Huskies Finish the Regular Season Schedule at North Dakota

(Photo Prout)

The #1 ranked St. Cloud State University Huskies wrap up 2017 conference play on the road vs the #13 University of North Dakota. This weekend series pits two squads moving in different directions. The Huskies wrapped up the conference title and Penrose Cup with a win and tie vs Denver Last weekend. North Dakota on the other hand has won only four games since January 1st and are perilously close to losing home ice for the NCHC playoffs and falling out of the top 16 of the Pairwise. It should be a spirited weekend in Grand Forks as these two rivals battle in the last weekend of the NCHC conference schedule. 

#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (21-6-5 | 15-4-3 NCHC) vs  #13 North Dakota Fighting Hawks  (14-11-9 | 8-9-5 NCHC)

TV: Fri: Midco Sports Network  Sat:  Fox College Sports
Live Stats: UND
Live Stream: NCHC.TV($)
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: UND Athletics
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena – Grand Forks, ND
When: Friday, March 2– 7:37 PM CT | Saturday, March 3 – 7:07 PM CT

Last Time Out:

The Fighting Hawks traveled to Miami last weekend and suffered a loss in the weekend opener and salvaged a tie in the Saturday rematch. On Friday the Fighting Hawks charged out to a 3-0 early second period lead only to see Miami score the next three goals and the overtime winner to capture a 4-3 victory. Miami outshot UND 27-17 and Cam Johnson stopped 23 of 27 shots on goal in the loss. On Saturday, it was Miami’s turn jumping out to an early 2-0 lead only to see the Fighting Hawks rally with goals by Hayden Shaw and a power play game tying goal by Nick Jones at 7:20 of period three. North Dakota outshot the RedHawks 30-27.

The Huskies were at home facing #3 ranked Denver in a critical series for both teams. On Friday, the Denver Pioneers scored the tying goal with 3:27 remaining in regulation to salvage one league point and scored in the second overtime for the extra league point as the league leaders skated to an official 1-1 tie. On Saturday, a determined SCSU hockey team rallied in the third period to put away defending national champion Denver University by a 4-2 score and capture the NCHC Penrose Cup for the second time in five years. Ryan Poehling scored the game winning goal on a breakaway and Jon Lizotte buried a shot from his own blue line to seal the deal for the #1 ranked and #1 Pairwise Huskies.

Last Time They Met:

The Huskies and Fighting hawks last met on December 8/9 with the Huskies securing a four point weekend with a 2-2 tie (shootout loss) and a 4-2 win in the Saturday rematch. On Friday, the Huskies squandered six man-advantage opportunities including two 5X3 power plays allowing North Dakota to escape with a tie and ultimately a shootout win. In the Saturday rematch, the Huskies played a nearly flawless game on Saturday defeating North Dakota 3-1 and in the process moved back into first-place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Huskies scored three consecutive goals in period two and first-year goaltender David Hrenak stopped 34/35 UND shots on goal to pick up his 5th win of the season. Mikey Eyssimont scored twice including the game winner as SCSU finished conference play for calendar year 2017.

North Dakota leads the all-time series at the Division I level 71-41-13. Bob Motzko has a 19-30-7 record vs the Fighting Hawks. SCSU is 1-31 in the last 5, 3-6-1 in the last 10 and 8-11-1 in the last 20 games vs UND. SCSU is 4-6-0 in the last 10 games vs UND at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Scouting the North Dakota Fighting Hawks:

The resilient Fighting Hawks lost 200 points following the 2015-16 season and another 100 points due to departures of Tyson Jost, Brock Boeser and Tucker Poolman from last years squad. As the season has worn on the loss of talent has seemed to take a toll on the Fighting Hawks winning only four games since January first. They’ve won twice in the last 11 games but have picked up 4 ties during that stretch. However, they’ve been somewhat successful on home ice thus far this season with a 8-4-5 record.

The Fighting Hawks have several players they are counting on to lead the squad from an offensive standpoint and from a team leadership standpoint. Four-year regular and senior Austin Poganski, a St. Cloud native put up 25 points in 2016-17 and was named captain of this years team. Junior, Shane Gersich led last years squad in scoring with 21 goals and 16 assists and has 11-15-26 so far this season. Joel Janatuinen is another junior forward being counted on for some offense this season but has disappointed thus far with 4-7-11.  Probably the biggest surprise so far is the offense that junior defenseman Christian Wolanin has provided leading the team in points with 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points. Ohio State transfer Nick Jones has been a good contributor as well  with 10-12-22.

North Dakota brought in seven freshman in 2017-18  and several have made an immediate impact. Grant Mishmash is a second round NHL draft choice and currently has 8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points.

At goaltender, Cam Johnson returns for his senior season after winning 20 games in 2016-17. After missing several games due to injury, he returned to record a 9-7-6 record and has split time with first-year goaltender Peter Thome (5-4-3). Johnson has been adequate in goal with a 2.15 GAA and .907 SV% but not up to his usual standards. Thome has a 2.31 GAA and .910 SV%.

This years squad, out of necessity, has been forced into a greater team mentality with scoring throughout the lineup as opposed to potent scoring from several individual players. That is evidenced by the fact that they don’t have a single scorer in the top 50 nationally currently.

Nationally, the Fighting Hawks  team statistics are as follows:

Offense: 2.88 GPG (29th)  
Defense: 2.41 (13th)
Power Play: 20.00% (21st)
Penalty Kill: 82.61% (20th)
Penalty Minutes per Game: 12.03 (27th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The #1 ranked Huskies seem to have gotten over their January malaise and have things back on track with a current undefeated streak of nine games. Last weekend was further evidence of their progress with a win and tie vs a very strong Denver University squad. The #1 Pairwise Huskies look to solidify their position with a successful road trip to North Dakota.

This team continues to spread its offense with 19 of 22 rostered players (excluding goaltenders) having at least one goal. Junior forward Robby Jackson has emerged as the team leader on the scoring chart with 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points edging Mikey Eyssimont with 14-20-34. Jackson has been one of the most consistent players as of late with eight points in the last six games. Mikey Eyssimont has stepped up his game as well with 10 points in the last eight games. Jimmy Schuldt continues to lead the defense in scoring with 33 points. Ryan Poehling has also been consistent offensively with 26 points. Easton Brodzinski continues to lead the rookies in goals with 12 goals and 7 assists for 19 points.Blake Lizotte has taken over the rookie scoring lead with 6-16-22. Lizotte has emerged as one of the top forwards on the squad.

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 +23 while the unit as a whole is +66.  Will Borgen has returned from the Olympic games and he  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 return is certainly welcomed.  Jon Lizotte has been outstanding defensively with his +18 and offensively 14 points of offense. Mika Ilvonen, Luke Jaycox, Tyler Anderson and Clark Kuster have all responded to the challenge of additional ice time and be counted on to be effective #5 and 6 defenseman.

The Huskies are getting quality ice-time out of both goaltenders. David Hrenak was named NCHC Rookie of the Week after his win and tie vs Denver.  His numbers are currently an outstanding 1.89 GAA and .929 SV%. Likewise, Jeff Smith has an outstanding record of 11-2-4 with the team finding a way to win while he is in goal. He currently has a .910 SV% and 2.62 GAA.

Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:

Offense: 3.81 GPG (2nd)
Defense: 2.44 GPG (14th)
Power Play: 21.92% (12th)
Penalty Kill: 81.31% (30th)
Penalty Minutes: 9.47 (53rd) 

Game Prospectus:

This will be another competitive weekend of hockey featuring two conference rivals. It’s always spirited and exciting hockey when these two squads meet. As always, it will be a sea of green at Engelstad Arena but there should be a strong showing of SCSU fans as well.

The Fighting Hawks enter this series a desperate team being on the verge of losing home ice for the NCHC playoffs and at risk of falling out of the top 16 of the Pairwise. That desperation will make this a tough series for the Huskies if they take their foot off the pedal after winning the conference title,locking up a first round playoff on home ice and being a lock for the NCAA tourney.

Make no mistake, this is still a quality team and the’ll be aiming to upend the Huskies in a venue where the Huskies are 4-6-0 in the last ten games. Surprisingly, the game metrics show the Fighting Hawks were more effective in the 4-2 loss than they were in the 1-1 tie in December. They had a total of 81 shot attempts in the Saturday game. Expect to see that type of attack by North Dakota this weekend. Much like last weekend vs Denver the Huskies need to tend to their backside and not be too loose with the puck back on defense. It’s safe to say the Huskies have more depth than North Dakota and as long as this does not become a special teams battle the Huskies should have the advantage.

Buckle up – this should be a fun and exciting road series.

Grand Forks Herald Story

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