Grand Forks, ND – After Friday’s 5-2 loss to North Dakota, the Huskies are down to their last gasp in an effort to ressucitate their 2016-17 season. A loss in the second game of the NCHC playoff series with the Fighting Hawks on Saturday will end the the SCSU season and send North Dakota to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff next weekend.
The Huskies found numerous ways to self-destruct on Friday via turnovers, a power play goal and putting the puck in their own net in a thoroughly frustrating loss at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Despite all the adversity, the Huskies closed to within a goal midway through the third period but the bottom fell out after that in the 5-2 loss.
A less than full house at Ralph Engelstad Arena had the fans sitting on their hands until midway through the first period when an unlikely goal gave the Fighting Hawks the 1-0 lead. A centering pass into the slot by Rhett Gardner was deflected off the stick of SCSU defenseman Jimmy Schuldt that lifted over SCSU’s Jeff Smith for the early lead. Slightly over a minute later, the Huskies turned the puck over just inside the SCSU zone and it ended up on the stick of UND top-scorer Shane Gersich who beat Smith on a breakaway for a 2-0 UND lead. In a rather uninspiring period of hockey for the Huskies, they were outshot 8-3 and found themselves down by two goals.
Grand Forks native Jacob Benson ( Eyssimont | Schuldt) gave the Huskies some life at 9:43 of period two with his 11th goal of the season on a 5×3 power play. Benson, retrieved a pass from Mikey Eyssimont and he beat UND’s Cam Johnson with a sharp angle shot to narrow the UND lead to 2-1. But, the Fighting Hawks once again gained a two-goal lead with a power play goal by Brock Boesser at 16:27 of period two. Tucker Poolman fed Boesser at the point and he ripped a shot that beat Smith high on the the blocker side for a 3-1 UND lead. SCSU outshot the Fighting Hawks 15-12 in period two.
Schuldt who experienced the best of worlds and the worst of worlds in the game closed the score to within one goal at 10:48 on the power play. Schuldt (Jackson | Winiecki) took a pass from Robby Jackson and he ripped a shot from the point past Johnson to tighten the game to a goal with over nine minutes remaining in the contest. But Schuldt, who seemed to be struggling with his game all night, pinched to intercept a UND pass just outside the SCSU blue line and was beaten by Austin Poganski who carried the puck in on a breakaway and beat Smith with a backhand for a 4-2 UND lead. With SCSU’s netminder pulled, UND sealed the win with an empty net goal by Joel Janatuinen at 19:15 for his 8th goal of the season.
SCSU was outshot in the contest 36-28 with Jeff Smith turning aside 31 of 35 of those shots on goal. His season record dropped to 10-12-0. His counterpart, Cam Johnson had a solid game stopping 26 of 28 shots on goal. Johnson’s record improved to 18-11-3.
The Huskies face a “must win” situation in the Saturday rematch. With a record two games below .500 the Huskies will need to get their overall record to at least .500 to be eligible for the NCAA tournament. That means they’ll need to win on Saturday and in the deciding game of the three-game series on Sunday.
Stars of the Game: T Poolman (UND) Gersich (UND) Poganski (UND)