Huskies Host Miami in NCHC Quarterfinals

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – After wrapping up the NCHC conference title and Penrose Cup the Huskies now turn their attention to the NCHC playoffs and earning the right to the Frozen Faceoff in two weeks. But, first at hand are the Miami RedHawks whom the Huskies recently faced on the road on February 9/10. The RedHawks finished in last place in the NCHC regular season standings but don’t let that fool you. Every team in the conference has the capability for an upset and this weekend will be no different as the Huskies face the RedHawks. The Huskies will need to be prepared as they play to maintain the #1 position in the Pairwise allowing the team to receive preferential treatment in the seeding for the NCAA tournament. 

#1/1 (Pairwise #1) St. Cloud State University Huskies (22-6-6 | 16-4-4 NCHC) vs  #NR (Pairwise #30) Miami RedHawks (11-18-5 | 6-14-4 NCHC)

TV: Fox 9+ (all games)  
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.TV($)
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU  Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, Mar. 9  –  7:37 PM CT | Saturday, Mar. 10 – 7:07 PM CT | Sunday, Mar. 11 – 7:07 PM CT (if necessary)

Last Time Out:

The RedHawks faced Denver on the road last weekend in the final series of the regular season. On Friday, Denver scored the first three goals and Miami was unable to recover in a 6-3 (EN) loss. Miami’s Ryan Larkin stopped 29 of 34 SOG in the loss. In the Saturday rematch, the RedHawks once again fell behind 3-0 to the Pioneers but rallied for the next three goals including two by Karch Bachman in a 3-3 overtime tie. Ran Larkin stopped 32 of 35 SOG in the tie.

The Huskies were on the road for the season finale series and left with a four point road weekend with a 4-3 overtime win on Friday and a 2-2 overtime tie on Saturday. Ryan Poehling scored twice including the overtime game-winner and David Hrenak stopped 29 of 32 shots on goal as SCSU defeated UND at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday, March 2.  Poehling, had perhaps the finest game of his early career scoring the go-ahead goal in period two on a crazy stick move and then outmuscling his opponents in a strong shift in overtime to score the game-winner for the #1 ranked Huskies. In the regular season finale, SCSU fell behind 2-0 to a team fighting for home ice in the NCHC playoffs and then turned things up in the third period to salvage a 2-2 overtime tie with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. SCSU received another solid outing from David Hrenak and received third period goals from Grand Forks native Jacob Benson and last nights hero Ryan Poehling in the overtime draw.

The Huskies faced The RedHawks on the road on February 9/10 and swept Miami by scores of 5-2 and 4-0.

Going back to the 2009-10 season, SCSU has an advantage at 13-11-1.  SCSU is 4-1-0 in the last five, 7-3-0 in the last ten and 12-8-0 in the last 20. SCSU is 7-4-1 in the last 12 games in St. Cloud.

Scouting the Miami RedHawks:

The RedHawks finished in seventh place last season and have taken a step backward finishing in last place in the tough NCHC conference despite having six returning defenseman and 14 newcomers from last season with a year under their belt. The new year has not been kind to the RedHawks with a 3-10-3 record although they are 1-1-2 in the last 4. They’ve had sub-par results on the road with a 3-9-4 record this season. Of concern is that even with six returning defensemen, the defense is ranked 54th in the country with a negative scoring margin. It’s very tough in the NCHC to win when you are allowing 3.44 goals per game. The offense is scoring 2.79 goals per game which theoretically should provide you with success but again, the porous play on defense is erasing the success on offense. The lone bright spot is the Miami power play ranked #9 in the country with a success ratio of 23.13 %.  The penalty kill is another story – ranked 43rd in the nation at 79.05%.

The RedHawks entered the season counting on juniors Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick and Carson Meyer to lead the charge. However, sophomore Gordie Green has stepped forward leading the team in goals and scoring with 14-18-32 including 2 game-winning goals. Josh Melnick a crafty and clutch performer has 9-20-29 with 3 GWG. Kieffer Sherwood is also a top four forward with 8-17-25. The RedHawks expected more out of Carson Meyer after a 10-16-26 season a year ago. He currently sits with 9 points. Touted recruits and sophomores Karch Bachman and Willie Knierin have also been disappointments combining for 15 points and just 6 goals on the season.

On defense, senior Louie Belpedio, a Minnesota Wild draft choice is the heart and soul of the unit and has been very productive offensively with 10-18-28, a +3 ranking and 6 power play goals. Grant Hutton is also having an outstanding year from an offensive standpoint with 10-12-22 including 8 power play goals. Scott Dornbrook is another seasoned veteran that helps round out the unit.

Sophomore goaltender, Ryan Larkin has seen his numbers dip from last season and has been the go to guy in goal appearing in 33 games. However, his 3.12 GAA and .884 SV% are a reflection of the marginal play by the RedHawk defense.

Offense:   2.79 (33rd)
Defense:   3.44 GAPG (54th)
Power Play:  23.13 (9th)
Penalty Kill:  79.05% (43rd)
Penalties:  14.09 (10th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The #1 ranked Huskies are on a roll with a current undefeated streak of 11 games. They have not lost a game since a road loss at UMD on January 26. Last weekend vs UND the Huskies extended their undefeated streak on the road to six games. The #1 Pairwise Huskies are also ranked #1 in Krach and have the 3rd ranked strength of schedule in college hockey. SCSU looks to solidify their position with a successful weekend vs Miami.

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 23 assists for 38 points edging Jimmy Schuldt with 8-28-36. Jackson has been one of the most consistent players as of late with thirteen points in the last fifteen games. Ryan Poehling has stepped up his game as well with 13 points in the last 14 games. Jimmy Schuldt continues to lead the defense in scoring with 36 points. Easton Brodzinski continues to lead the rookies in goals with 12 goals and 9 assists for 21 points.Blake Lizotte has taken over the rookie scoring lead with 6-17-23. 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 +70.  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 +20 and 16 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 has emerged as the teams #1 goaltender and was named Division I Rookie of the Month after being undefeated in February and compiling a 4-0-1 record.  His numbers are currently an outstanding 1.94 GAA and .928 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:   3.76 GPG (2nd)
Defense:   2.44 GAPG (13th)
Power Play:  22.58% (11th)
Penalty Kill:  80.51% (36th)
Penalties:  9.76 (52nd)

Game Prospectus:

You can never take anything for granted when it comes to playoff time. This weekend will be no different as there are no truly weak teams in the NCHC including the last-place Miami RedHawks. Granted, the Huskies swept the RedHawks on their home ice just a month ago but don’t use that as a predictor for this weekend. Miami’s only chance to continue their season will be to defeat the Huskies this weekend and advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. It’s been a frustrating season for the RedHawks who took a step backwards in the NCHC standings this season. There’s certainly talent on this RedHawk squad but inconsistency has plagued them the entire season. Players like Gordie Green, Josh Melnick, Louie Belpedio and Kiefer Sherwood are all game-breakers and can lead them to success. Unfortunately, the defense, ranked 54th in the country has been an issue and has affected the play of goaltender, Ryan Larkin, a quality goaltender.

The Huskies really don’t need to tweak anything. They are in the midst of an 11 game undefeated streak and have been awfully good in the third period bailing them out in games where they’ve been behind after two periods. David Hrenak has emerged as a key component to the Huskies success with some of the best goaltending numbers in college hockey. Obviously one of the most important things is to have a goaltender playing at his best during playoff time and Hrenak is doing just that. First-round Montreal draft choice Ryan Poehling has really stepped up his game with 10 points in the last nine games including 5 goals. But, the key to the Huskies success is to avoid games dominated by special teams where they can roll all four lines and wear their opponent down. Obviously, that’s one of the reasons for their third period dominance this season.

Keys to this weekend for SCSU are as follows:

  • Miami is one of the most penalized teams in college hockey. The Huskies need to take advantage of their man-advantage opportunities and not retaliate and turn this into a special teams battle.
  • Avoiding a special teams contest will allow the Huskies to rely on their depth and ability to roll all four lines. They’ll be successful if they limit their penalties.
  • Defensively, the Huskies need to tend to business on their backside and refrain from being too aggressive offensively from the DE position. The Huskies loose play at defense this season has led to too many odd-man rushes.
  • Continued strong play by David Hrenak needs to continue.
  • This is the time of the year when the goal scorers need to be on top of their game. Robby Jackson, Mikey Eyssimont, Ryan Poehling, Jimmy Schuldt and Easton Brodzinski all need to lead the offense as they’ve done all season.

The Huskies have a NCAA bid locked up. Nevertheless, SCSU needs to engage their fans with another Frozen Faceoff appearance as they head towards to NCAA tourney.

 

 

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