split would be acceptable this weekend.
This has become one of my favorite road trips in the NCHC and I’ll bring you updates during the weekend. As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found here