#17 SCSU HUSKIES VS #20 OMAHA MAVERICKS
The #17 St. Cloud State University Huskies (7-6-1 | 3-4-1 ) host the #20 Omaha Mavericks (8-5-3 | 3-3-0) in another key NCHC series Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, MN. Game times are 7:37 PM CT Friday and 7:07 PM CT Saturday. This will be the final home conference series of 2016. The Huskies do not return to home ice until January 20th vs the Denver Pioneers.
Tickets: Tickets are available online through the SCSU Ticket Office or in person at the SCSU Box Office located in the main lobby of the Brooks Center. Tickets are also available through the official secondary market TixCity
TV: SCSU Sports Network (Charter 823 | 426)
Video Stream: NCHC.TV
Radio | Audio Stream: Both games will be broadcast on REV 96.9 FM with play by play announcer Jim Erickson and Dave Reichel doing color commentary. The broadcast will also be aired on university station KVSC 88.1 FM
HEAD TO HEAD
SCSU leads the all-time series at the Division I level 15-9-2 dating back to 1998. SCSU is 4-1-0 in the last 5 and 7-3-0 in the last 10. Last season the Huskies were 3-1-0 vs Omaha including a sweep at Baxter Arena and a split in St. Cloud. The Huskies have only lost once in the last eight outings vs the Mavericks.
Omaha earned a 3-3 overtime tie and 7-4 win on the road at Wisconsin last weekend. On Friday, after falling behind early 1-0, the Mavericks scored three times in the first period including a short-handed goal by Frederick Olofsson to take a two goal lead. However, the Badgers scored the only goals of the final two periods to knot the score at 3-3. The two teams skated to a scoreless overtime session for a 3-3 final. Evan Weninger stopped 47 of 50 Wisconsin shots on goal in the win and was named NCHC goaltender of the week. On Saturday in the rematch, the teams skated to a 2-2 draw after two periods only to see Omaha outscore the Badgers 5-2 in a wild third period for a 7-4 final. Austin Ortega led the Mavs with a hat trick plus an assist for a four-goal game and he was named NCHC offensive player of the week. Jake Randolph also added two goals and an assist and Tyler Vessel added three assists in the win. Omaha goaltender Kris Oldham stopped 40 SOG to earn his 3rd win of the season. An interesting statistic had Wisconsin outshooting the Mavericks 94-57 for the series yet they were outscored 10-7.
The Huskies were also on the road for a conference series with Western Michigan University. On Friday, in a tight checking defensive battle, Mikey Eyssimont scored 48 seconds into the game and that 1-0 lead held until the third period when goals by Blake Winiecki and Robby Jackson (EN) sealed the 3-0 win. Zach Driscoll stopped all 26 WMU shots on goal in earning his first collegiate shutout. On Saturday in a wide open offensive affair, the Huskies fell behind in the first period by a 2-0 deficit but rallied for the next three goals to take a 3-2 lead. In a see-saw battle, SCSU had a 5-4 lead until the third period when Mike McKee scored the equalizer tying the game at 5-5. After two scoreless overtime sessions WMU finally earned the extra league point on a shootout goal by Wade Allison. Outstanding special teams play buoyed the Huskies in this series killing all five WMU power plays and converting 3 of 5 of their own in picking up four of six league points.
The #20 (USCHO) Mavericks have had mixed results this season similar to the Huskies. They are 3-3-0 in conference including a split with Colorado College, a sweep of Miami and getting swept by #1 UMD. However, they have been tough on the road compiling a 6-0-2 record including earning a win and tie in each of the last two road series at Northern Michigan and Wisconsin. The trip to St. Cloud this weekend will be their third consecutive series on the road.
The Mavericks have a lean senior class with only Ian Brady (DE), Austin Ortega (F) and Justin Parizek (F) returning for the 2016-17 season. They took a big hit with senior to be Jake Guentzel (19-27-46) signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. Nevertheless, they do have a large class of juniors (7) and ten sophomores to provide experience in their lineup The Mavericks offense returns 236 points from 2015-16 and thus no major concerns when it comes to putting the puck in the net. As expected, senior and captain, Austin Ortega is a game-breaker and already has logged 12 goals and 10 assists including 2 game-winning goals, 4 power pay goals and 1 short-handed goal. Junior Tyler Vessel has 6 goals, 13 assists and 4 power play goals. Two other juniors that have made solid contributions are David Pope (5-11-16) and Jake Randolph (4-12-16). Freshman, Teemu Pulkkinen (2-5-7) is a first-year forward to keep an eye on.
On defense, junior Luc Snuggerud leads the pack with 6 goals, 9 assists and 15 points. Senior Ian Brady is a solid defender who has contributed 12 points and first-year defenseman Ryan Jones is one of the top young players in the league this season. Goaltending duties have been split between underclassmen, Evan Weninger a sophomore and Kris Oldham a first-year player. Weninger is 5-2-2 with a 2.68 GAA and .909 SV%. Oldham is 3-2-1 with a 2.97 GAA and .901 SV%.
On special teams, the Maverick power play is ranked #1 converting slightly over 30% of its opportunities but the penalty kill is lagging at 81.3% and 41st in the country. The Maverick offense is #7 with 3.69 goals per game and the defense tied for #30 allowing 3.00 goals per game. Much like the Huskies, they’ve stayed out of the penalty box and are ranked 43 out of 60 teams.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES
The Huskies rebounded from a disastrous series at home vs North Dakota getting shutout both games and swept to earn 4 of 6 points vs a solid Western Michigan squad last weekend. Special teams were outstanding shutting out WMU 5 times on the man-advantage and scoring 3 of 5 times on the power play. Power play specialist, Mikey Eyssimont had a big weekend as a result picking up a goal and two assists on the man-advantage and two goals and five points in the series. As a resuIt of his weekend success, Eyssinont has taken over both the goal scoring and points lead on the team with 8-6-14. It was also good to see Jacob Benson get untracked on the power play with two consecutive goals on Saturday. Blake Winiecki’s six-game scoring streak was snapped in the North Dakota series but he did rebound with three points vs the Broncos.
Continuing evidence of the Huskies challenges on offense has a first-year defenseman, Jack Ahcan, the second leading points scorer at 2-10-12 and defensemen occupying 4 of the top 10 positions in scoring. Judd Peterson started the season with 10 points in 9 games but has one point in the last 5 games. Ditto for Patrick Newell who has one assist in the last four games. The coaching continues to look for the right line combinations using 24 different forward line combinations so far this season. The most successful line combination has been the Eyssimont | Winiecki | Newell line with 24 points. The Huskies have outscored their opponents by the slight margin of 49-46 so far this season. Faceoffs continue to be an issue with the opponents holding a 423-407 advantage over SCSU.
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 and is second on the team in points with 12 and +2. Sophomore Jimmy Schuldt is 2-8-10 +7 and sophomore Will Borgen is 1-8-9 +5. Goaltending had mixed results last weekend with Zach Driscoll earning his first collegiate shutout on Friday in the 3-0 win but allowing five goals on 34 shots (.85 SV%) on Saturday. Zach Driscoll is currently 6-4-1 with a 3.04 GAA and .894 SV%. Combined numbers for the SCSU netminders are 3.26 GAA and .884 SV%.
Statistically, the Huskies had a nice weekend vs WMU scoring 8 goals, shutting down the WMU power play in five attempts and scoring 3 of 5 times on the power play. Yet, nationally the Huskies continue to be middle of the road in most categories. On offense, SCSU is #12 in scoring 3.50 goals per game and allowing 3.29 goals per game placing them #44 in that category. The power play is ranked 17th converting 20% and the penalty kill 33rd at 82.7%. As always, the Huskies spend little time in the penalty box and are currently ranked 59th out of 60 teams.
This weekends series should be another grinder for the Huskies. Facing the top power play in college hockey and the seventh best offense the Huskies will need to be sharp defensively. With the offensive firepower of Omaha, the Huskies will need to adhere to strong defensive play in their zone, limiting costly turnovers and using their mobility to quickly transition the puck up ice. With the number of snipers in the Omaha lineup the goaltending needs to continue their attention to rebound control. Despite SCSU’s success on the penalty kill vs Western Michigan staying out of the penalty box is a no-brainer considering the Mavericks are converting at 30% of their opportunities. However, the Mavericks penalty kill is susceptible and the Huskies will need to continue their momentum on the man-advantage when given the opportunity this weekend.
The Mavericks too have shuffled their top lines so it’s hard to say who will be paired for Omaha this weekend. Regardless of the lineup, as home team the Huskies will have last change allowing them to get the beneficial line matchups they want. They’ll have to do their best to neutralize Austin Ortega, a potent scorer who already has two game-winning goals this season and keep Vessel, Randolph and Parizek in check.
Omaha has been very good on the road thus far this season (6-0-2). However they could be a little road weary being this is their third consecutive week on the road. That may be to the Huskies advantage particularly on Saturday night. For what it’s worth, the Huskies are 8-1-0 in their last nine outings vs Omaha and haven’t been a good draw for the Mavericks.An esarly lead and getting the home crowd behind them would be helpful for the Huskies.
With a single point separating the two teams in the NCHC standings this is another important series as the Huskies continue to try to hold on to a top four position draw some distance between them and Omaha. This is the only series between the two squads this season and the Huskies need to maximize the home ice advantage.
As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found here