St. Cloud, MN – It appeared to be a sigh of relief in coach Motzko’s post-game interview following the Saturday 4-2 win vs #20 Omaha at the Brooks Center. After five straight losses at home and an obvious lack of scoring punch from his team he had to be concerned after Friday’s 3-1 loss to a potent and experienced Omaha team. After all, he’s off to Canada to coach the USA World Junior squad and won’t see his team again until the Miami road series on January 6 and 7. Obviously the thought of returning home to face #2 ranked Denver University on January 20 with six straight home losses might have required a supply of Rolaids. Thus, an upbeat Motzko commented “There was one game in the first 16 that we got out-competed but, our guys come ready to play. We learned a lot of lessons in the first half. We needed to win a game (at home). I’m proud of our guys the first half. Let’s enjoy the break and come back and get after it in the second half”.
Drilling down the weekend, you can’t help but be positive about the way the weekend ended. Sure, the Mavericks were in the tail end of a six game road trip and certainly were expected to lay off the pedal after Friday’s win. However, this was a team that entered the weekend undefeated on the road, had a power play revving at 30% and were #7 in the country on offense. With a good mix of upperclassmen and 236 points of offense returning from the 2015-16 team it was another solid test for the young Huskies as they continue to “grow” during the 2016-17 season. For the second weekend in a row, the Huskies won the battle of special teams shutting down the Mavericks top-producing power play seven times and adding two goals on eight opportunities on the man-advantage over the series. They also outshot the Mavericks 41-24 on Friday and 36-24 on Saturday. Omaha goaltender Evan Weininger was simply unbeatable on Friday despite large segments of pressure by the Huskies in the Omaha defensive zone.
It was encouraging to see Jeff Smith inserted into the lineup on Saturday and stop close to 92% of the Omaha shots on goal. The Huskies need the competition at the goaltender position and Saturday’s result should most likely get Smith back into the rotation to start the second half of the season. Ryan Papa was inserted into the lineup for the first time since October 29th and he was placed on a line with Judd Peterson and Jacob Benson. The line certainly makes sense and it was productive with Papa earning two assists and Peterson scoring twice which were his first goals since November 11th vs Colorado College. If there was one element missing from the lineup this season it was grit and physical play around the opponent’s goal and this line provided it on Saturday. Said Papa “It was good to be back. We cycled the puck well an it contributed to success. My intensity makes me successful on the ice. If you look at the goals we scored we worked them below the goal line and won some puck battles. (We have to) bring the grit every game.” Both Peterson and Papa as upperclassmen need to be successful if the Huskies are to continue to progress the second half of the season.
First-year defenseman, Jack Ahcan continued his stellar play vs Omaha adding a power play goal on Saturday which maintained his hold of a tie for second on the squad in points. The 5′ 8″ 184 pound blueliner also stepped up his physical play including a crunching check at the blue line that rattled Omaha forward Jake Randolph in the third period. His upside potential is unlimited and the confidence he’s built over the first half of the season should serve him well in the upcoming World Junior tournament.
The Poehling brothers are as good as advertised and are going to be tremendous collegiate players. It’s their mission every time they step onto the ice to outwork their competition and it’s simply entertaining to see the combination of skill, energy and grit they bring to every shift. Each brings a little different element to their game and it’s interesting to see how each is earning specialty time on the ice in addition to their regular shifts. Their past hockey success drives them to compete and they will lead this team to some great successes in the future.
- The Huskies have killed 15 straight opponent power plays going back to the Western Michigan series.
- SCSU faces the University of Connecticut in the matinée game of the ASU Desert Hockey Classic on December 30th. It’s likely the Huskies will be without first-year forward and leading scorer Tage Thompson (12-8-20) who will be joining SCSU’s Jack Ahcan on the US World Junior team coached by Bob Motzko. UConn also has four rostered Minnesotan’s including Johnny Austin and Spencer Nass who played for Benilde-St. Margarets.
- Hard to believe but the Huskies have only three home regular season series remaining in the 2016-17 season – January 20/21 vs Denver; February 10/11 vs Miami and March 3/4 vs Colorado College
- With a two-goal weekend, Judd Peterson takes over the team lead in goals with nine.
- The SCSU goaltending statistics continue to improve with both netminders getting close to that magic goaltending save percentage of 90%. Jeff Smith is currently at .89 SV% and Zach Driscoll is at .889 SV%.
- The family of former SCSU President Earl H Potter III was presented with a no.22 SCSU hockey jersey (representing the 22nd President of SCSU) during the intermission on Saturday. Dr. Potter led a tireless effort to remodel the National Hockey Center now referred to as the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and was very proud of what SCSU hockey represented nationally for the school.
A preview of the ASU Desert Classic will be provided as we get closer to the tournament. I’ll be there to provide weekend updates. Also, stay up to date with SCSU hockey news etc at centericeview.com