St. Cloud, MN – We learned a few things following the Huskies 4-0 road win at Mankato on Saturday, October 7th.
- The MSU Mankato Mavericks are an awfully tough opponent. Much like the Huskies, they have a good mix of players with upper class leadership and talented first-year players. They will make some noise in the WCHA and nationally by seasons end. Their road series with Boston University this weekend will be an interesting watch.
- Yes, the Huskies were outshot 42-26 on Saturday. However, keep in mind the Huskies had a 3-0 lead with little more than five minutes to play in regulation when Coach Hastings decided to pull his goaltender and skate with an extra attacker. Naturally, it forced the Huskies into a defensive mode and thus a big disparity in shots in the third period.
- SCSU goaltender Jeff Smith had an impressive road outing on Saturday. He’s leveraging last years experience with strong off-season training and superb coaching by Mike Lee into what appears to be a strong season for the junior netminder. He simply looks much more comfortable in goal and is 10 pounds lighter. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to have first-year goaltender David Hrenak chomping at the bit to get some minutes. Competition will do that. Smith finished the second half of last season at or near 92% SV percentage and he’s picked up where he left off.
- The defense is solid. The top four of Schuldt, Lizotte, Borgen and Ahcan play with confidence (and grit if necessary) and should be ranked as one of the top units in college hockey. Seeing Schuldt and Lizotte lead the way on offense vs Mankato and to see the unit help shut down a strong offensive team in Mankato is a good sign. I suspect it’s going to be a revolving door for positions 5-6 on the unit with Kuster, Ilvonen, Jaycox and Anderson all vying for ice time. All four will be rotated into the lineup.
- Kevin Fitzgerald continues to impress me. The NAHL veteran seems to be the complete package – good skater and motor, great hockey instincts, good puck control and not afraid to play physical. The added bonus is he can play center solidifying that position for the Huskies. He’s going to have an outstanding four years for SCSU. What a recruiting steal by the coaching staff.
- Coach Motzko has a welcome dilemma on his hands at forward. When Mikey Eyssimont is ready to return to action it’s going to be a tough decision as to who is a healthy scratch. Early in the season, I expect coach Motzko to go with his experienced players. But, to try to make a decision as to which first-year player sits is a tough choice. They’ve all been pretty good out there.
The coaching staff changed things up and left St. Cloud at 2:30 PM the day of the game on Saturday. By the time they arrived in Mankato it would have been two hours prior to puck drop. Maybe there’s something to be said about this type of itinerary in the future. It certainly seemed to work on Saturday. The team appeared focused and ready to get down to business at puck drop.
The Huskies will be able to experiment this weekend as they host the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) Nanooks. Expect to see David Hrenak in goal in one of the contests and to see the first-year defensemen inserted as well. It is well documented that Coach Motzko likes to change forward line combinations well into the season. As a matter of fact, the Huskies had used in excess of 35 different line combinations well into February last season. That “ain’t” gonna change.
I’ll do a weekend preview later in the week. In the meantime loads of information from last weekends game with Mankato is here. Thanks for following along!