#2 Huskies Clash with #8 Bulldogs in NCHC Opener

Jimmy Schuldt defends UMD’s Riley Tufte (photo prout)

 

#2 St. Cloud State University Huskies (5-0-0 | 0-0-0 NCHC) vs #8 UMD Bulldogs (4-2-2 | 0-0-0 NCHC)

 

TV: Fri: Fox Sports North Plus (Live) | Fox College Sports (Tape Delay)  Channel Finder
TV: Sat: Fox Sports North | Fox College Sports

Live Stats: SCSU Athletics

Video: NCHC.TV($)

Radio: 96.7 FM The River | KVSC 88.1 FM

Tickets: SCSU Athletics

Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN

When: Friday, November 3 – 7:37 P CT | Saturday, November 4 – 4:07 PM CT

Last Time Out:

The Bulldogs traveled to Orono, Maine to battle the Maine Black Bears of Hockey East. The Bulldogs outshot the Black Bears 29-27 and Jade Miller broke a 1-1 tie in the third period with the game-winning goal. Riley Tufte added his fourth goal of the season in period one and Hunter Shepard stopped 26 of 27 shots on goal in the win. The Bulldogs completed the road sweep Saturday with a 2-0 win. Parker Mackay’s power play goal was the game-winner and Riley Tufte added his second goal of the weekend in the win. Hunter Shepard again stopped 26 shots on goal in earning his second win of the weekend.

The Huskies had a weekend bye after completing a home sweep of Hockey East’s Boston College on October 20/21. On Friday, the Huskies fell behind 2-0 before rallying for 5 straight goals in a 5-2 win. Jack Ahcan had the game winning power play goal early in period three and Jeff Smith stopped 18 of 20 shots on goal in the win, The Huskies outshot the Eagles 47-20 and were 2/9 on the man-advantage. Kevin Fitzgerald, Jack Poehling, Robby Jackson and Nick Poehling also had goals for the Huskies.

In the rematch, the Huskies raced out to a 3-0 first period lead behind goals by Jack Poehling, Ryan Poehling and Mikey Eyssimont and then clamped down defensively to secure the 3-1 win. First-year goaltender David Hrenak  got the call in goal and stopped 36/37 shots on goal to earn his second win of the season.

Last Time They Met:

The two squads met five times during the 2016-17 season with the Bulldogs winning 4 of the 5 contests – two in overtime. They last met on January 28, 2017 in the championship game of the North Star Cup. The Huskies carried a 1-0 lead into the third period but the Bulldogs tied the game early in the third period on a goal by Alex Iafallo. The game proceeded to overtime and the game-winner was scored by the Bulldogs Kyle Osterberg for a 2-1 win.

The Huskies are 64-49-9 all-time vs UMD and 61-45-8 in the Division One Era. The Bulldogs carry a 4-1-0 advantage in the last five games and 6-3-1 in the last 10.

Scouting the UMD Bulldogs:

The Bulldogs are rebuilding after the loss of 10 players from last years squad. This group included 7 seniors and 3 others who signed NHL contracts. As a result, it may require some patience on behalf of the UMD coaching staff although coach Sandelin admits “I’m not a patient guy”.  Between graduation and signings the Bulldogs lost 234 points from last years squad including six of the top ten scorers. They also lost five starting defenseman. To compound matters, the Bulldogs also lost first-year goaltender Hunter Miska to an NHL signing. Miska had an outstanding season with a 27-5-5 record, 2.19 GAA and .920 SV%. Other key losses were the early defections of defenseman Neal Pionk and forward Adam Johnson who would have played key leadership roles for the Bulldogs this season.

These losses required the UMD coaching staff to bring in 10 first-year payers, the most for the Bulldogs since the 2005-06 season. Certainly there is a lot of talent left on this Bulldog team but it has shifted from a team dominated by upperclassmen to one of a large number of underclassmen. As evidence of the young talent on this squad, they could conceivably have four and maybe five players on this years world junior team including Joey Anderson, Mikey Anderson, Dylan Samberg, Riley Tufte and an outside chance for Scott Perunovich.  As opposed to last season scoring early on is dominated by underclassmen with 7 of the 10 top scorers in the freshman or sophomore class.

Top first year players to keep an eye on are 6″4″ 215 pound defenseman Dylan Samberg (0-3-3), 5’10 170 pound Scott Perunovich (1-5-6) and 6’0′ 200 pound Mikey Anderson (3-3-6), the brother of top forward Joey Anderson. Samberg, a future NHLer can play physical with a nasty streak but can play the offensive game as well. Perunovich is an undersized defenseman but is highly skilled and becoming a key player on the UMD power play. Mikey Anderson also plays well on both ends of the rink and can add offense as well. First-year forward NIck Swaney was another highly touted recruit and currently is tied for the lead in team points with sophomore Riley Tufte. Tufte, the first-round pick of the Dallas Stars has had a nice start to the season with 5 goals. Another sophomore, Joey Anderson is a highly talented forward who has had a slow start to the season with 3 points.

In goal, the Bulldogs have had the task of replacing Hunter Miska. Thus far, Hunter Shepard has done a nice job stepping into the starting role compiling a 4-1-0 record, 2.00 GAA and .911 SV%.

Statistically, the Bulldogs are 21st in offense scoring 3.12 GPG and 12th on defense only allowing 2.50 GPG. The power play has been solid thus far – 12th in the country at 27.27%. Although it’s a small sample early in the season, the penalty kill has struggled at 73.7% good for 48th in the country.

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

With a great deal of depth and experience at defense it is apparent this will be a position of strength for the Huskies and one of the top units in college hockey. Led by junior and captain, Jimmy Schuldt, a preseason NCHC All-Conference team pick, the Huskies will have an impressive top four unit that is solid defensively, strong from an offensive standpoint and logs a lot of ice time. Schuldt, was named the Hockey Commissioners Association Division I Player of the month after leading the NCAA in points per game and plus-minus in October. Schuldt currently sits with  4 goals and 10 points to lead the squad in scoring. The top four unit of Schuldt, Ahcan, Borgen and Lizotte have combined for 20 points and are a combined +13 in plus-minus.

At forward, the Poehling brothers have been nothing short of outstanding thus far with  a combined 10 goals, 7 assists and 17 points. Ryan, still one of the youngest players in college hockey and a first-round draft choice of the Montreal Canadians is off to a highly productive start with 2 goals  and 6 assists for 8 points. Twin brothers Nick and Jack have 4 goals each. Junior forward Robby Jackson finally seems to be coming into his own and is playing with confidence and he’s currently third on the squad in scoring with 3-4-7. He’s been a key component of the power play and has one power play goal thus far. Senior Judd Peterson, has yet to register his first goal of the season but has 5 assists and is tied for fourth on the team in points and is +5.

Mikey Eyssimont missed a few games early due to illness and has had a slow start offensively with only one goal but certainly things will trend toward the norm and he’ll be among the team leaders offensively by mid-season. Another slow start to the season is by senior Blake Winiecki, one of the team scoring leaders in 2016-17 who has yet to register a point thus far. Another upperclassmen who is being counted on to provide offense is junior Jacob Benson. He has two points thus far but much more is expected offensively from him.

Depth at forward is a strength and with no injuries on the squad it’s a dilemma for the coaching staff when it comes time set the starting roster for each game. Quality players have to sit nightly but is creating a competitive climate to fight for ice time.

At goaltender, Jeff Smith’s hard work in the off-season has certainly paid off posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.67 GAA and .921 SV%. First-year goaltender, David Hrenak has made the best of his opportunities with a 2-0-0 record, 2.46 GAA and .921 SV%.

Statistically, the Huskies are 2nd in offense in college hockey scoring 4.60 GPG. Defensively, they are 9th allowing 2.00 GPG. The power play is performing well thus far at close to 30% and the penalty kill at 86.7%. As always, the Huskies are one of the least penalized teams in college hockey currently 59th out of 60 teams.

Game Prospectus:

This is a key conference opening season series for both teams. The Huskies are coming of a bye week and the Bulldogs coming off a short week after a long road trip to Orono, Maine and immediately hitting the road to St. Cloud. Word is the Bulldogs have a few injuries including forwards Joey Anderson, Nick Swaney, Avery Peterson and defenseman, Jarod Hilderman.  and we’ll have to follow their status up until game time on Friday. It appears  Swaney is out for sure and the others questionable. If Joey Anderson is unable to go that means two-thirds of their top line is out of commission.

The Bulldogs have been doing a great job thus far protecting Shepard in goal and sacrificing their bodies blocking shots. They’ll have a task ahead of them this weekend as the Huskies will send a relentless attack on the young UMD defensive unit and it will be interesting to see how they hold up. UMD knows they need to slow down the Huskies transition game and try to disrupt the flow of the Huskies attack before they get to the Bulldog blue line. Certainly this will be the biggest test that Shepard will face thus far this season.

No series is easy in college hockey’s toughest conference and this weekend will be no different. UMD has had the Huskies number the last 10 games however it’s a role reversal this season as the SCSU squad has the upper class leadership and experience going for them in this series. The Bulldogs have shown some good resiliency with a lot of youngsters and that says a lot about the quality and talent on the UMD squad.  Expect a very competitive series with the Bulldogs this weekend.

I expect Smith to get the call for the Huskies on Friday with a wait and see as to whether Hrenak will see action in Saturday’s game. The rotation will have another upperclassmen out of the lineup on Friday as the coaching staff ponders their starting lineup. Also, expect to see Tyler Anderson make an appearance at defense this weekend. Most certainly Lucas Jaycox will be back in for presumably both games. His play has really solidified the first-year players spot in the lineup.

 

 

 

 

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