Huskies Face Another Tough Road Trip vs Western Michigan

(Photo Prout)

#3 St. Cloud State University Huskies (19-6-3 | 13-4-1 NCHC) vs #15 Western Michigan University Broncos (14-13-1 | 9-9-0 NCHC)

TV: None
Live Stats: WMU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.TV$
Radio: 96.7 FM The River
Tickets: WMU Ticket Office
Where: Lawson Rink – Kalamazoo, MI
When: Friday, Feb.16 – 6:05 PM CT | Saturday, Feb. 17 – 6:050 PM CT
Western Michigan University Weekly Release
SCSU Hockey Weekly Release

St. Cloud, MN- The Huskies hit the road once again to face the Western Michigan Broncos. The first-place Huskies are looking to maintain their lead in the NCHC conference standings. Meanwhile, the third place Broncos are looking to solidify their place in the standings and place some distance between themselves and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and UMD Bulldogs. 

 

Last Time Out:

The Broncos were idle last weekend but faced the Huskies most recent opponent, Miami RedHawks on February 2/3. The Broncos split the series losing the weekend opener 4-2 and winning the rematch 3-2. WMU was outscored 3-1 in period two and never recovered in the 4-2 loss. Corey Schueneman and Ethan Frank scored the two goals for WMU. In the rematch, WMU fell behind early 2-0 but rallied for three consecutive goals in the 3-2 win, Ethan Frank had two more goals for a three-goal weekend.

The Huskies were on the road vs Miami and earned a hard-fought sweep of the RedHawks. On Friday, Jeff Smith made 26 saves and the Huskies withstood a second period rally by Miami to capture a 5-2 road win in Oxford, Ohio. The Huskies charged out to a 3-0 first period lead only to see it narrowed to a one-goal lead in period two but rebounded in period three to score two goals for the victory. In addition to a number of key saves by Smith the Huskies shut down college hockey’s 2nd ranked power play four times including a key 5X3 penalty kill in the third period. On Saturday, David Hrenak pitched a shutout and Nick Poehling scored the GWG in the second period to lift SCSU to a weekend sweep of the Miami Redhawks. This also continued a five-game win streak by the Huskies going back to the UMD series.

Scouting the Western Michigan Broncos:

I consider the Broncos one of my surprise teams of the 2017-18 season. This team was absolutely decimated following the 2016-17 season between early departures and graduations. In total, the offense lost 176 points (74 goals, 102 assists) including their top-three scorers from 2016-17. Underclassmen, Matheson Iacopelli, their leading scorer and Griffen Molino, their second-leading scorer and senior Sheldon Dries combined for 51 goals, 48 assists and 99 points last season. Dries was a four-year mainstay in the lineup and the heart and soul of this team during his tenure with the Broncos. Add to those losses the departure of German forward Frederik Tiffels (9 G, 12 A) to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and it was just another dagger to the depth of the WMU team. In all, the Broncos saw the departure of 11 players making a re-load imperative for 2017-18. And re-load they did bringing in nine first-year players to try to bolster the depth on the team. And, although the first year players have not had a huge impact from a statistical standpoint, it’s required the squad place more responsibility on the junior and sophomore class at forward to lead the way. With only four seniors on this years team and three of them on defense, the team has responded surprisingly well at forward with Sophomores Wade Allison, Colt Conrad, Hugh McGing and Dawson DiPietro. However both Allison and Conrad were injured in the series in St. Cloud and have yet to return to the lineup. Allison is out for the balance of the season.

On defense, the team retained much of their experience with a solid group of defenseman, led by senior captain Scott Moldenhauer and backed up by seniors Neal Goff and Paul Stoykewich. And, goaltending continues to be in the capable hands of sophomore Ben Blacker despite numbers clearly not where they need to be with a 3.11 GAA and .893 SV%. IF  there is a deficiency currently, it’s to firm up a defense ranked 52nd in the country and allowing 3.39 goals per game.

Fortunately for the Broncos, the offense is scoring 3.5 goals per game but a scoring margin of .11 goals per game needs to be improved to have success the second half of the season. Special teams have been very good with the power play converting 22.22% of the time while the penalty kill has been solid at 83.19%.

One major departure this season is the emphasis placed on speed as opposed to the general notion that the Broncos recruit for size and NHL style toughness. THey cdrtainly showcased their speed vs St. Cloud in the January series.

Offense: 3.50 GPG (5th)
Defense: 3.39 GAPG (52nd)
Power Play: 22.22% (12th)
Penalty Kill: 81.44 (28th)
Penalty Minutes: 16.57 (2nd)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The #2 ranked Huskies seem to have gotten things back on track with a current winning streak of five games.  Nationally, the team statistics are pretty impressive with the offense ranked 2nd at 3.86 and the power play ranked 13th at 21.88%.

Junior forward Robby Jackson has emerged as the team leader on the scoring chart with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points edging Mikey Essiymont with 12-18-30. Jackson has been one of the most consistent players as of late with six points in the last four games. Jimmy Schuldt continues to lead the defense in scoring with 28 points. Ryan Poehling has also been consistent offensively with 22 points. Easton Brodzinski continues to lead the rookies in goals with 10 goals and 6 assists for 16 points.Blake Lizotte has taken over the rookie scoring lead with 5-13-18.

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 +21 while the unit as a whole is +49. However, the defense will have to survive the loss of Will Borgen to the Olympic games. Borgen is a key component to the penalty kill, logs a ton of minutes and is perhaps the Huskies best defensive player. His physical presence on the ice can be disruptive and /or intimidating to the opponent and his absence will be sorely missed. This will probably require Jon Lizotte to log additional minutes on defense. Borgen’s loss will also provide opportunity for additional ice time for Tyler Anderson, Mika Ilvonen and Clark Kuster.

David Hrenak returned with a nice outing shutting out Miami last weekend. His numbers are currently an outstanding 1.95 GAA and .928 SV%. Likewise, Jeff Smith had a solid outing in his last game and has a .914 SV% and 2.47 GAA. HIs record is a sparkling 11-2-3.

Offense:   3.86 GPG (2nd)
Defense:   2.43 GAPG (13th)
Power Play:  21.88% (13th)
Penalty Kill:  81.89% (30th)
Penalties:  10.32 (47th)

Game Prospectus:

This will be another rough and tumble weekend with a quality Western Michigan squad. Western Michigan has some susceptibility on defense but has outstanding offensive capabilities that can help shield some of the deficiencies on defense. WMU goaltender Ben Blacker has been a workhorse playing in 26 games thus far this season. However, his numbers are middle of the road and the Huskies offense needs to solve Blacker early and often and not let the WMU offense roll.  With Alison and Conrad out the Huskies depth does surpass that of the Broncos which could wear them down as they’ve tended to do to teams. This Western Michigan squad is quicker than last years team and they won’t have a problem skating with the Huskies. They are the 2nd most penalized team in the country and that could be a significant factor if they yield too many man-advantage opportunities to the Huskies. The Broncos are another team that does a nice job blocking shots and the Huskies will have to deal with that this weekend.

Most likely there will be few lineup changes for SCSU and it’s expected the goalie rotation will continue this weekend. I am not aware of any injuries to SCSU that will keep anyone out of the lineup this weekend.

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