St. Cloud, MN – This was not the Huskies at their best on Friday in the first round of the NCHC playoffs at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Sloppy play and turnovers accentuated the Huskies play but they prevailed nontheless 5-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series. Coach Motzko admitted “Miami outplayed us tonight. We love the win – love the fact we made the right plays- but we have to be a better hockey team tomorrow. The coaches frustration tonight is we’d like to see a better hockey game out of our team.” The score was not indicative of the game as the #1 ranked Huskies had to fend off the RedHawks attack all night and David Hrenak was required to put forth another strong effort in goal. The Huskies never fell behind in the game but it was still a one-goal game until Easton Brodzinski scored at 11:39 of the third period to give the SCSU squad a comfort level. Mikey Eyssimont finally wrapped things up with an empty net goal with a minute and a half to play. For the RedHawks, one more loss ends their season or keep winning through the Frozen Faceoff to have a chance to advance to the NCAA tourney.
The Huskies got on the board first in period one at 6:02 with a goal by sophomore defenseman, Jack Ahcan (Winiecki | Benson). Ahcan, who was stationed at the left point received a lateral pass along the blue line from Blake Winiecki and his slapper beat Miami’s Larkin for a 1-0 SCSU lead. Several minutes later, SCSU appeared to extend their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Easton Brodzinski but after review it was determined Ryan Poehling interfered with goaltender Larkin and it was waved off. The RedHawks who were pushing the play hard all period finally met with some success with a goal by Keifer Sherwood at 15:28. Just 8 seconds after the expiration of a penalty to Kevin Fitzgerald, Sherwood found himself all alone in the right slot and he beat Hrenak glove side top shelf to tie the game at 1-1. This was Sherwood’s 9th goal of the season. SCSU outshot Miami 11-10 in the period and the RedHawks were 0/1 on the only man-advantage of the period.
The Huskies responded early in period two with a goal by Jimmy Schuldt (Jackson | Brodzinski) after a slashing penalty to the RedHawks Zach LaValle. Schuldt’s heavy shot from the top of the right circle at 6:11 put the Huskies ahead by a 2-1 margin. They then extended their lead by two goals on a strong effort by Blake Lizotte (unassisted) at 15:14. Miami was unable to clear the zone and Lizotte captured the puck and fought his was through traffic to beat Larkin with a low shot in the slot for a 3-1 SCSU margin. SCSU edged Miami 8-7 in shots on goal that period. SCSU was 1/3 on the power play in period two and Miami was 0/1.
The RedHawks refused to yield the game as Gordie Green once again narrowed the SCSU lead to one goal off an odd man rush at 4:26 of period three. This was Green’s team leading 15th goal of the season and once again had the Huskies looking over their shoulder. It wasn’t until Easton Brodzinski (Jackson | Borgen) scored at 11:39 to again advance the Huskies lead to two goals that a certain degree of comfort in the outcome was being felt by the Huskies. Robby Jackson entered the Miami zone and made a drop pass to Brodzinski who wristed a laser that beat Larkin clean top shelf glove side from the left circle for a 4-2 lead. This was NCHC all-rookie team Brodzinski’s 13th goal of the season. Mikey Eyssimont then finished things off with an empty net goal at 18:50 of period three, his 15th of the season.
SCSU had a 29-26 shot advantage for the game and a huge advantage in faceoffs at 38/18. The Huskies were 1/3 on the man-advantage while Miami was 0/2. David Hrenak backstopped SCSU to the win stopping 24 of 26 shots on goal to earn his 12th win of the season. His counterpart, Ryan Larkin turned aside 23 of 27 shots on goal in the loss and saw his record drop to 11-17-5.
The teams meet again at 7:05 PM CT on Saturday in the second of a possible three game series. A loss by Miami ends their season while another win in this series sends the Huskies to the Frozen Faceoff next weekend in St. Paul. The Huskies continue to extend their margin in the Pairwise and remain ranked #1 in that all-important ranking for seeding NCAA tournament play.
Robby Jackson ( 0-2-2), Jack Ahcan (1-1-2) and Easton Brodzinski (1-1-2) all had a multiple point game for SCSU.
Stars of the Game: #1 Brodzinski (SCSU) #2 Schuldt (SCSU) #3 B. LIzotte (SCSU)