Huskies Host Omaha in Another Key NCHC Series

(Photo Prout)

#6/4 (Pairwise #3) St. Cloud State University Huskies (15-6-3 | 9-4-1 NCHC) vs  #13/13 (Pairwise #8) Omaha Mavericks (14-11-1 | 7-9-0 NCHC)

TV: FOX Sports North (Friday) | SCSU Sports Network Charter 426/ 823 (Saturday) 
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.TV($)
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)  | 88.1 KVSC (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, February 2 –  7:37 PM CT | Saturday, February 3 – 7:07 PM CT

St. Cloud, MN – The Huskies face another strong test in a home series vs #13/13 and #8 Pairwise Omaha this weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. What else is new? There is never an off weekend in NCHC conference play. With five series remaining in conference play, the Huskies are still in the driver’s seat in their quest for a NCHC title. However, most importantly is to keep piling up wins against teams with a strong Pairwise ranking and this weekend is another crucial series because of that. The Huskies will be tested by one of the strongest offensive teams in college hockey but on the other will be facing a team ranked dead last in defense in the nation. The Huskies have been struggling in many phases of their game since the first of the year and they need to turn that around quickly as they enter the last phase of the season.

Last Time Out:

Omaha stressed their offensive muscle in a home sweep of a strong Western Michigan squad by scores of 6-2 and 7-3. On Friday in a back and forth game, Omaha busted open a 2-2 tie in the third period scoring four straight goals in a 6-2 (2 EN goals) win. The GWG was scored by Joel Messner and Evan Wenniger stopped 32 of 34 WMU SOG. This was a game rampant in penalties with 20 called on both teams leading to four power play goals in the game. In the Saturday rematch, WMU got on the board early but Omaha again scored the next four goals and never looked back in a 7-3 trouncing of the Broncos. David Pope scored twice and Jalen Schulz had the game-winner in the sweep. Evan Wenniger stopped 34 of 37 SOG in the win.

The Huskies earned a hard-fought split in their road trip to UMD last weekend. The Huskies misery continued in Duluth on Friday getting throttled by a surging UMD Bulldogs squad by a 5-1 score. The defense which had been so reliable through the first half of the season hung a helpless David Hrenak out to dry repeatedly throughout the game in a spirited effort by the Bulldogs. Hrenak, who entered the contest with the nation’s top goals against average allowed 5 goals on 18 shots in suffering his 4th loss of the season. Ryan Poehling scored a late goal for the Huskies. In the Saturday rematch, a much better defensive effort by the Huskies kept the game close into the third period when Patrick Newell scored the game-winning goal at 14:50 to give the Huskies an important road win and split of the weekend series. The victory also meant the Huskies won three of four games against the Bulldogs in conference play this season. A nice result after a troubling effort on Friday in a 5-1 loss. David Hrenak secured the win stopping 19 of 20 shots on goal to secure his 6th win of the season.


Last Time They Met:

The Huskies traveled to Omaha on December 1 and 2 and earned a sweep of the mavericks by scores of 7-4 and 5-0. On Friday, after charging out to a 5-2 second period lead, the Huskies left the door open and yielded two early third period goals requiring a rally by SCSU to capture the win. Mikey Eyssimont and Jake Wahlin scored twice and Ryan Poehling scored the game-winning goal as the Huskies won their 10th game of the season. On Saturday, Jake Wahlin scored his third goal of the weekend including the game-winner and David Hrenak earned a shutout stopping 40 shots on goal as the Huskies defeated Omaha 5-0 for a sweep of the weekend series.

Going back to the 2010-11 season SCSU carries a 14-10-2 advantage over the Mavericks. The Huskies  are 4-1-0 in the last five, 8-2-0 in the last ten and 14-6-0 in the last 20 games vs Omaha. .

Scouting the Omaha Mavericks:

A changing of the guard in Omaha saw long-time coach Dean Blais step aside and yield the coaching reigns to his associate head coach and UNO alumn Mike Gabinet. Although Gabinet has a reputation of placing more emphasis on the defensive end of the game consistency  will be there with 15 upperclassmen and just three freshman.  And, although the Mavs return five of their top seven scorers from 2016-17 they still lost 31 goals and 78 points from the departure of two players – prolific scorer Austin Ortega and offensive defenseman, Luc Snuggerud. Obviously, with a new coach comes a new team culture and direction but at least he can rely on a group of upperclassmen to guide this transition in 2017-18. Tyler Vesel, David Pope and Jake Randolph are all experienced and reliable forwards that have seen a lot of success over their three years including NCAA play and they should lead the team in the right direction.

Due to scheduling issues at Baxter Arena, the Mavericks had a grueling start to the season with eight of the first ten games on the road. They survived with a 4-5-1 record and since then they’ve gone 10-6-0 including 9 wins at home. However, it’s been tough on the road for the Mavericks with a disturbing 3-8-0 record.

Thus far this season, the offense has been steered by upperclassmen including senior David Pope (16-19-35)), senior Tyler Vesel (10-14-24) and senior Jake Randolph (5-17-22). Sophomore Zach Gordon is having a productive season with 12-9-21. Seniors have combined for 46 of the teams 96 goals (48%). On defense, senior Joel Messner leads the unit with NHL draftees Ryan Jones ( Pittsburgh) and Dean Stewart (Arizona) and junior Jordan Klehr adding to the depth on the blue line.

Goaltending is a concern with both junior Evan Weninger and Kris Oldham both below a .90 SV%. Weninger has appeared in 20  games with a 12-8-0 record and has posted a 3.51 GAA and .889 SV%. Oldham has seen action in 4 games and has a 4.12 GAA and .867 SV%. Obviously the coaching staff is expecting better numbers out of their goaltenders.

Offense:   3.69 (4th)
Defense:   3.66 GAPG (60th)
Power Play:  26.67 (4th)
Penalty Kill:  79.20% (45th)
Penalties:  11.73 (26th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

Where do we start. The Huskies have had a frustrating start to 2018 with a 3-4-0 record (3-3 in conference) play and being outscored 25-14. In their losses they’ve been outscored 19-8 and have had a concerning lack of defensive play both 5×5 and on the penalty kill. Disturbing statistics since the beginning of 2018 show the Huskies with a power play at an anemic 11.7% (4 of 34) and a penalty kill yielding a success ratio to the opponents of 35.2% (6 of 17). Thus a national statistic with the Huskies 4th in offense is decieving as the SCSU goal differential is a negative 6 and a goals per game average of 2.71 since January 1 vs the national statistic of 3.67. Defensively, since January 1 they’ve allowed an average of 3.57 goals per game vs their national statistic of 2.54 for the season thus far. Thus, in analyzing the statistics since the beginning of the year it’s obvious where the weaknesses are and they are pretty much across the board on defense, offense and special teams play. The only bright spot has been in goal with the emergence of David Hrenak and his 1.84 GAA and .935 SV% 6th nationally in GAA and 5th in SV%. Spectacular numbers considering the staggering play of the Huskies defense since January 1.

Junior forward Robby Jackson has emerged as the team leader on the scoring chart with 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points edging Mikey Essymont with 9-15-24. Jackson has been one of the most consistent players as of late with seven points in the last nine games. Jimmy Schuldt continues to lead the defense in scoring with 23 points. Ryan Poehling has also been consistent offensively with 9 points n his last 11 games. Easton Brodzinski continues to lead the rookies in scoring with 8 goals and has 11 points in his last 13 games.

Defensively, again, the Huskies are led by team captain Jimmy Schuldt and his play on both ends of the rink. Schuldt has propped up the defensive units plus/minus with his +14 while the unit as a whole is +39. However, while Schuldt’s numbers have dipped including no points in his last four games, the tandem of Jon Lizotte and Will Borgen have probably been the most consistent defensemen as of late with Lizotte producing points in three of the last four games and Borgen with three points in the last five games. Additionally both have improved their plus/minus  as well.

David Hrenak has emerged as the number one goaltender due to his excellent play in goal and outstanding statistics. Jeff Smith has struggled as of late getting relieved in two of his last four games and his numbers dipping to 2.54 GAA and .913 SV%.

Offense:   3.67 GPG (4th)
Defense:   2.54 GAPG (16th)
Power Play:  21.74% (15th)
Penalty Kill:  79.20% (45th)
Penalties:  10.50 (44th)

Game Prospectus:

Stop the Omaha offense and power play and the Huskies can be successful this weekend. The Mavericks have some aggressive forwards and an outstanding and productive power play so the Huskies best stay out of the penalty box this weekend. The Huskies PK has yielded a success rate of 35.2% since January 1 while the Mavericks have had a success rate on the power play of 28%. Not a good matchup if the Huskies get in penalty trouble.  Defensively Omaha cannot be ranked any worse than 60th in the country of defense. The penalty kill is also a weakness ranked 48th in the country at 79.20%. However, all is contingent on the Huskies getting their act together on offense and shoring up a defense that has been in disarray since the beginning of the year.

Goaltending is a weakness for Omaha and a strength for SCSU. The Huskies have an advantage there. With a GAA of 3.51 and SV% of .889 the Huskies need to throw a lot of rubber at Weninger and exploit this weakness in the Mavericks defense.

Omaha has struggled on the road winning only 4 of 12 games. SCSU is 8-2-0 in the last 10 vs Omaha. It’s one of those league matchups that generaly seems to go the way of the Huskies.

Keys for the series:

  • SCSU needs to shore up their defense vs a potent Omaha offense. More dedication to positional play will be needed.  
  • SCSU needs to stay out of the penalty box or they will be facing a power play that is 26.67% for the season and 28% since January 1.
  • The Huskies need to throw a lot of rubber at Evan Wenniger  and his 3.51 GAA and .889 SV%. 
  • Omaha is dead last in the country in defense. The Huskies can exploit that as they did in their earlier series with Omaha scoring 12 goals in two games.   



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