#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (12-2-3 | 7-2-1 NCHC) vs #10 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-7-1 | 12-9-1 BIG Ten)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Sat) | Fox College Sports / FOX Sports North (Sun)
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Radio: 96.7 FM
Tickets: SCSU Ticket Office
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center-St. Cloud (Sat) | Mariucci Arena- Minneapolis (Sun)
When: Saturday, Jan. 6 – 6:30 PM CT | Sunday, Jan. 7 – 6:00 PM CT
St. Cloud, MN- The Huskies continue non-conference play with a home and home series with the #10 ranked University of Minnesota Golden Gophers on January 6 and 7. Saturday’s game will be played in St. Cloud at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and the Saturday rematch at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the U of MN.
Last Time Out:
The Gophers recovered from a three-game losing streak to earn a home non-conference sweep of Army by scores of 3-0 | 4-1 on December 29/30. In Friday’s contest, Tyer Sheehy scored at 10:01 of period one in what turned out to be the game-winning goal. Eric Schierhoen was only called upon to make 13 saves in the shutout. In the Saturday rematch, the Gophers charged out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Tyler Sheehy and Tyler Nanne and added two more by Mike Szmatula and Sam Rossini before the Black Knights were able to get on the score sheet in the 4-1 win. Mat Robson stopped 25 of 26 shots on goal to earn the win.
The Huskies meanwhile, traveled to New Jersey to face the Princeton Tigers of the ECAC. Blame it on the extended layoff or perhaps a fired up Princeton University hockey team but in any case, the Huskies were perilously close to losing to #49 pairwise Princeton until they put things in gear in the third period and overtime. After a dominant overtime session, the #1 ranked Huskies probably deserved a better fate but settled for a 3-3 overtime tie with the unranked Tigers.Key third period power play goals by Blake Winiecki and Jimmy Schuldt salvaged the tie for SCSU. The Huskies capped off their weekend swing of the east coast with a 2-2 overtime tie with Princeton University of the ECAC in the rematch. Once again, the Huskies found it to be tough sledding against a team that entered the series unranked, 6-7-1 overall and sitting eighth in the ECAC standings.The Tigers rode the outstanding play of first-year goaltender Ryan Ferland and an affinity for blocking shots to shut down a Huskies offense ranked #1 in the country. As a matter of fact, it was a struggle for the Huskies five on five scoring only twice on the weekend. As was the case on Friday, SCSU was saved by their power play getting the equalizer on the man-advantage to salvage a tie. A late power play goal by Jacob Benson at 12:18 of period three tied the game at 2-2. The two squads skated to an overtime draw once again.
Last Time They Met:
The Huskies swept the Gophers in their last home and home series on 10/21-22/16. The Huskies earned a dramatic comeback win at Mariucci Arena on 10/21/16 in overtime to win 6-5. In St. Cloud the next night the Huskies once again prevailed by a 3-2 score to sweep the series. St. Cloud State has won four straight contests vs the Gophers and has won five of the last seven games in St. Cloud. The last time the Gophers have defeated the Huskies was on 11/1/2014 with a 4-3 overtime victory. The Gophers have all-time advantage 54-33-12. In the last five, the Huskies are 4-1-0 vs the Gophers. They are 6-4-0 in the last ten. In St. Cloud SCSU has an all-time record of 17-18-7 and at Mariucci Arena 13-23-6.
Scouting the University of Minnesota:
The Gophers have been a highly inconsistent team in 2017-18. Despite an outstanding record on home ice (10-2-0) they’ve struggled mightily on the road with a 1-7-1 road record. High quality sweeps of #3 Clarkson and Harvard on home ice have been offset by disappointing road sweeps by Ohio State and Notre Dame and only one road win thus far this season.
The Gopher lineup which is loaded with 13 NHL draft choices simply is not generating enough offense to get the job done. Currently, they are ranked 40th in the nation on offense scoring an average of 2.73 goals per game. The power play is also a huge issue with an anemic success ratio of only 13.54% – ranked 52nd in the country. Defensively, they’ve been solid allowing 2.36 goals per game good for 11th in the country. The penalty kill has also been solid at 83.33%.
On offense, Rem Pitlick leads the squad in scoring with 9 goals, 12 assists and 21 points. However, disappointing offensive numbers have been generated by typically reliable scorers Tyler Sheehy (7-7-14), a 53 point scorer in 2016-17 and senior Leon Bristedt (3-1-4), who has scored 32 goals over the past two seasons. Casey Mittelstad had an outstanding World Junior Tournament but has had only moderate success in his college debut with 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points. The Gophers need more offense out of players like Brent Gates and Mike Szmatula if they are the have second half success.
Defense has held up well for the Gophers thus far this season. A major part of their success has been the goaltending of Eric Schierhorn, a workhorse in goal, appearing in 20 games, compiling a 11-8-1 record and 2.33 GAA and .914 SV%. Sophomore defenseman, Ryan Lindgren, another player fresh off the World Junior Tournament is a key to their blueline success. Senior Jack Glover is having a solid senior season thus far with a +10 rating. Overall, as a unit the Gophers defensive unit is +20. Steve Johnson leads the squad statistically with 2 goals, 8 assists for 10 points and a +6 rating. In order to bolster the depth on defense the Gophers recently made a mid-season addition of Clayton Phillips from Muskegon of the USHL. Phillips is a third round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Offense: 2.73 GPG (40th)
Defense: 2.36 GAPG (11th)
Power Play: 13.54% (52nd)
Penalty Kill: 83.33 (18th)
Penalty Minutes: 13.09 (18th)
Scouting the SCSU Huskies:
The Huskies well-balanced scoring attack with 19 of the 22 rostered players (excluding goaltenders) having scored at least one goal has them ranked second on the national chart for offense. It’s this depth that makes the Huskies interchangeable offense (32 different line combinations used this season) difficult to deal with particularly late in the game as the line depth tends to wear teams down. This is evidenced by SCSU outscoring their opponents 31 to 15 in the third period and having a perfect 8-0-0 record when leading after two periods. The most effective forward line combination thus far has been Ryan Poehling paired with Mikey Eyssimont and first-year forward Kevin Fitzgerald. This line has combined for 15 points.
Junior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt is having a Will Butcher type season and continues to lead the Huskies offense with 22 points and seven multi-point games. He also has 2 GWG and 4 PPG and is +20. Schuldt leads all NCAA blueliners with a scoring average of 1.29 points per game. At the forward position, Robby Jackson continues his productive ways and has moved into second in team scoring with 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points including 2 power play goals. Mikey Eyssimont is third in team scoring with 6-11-17 and he has a +5 rating. Jackson has taken over the team lead in goal scoring with 7 goals. Benson and Schuldt are tied for power play goals with four each. First-year forward Easton Brodzinski is continuing to show his scoring touch with six goals. First-year forward Kevin Fitzgerald has been outstanding both offensively and defensively and leads the rookies in scoring with 4-7-11 and a +7 rating.
Defensively, again, the Huskies are led by team captain Jimmy Schuldt and his outstanding play on both ends of the rink. Schuldt has propped up the defensive units plus/minus with his impressive +20 while the unit as a whole is +48. Will Borgen has certainly ratcheted up his game with 8 points and a +5 rating and provides a physical element that causes the opponent to lose focus on the game. Borgen was recently named to th roster of the 2018 USA Olympic hockey team. First-year defenseman Luke Jaycox is fully entrenched in the defensive unit and has been one of their most consistent and reliable players and is +6. Jon Lizotte is 2-6-8 and has an outstanding plus.minus of +16.
Outstanding play by junior goaltender Jeff Smith continues. Both his physical and mental preparedness this season is paying off with outstanding numbers. He is currently ranked 7th nationally in save percentage at 92.8% and 13th in goals against at 2.14. Smith is currently 7-1-3. However, Smith is being pushed by first-year goaltender, David Hrenak who has been a competitive back up with a 5-1-0 record, .947 SV% and a 1.82 GAA. He also has two shutouts in his five wins. There is no lack of confidence by the team in inserting him into the lineup. Hrenak was a member of Team Slovakia in the recent World Junior Tournament.
Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:
Offense: 4.06 GPG (2nd)
Defense: 2.12 GPG (5th)
Power Play: 25.93% (5th)
Penalty Kill: 82.86% (20th)
Penalty Minutes: 12.18 (25th)
Expect a high emotion series this weekend between these two non-conference in-state rivals. It’s been several years since the Gophers have defeated the Huskies and certainly that will be in the back of their mind. The Gophers road record is dismal and it would be an accomplishment to snare a road win in St. Cloud. Both teams have good depth and are at home on an Olympic sheet of ice which should make for a good skating series. The Huskies are coming off a disappointing road series at Princeton where the offense was stunted by a Tiger squad that blocked a lot of shots. However, the power play was effective and allowed them to salvage a tie in each game.
Coach Motzko will be back behind the bench this weekend and that’s a positive thing as the Huskies are 1-2-2 in games while he was away at the World Junior Tournament the past two years. Casey Mittelstadt and Ryan Lindgren of the Gophers and Ryan Poehling of the Huskies were members of Team USA for the World Junior Tournament. All three are expected to play this weekend although its unsure as to whether they will be in the lineup for Saturday’s game.
The HBNHC is apparently a sell-out for Saturday’s nationally televised game on CBS Sports Net. The adrenaline should be flowing for both teams as they compete for some Minnesota bragging rights. Although a non-conference series, there are important Pairwise implications riding on this weekend as well.
If special teams are to dictate the outcome of this series give the advantage to the Huskies. The Gophers power pay is struggling while the Huskies power play is near the top of the charts nationally. Don’t expect many changes out of the Huskies as they’ll continue to roll their lines with minimal attention to line matching. They’ll also rely on their quick transition game to try to set the Gophers defense on their heels. On the other hand, the Gophers have speed and forwards that can bury the puck. The Huskies defense will need to focus on the job at hand while in their defensive zone.
This should be a highly charged weekend series and an exciting weekend of hockey for the fans.