SCSU Faces #3 UMD Bulldogs in Duluth this Weekend

Ben Storm celebrates a goal vs UMD in St. Cloud in November (Photo Prout)

Ben Storm celebrates a goal vs UMD in St. Cloud in November (Photo Prout)

SCSU HUSKIES  VS  #3 UMD BULLDOGS

The  St. Cloud State University Huskies (4-7-1 | 9-10-1 ) return to conference play with a road series vs #3 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs ( 8-3-1 | 12-4-4 ) on Friday, January 13 and Saturday, January 14. Game times are 7:07 PM CT each night. Both games are at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, MN. Tickets are available through the Amsoil Arena Box Office or the Bulldogs official ticket partner Ticketmaster.

TV: The Friday game  will be broadcast live on Fox Sports North Plus | Channel information

Video Stream:  NCHC.TV

Radio | Audio Stream: Both games on  REV 96.9 FM with the broadcast team of Jim Erickson and Dave Reichel.

The Bulldogs flagship station is 92.1 FM  with veteran announcer Bruce Ciskie doing play-by-play

HEAD TO HEAD

SCSU leads the all-time series at the Division I level 60-43-8. Bob Motzko has a 22-15-4 record vs the Bulldogs. SCSU is 1-4 in the last 5 and 3-6-1 in the last 10 vs UMD. Since November of 2002 SCSU is 13-12-2 vs UMD in Duluth. The Huskies last faced the Bulldogs on November 3 and 4 in St. Cloud and dropped both games by identical 5-3 scores.

LAST SERIES

The Bulldogs had a tough weekend vs Colorado College at home last weekend tying 2-2 on Friday and dropping the rematch 2-1. On Friday, Grand Rapids, MN natives Avery Peterson and Sam Rothstein traded goals in the first period to knot the game at 1-1 after one period. St. Cloud native Matt Hanson gave CC a 2-1 second period lead with a power play goal. UMD defenseman Neal Pionk then scored the game tying going with 42 seconds remaining in regulation with the goaltender pulled and an extra attacker. UMD won the shootout 1-0 for the extra league point. On Saturday, Mason Bergh gave the Tigers an early first period lead with his 10th goal of the season. The teams then traded power play goals in period two with Teemu Kivihalme netting the game winner for Colorado College. Hunter Miska started both contests for the Bulldogs and stopped 39 of 43 shots on goals over the weekend series.

The Huskies had a disappointing road trip in Oxford, OH vs the Miami RedHawks dropping Friday’s game 3-2 in overtime and losing the Saturday rematch 4-1 (EN). On Friday, goals by MIkey Eyssimont and Blake Winiecki had SCSU in the driver’s seat with a lead late in period three. Up 2-1 with 2:15 left in regulation, the Huskies Jacob Benson was whistled for a five-minute major for contact to the head. Subsequently, Miami’s Josh Melnick scored with 56 seconds remaining in regulation and then 1:23 into overtime to give Miami an improbable win over the Huskies at the Goggin Ice Center in Oxford, OH.

After the frustrating 3-2 loss on Friday getting beat by Miami’s power play, the Huskies could not conjure up any success in six man-advantage chances in the rematch on Saturday and fell to unranked Miami 4-1 (EN). Jake Wahlin drew SCSU to within one goal with his fourth goal of the season in period three but Miami responded with a power play goal and an empty netter for the 4-1 win and sweep of the Huskies. SCSU outshot the RedHawks 29-22 for the game. Jeff Smith started both game for SCSU stopping 31 of 34 shots on Friday and 18 of 21 on Saturday.

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA-DULUTH BULLDOGS

Despite losing their top two scorers and starting goaltender from the 2015-16 season, the Bulldogs return a seasoned group of players including 7 seniors and 6 juniors. They return 159 points from last season made up of experienced forwards Alex Iafallo, Dominic Toninato, Kyle Osterberg, Adam Johnson and Karson Kuhlman and returning defenseman Carson Soucy, Willie Raskob and Neal Pionk. Pionk is having an outstanding season with 5-12-17 and three power play goals. Carson Soucy has contributed well to the offense with 3 goals and 10 assists.Omaha transfer Avery Peterson has added additional depth to the Bulldogs offense.

The defection of top goaltender and sophomore, Kasimir Kaskisuo placed the Bulldogs in the same predicament as the Huskies requiring UMD to bring in two first year goaltenders. Hunter Miska, who led his USHL team to the Clark finals also was a predecessor to the Huskies Zach Driscoll at the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. UMD also brought in Hunter Shepard who was the 2013-14 MN High School Senior Goaltender of the Year and 2015-16 NAHL Goaltender of the Year. Miska has been a welcome surprise logging a 11-3-2 record including three shutouts. His numbers are currently outstanding with a .919 SV% and 2.17 GAA.

At forward, the Bulldogs brought in two high level forwards in Joey Anderson, a third round draft choice of the New York Islanders, currently 2nd on the squad in scoring with 6-12-18 in seventeen games and Riley Tufte, a 6’5″ 205 forward who was drafted 25th by the Dallas Stars in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. However, last years Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Tufte has had a slow start to the season having only one point in sixteen games. Anderson was a key forward for Team USA in their Gold Medal effort this past week in the World Junior CHampionship.

The Bulldogs power play has been middle of the road and is currently ranked 25th in college hockey at 18.48%.  Nationally, the Bulldogs offense is ranked #18th (3.20 GPG) tied with SCSU, defense #8 (2.15 GAPG) and penalty kill needing improvement ranked #41 at 81.2%. The Bulldogs are not penalized much ranked 43 out of 60 teams averaging about 12 penalty minutes per game.

ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES

At forward, between graduation and an early pro signing, the Huskies have lost 219 points of offense. That’s a lot of ground to make up with the responsibility falling primarily on junior forwards Judd Peterson and  Blake Winiecki and a strong group of sophomores including Mikey Eyssimont, Robby Jackson, Jacob Benson, and Patrick Newell. It’s been an inconsistent effort with Mikey Eyssimont leading the squad with 10-8-18 including three game-winning goals and four power play goals. Judd Peterson is tied for second on the team with nine goals but he’s been streaky with only two goals in the last eleven games. Blake Winiecki has four multiple point games, 3 power play goals and has 9-8-17 good for second on the team in points. More goal scoring was expected out of Patrick Newell who has only netted two goals in 20 games but he is third on the team in points with 19. Robby Jackson had only three goals prior to the ASU Desert Classic where he doubled his output. But he’s been scoreless in his last six out of seven games. Quietly, the Poehling brothers are showing improvement game by game and now have a combined 7-12-19. They’ve become one of the top overall energy lines for the Huskies.

Defensively, there have probably been more lapses than expected and better overall unit performance is needed in the second half of the season. First-year defenseman, Jack Ahcan has been a gem fourth in points with 13 but -2 in plus/minus. Sophomores Schuldt and Borgen have been good leaders back at the point with a combined 20 points and +10. First-year defenseman, Dennis Cholowski shows flashes of his huge upside but still struggles at times with the strength and speed of the NCHC. He has 10 points but is -4 in plus/minus.  Senior Niklas Nevalainen and sophomore Jon Lizotte have been steady performers back at DE.

Goaltending has been a concern the entire season with first-year goaltender Zach Driscoll and sophomore transfer Jeff Smith sharing duties. However, Smith has started the last five games going 2-3-0 with a .895 SV%. Combined, the goaltenders have a 3.21 GAA and .885 SV%. Improvement is still needed at this position.

Statistically, it’s been a mixed bag. SCSU is currently #18 in offense and tied with this weeks opponent UMD at 3.20 goals per game. But, they are also allowing 3.20 GGP which is a concern and places them  #40 in that category. The power play is #22 at 19.28% and  and the penalty kill 26th at 84%. SCSU continues to be one of the least penalized teams in college hockey (59th out of 60) averaging 9.85 minutes per game.

GAME PROSPECTUS

Both squads will be looking to improve on last weekends results. The Huskies are currently 13 points behind the Bulldogs in the NCHC standings but could close the gap quickly with a successful weekend. The Huskies played well against the Bulldogs in November carrying a lead into the third period in both games. Defensive miscues in both games cost them late in each contest. Goaltending and tighter defensive play will be a key to SCSU’s success against the Bulldogs.

Dominic Toninato always seems to step up his game vs SCSU. Joey Anderson, Alex Iafallo, Carson Soucy and Neal PIonk were all good in the last series. Hunter Miska has been outstanding in his first year and the Huskies need to get to him early as they did in the last series. Grittier play around the UMD goal will be necessary.

UMD defenseman Willie Raskob will miss Friday’s game due to a league one-game suspension due to an illegal hit.

Offensively, the Huskies need better five on five play and need to spread the scoring around beyond Eyssimont and Winiecki. Hopefully a return to Duluth will light a fire under Judd Peterson this weekend.

As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found here

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