#2 SCSU Huskies Embark on Challenging Hockey East Road Trip

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – It’s been a geography lesson for the #2 ranked St. Cloud State University hockey team early in the 2018-19 season.  A trip to Alaska two weekends ago to face the Nanooks in a non-conference game was a good team bonding experience. The first week in November will have them in Colorado to face the resurgent Colorado College Tigers to begin conference play. Of immediate concern this week is a road trip to Boston, MA to face Hockey East foes Boston College and Northeastern University. The Huskies hosted the Eagles a year ago in St. Cloud but have not faced the Huskies of Northeastern since the turn of the millennium in November of 2000. Despite a combined early season 2-5-0 record for these two opponents it’s going to be a very challenging trip and a huge test for the Huskies who are off to a 4-0-0 start. A non-typical schedule has the Huskies facing off against the Boston College Eagles on Thursday, Oct. 25 and the NU Huskies on Saturday, Oct. 27.

#2 St. Cloud State University Huskies (4-0-0 | 0-0-0 NCHC) vs #NR  Boston University Eagles (0-3-0 | 0-0-0 Hockey East) #12 Northeastern University Huskies (2-2-0 | 0-0-0 Hockey East)

 

TV: (Thu) N/A | (Sat.) NESN Plus  
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: (Thu) ESPN3 (Sat) Stretch Internet
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO 
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: Boston College | Northeastern
Where: (Thu) Conte Forum (Kelly Rink) (Sat) Matthews Arena – Boston, MA
When: Thursday, Oct. 25 –  6:00 PM CT | Saturday, Oct. 27 – 6:00 PM CT 

Last Time Out:

The Huskies put on quite a show for their fans in the season-opening series vs Northern Michigan. The Huskies laid nine goals on the Wildcats yielding one in the weekend sweep of NMU. The engine was running on all cylinders as the #2 ranked SCSU Huskies posted an impressive 4-1 win over the Northern Michigan University Wildcats on Friday, October 20th at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The Huskies peppered NMU goaltender Atte Tolvanen with 16 shots in the second period scoring twice including the game-winner by Easton Brodzinski as SCSU improved its record to 3-0 on the early season. Four different players netted goals on the evening and Blake Lizotte who seemingly was a part of every big play assisted on two of them. The only blemish on the evening was a five-minute major and game disqualification penalty to Jack Ahcan late in period two that led to the Wildcats only goal of the game.

The #4 ranked SCSU Huskies were so dominant on Saturday night they had the game-winning goal in hand by the 7:15 mark of period one. Further indication of their superiority in this 5-0 shutout was a 31-10 advantage in total shots on goal, having a success rate of 66% (2/3) on the power play and a shut down defense that allowed an average of 3 shots per period and a shutout for senior goaltender Jeff Smith. Once again, it was scoring by committee with two power play goals, 5 different players scoring and 3 separate lines scoring when even-strength. In the end, the Huskies placed 64 shots on 2017-18 WCHA First-Team Goaltender Atte Tolvanen over the two-game series beating him nine times in the weekend sweep.

The Boston College Eagles ran into a hot goaltender on their first trip ever to face Quinnipiac in Hamden, CT on October 13. Keith Petruzelli stopped all 21 BC shots in the 1-0 shut out. The previous weekend, the Eagles were swept by the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, WI by scores of 3-0 and 7-5. The bright spot on the weekend was a hat trick by BC junior forward David Cotton. The Eagles are winless in three games to start the season.

The Northeastern Huskies meanwhile ran into a resilient Union College squad getting swept at Matthews Arena by scores of 4-3 (ot) Friday and 3-1 in the Saturday rematch. On Friday, Union spotted the Huskies a 2-0 1st period lead but a comeback by the Dutchmen sent the game to overtime with Union prevailing 4-3. The Huskies outshot Union 40-29 in the contest. On Saturday, Union bookmarked three goals around period two and Northeastern’s only goal in a 3-1 win. The sweep at the hands of the Dutchman dropped Northeastern’s early season record to 2-2-0.

Head to Head

There has been limited head to head competition between these three schools. SCSU carries a 2-1-0 all-time record vs Boston College and 1-0-0 vs Northeastern. The Huskies swept BC a year ago in St. Cloud by scores of 3-1 and 5-2. Their only previous meeting was a 2-1 overtime loss by the Huskies in the Florida College Classic in 2004. The SCSU Huskies have faced the NU Huskies once in their history. On November 24, 2000 SCSU defeated Northeastern 4-1 at Matthews Arena.

Scouting the Boston College Eagles:

A perennial heavyweight in Hockey East, the Eagles are off the a slow start in 2018-19. This program steeped in tradition, typically reloads rather than rebuilds and no doubt will be in the thick of things by seasons end. Last season, the Eagles had one win in their first seven games and then rattled off seven straight wins ultimately winning the Hockey East Conference title. They lost in the Hockey East playoff semi-finals to Boston University ending their season. The Eagles are coached by Jerry York who carries an all-time record of 586-296-83 (65% winning %) and has headed the Boston College program for 25 years. This overshadowed his 14 seasons at Bowling Green and  7 seasons at Clarkson.

With 98% of their offense returning from a year ago, it was not expected that scoring should be an issue in 2018-19. Add to the lineup one of the top recruits in college hockey, Oliver Wahlstrom, a New York Islanders first-round draft choice and it only solidified things. Other key first-year players are Jack McBain, Adam Samuelsson and Patrick Giles. Hockey East Freshman of the Year, Logan Husko (12-19-31)  returns as does David Cotton (9-19-28). Experienced and highly recruited goaltender junior David Woll is expected to be a strength after a 2017-18 season that produced a 17-11-2 record, 2.48 GAA and .915 SV%. Although solid, the BC defense is not a particular strength on this team and is led by Casey Fitzgerald, Michael Kim and St.Lawrence transfer Ben Finkelstein.

Predicted to finish first in Hockey East, this team needs to prove it can win outside the conference as it was 2-11-0 vs teams in the NCAA tourney last season and they have not won a non-conference game since 2016.

Offense: 1.67 (47th)
Defense: 3.67 (37th)
Power Play: 20.00 PCT (25th t)
Penalty Kill: 90 PCT (7th)
Penalties: 8.00 APG (50th) 

Scouting the Northeastern University Huskies

The Northeastern University Huskies finished second in Hockey East last season and advanced to the NCAA tournament losing to Michigan in the quarterfinals by a 3-2 score. A banner season was highlighted by junior forward Adam Gaudette winning the Hobey Baker Award and that success will be tough to duplicate in 2018-19. Gaudette opted to forgo his senior season which leaves a huge void in the offense. Specifically, the loss of Gaudette’s 30-30-60 and departed seniors Nolan Stevens 24-18-42 and Dylan Sikura’s 22-32-54 means a loss of 78 of the team’s 136 goals from last season. With the team returning only 42% of last years scoring the huge question is who will help fill that gap. Unfortunately, it will be a nearly impossible task placed on the back of top returning forwards Grant Jozefek, Lincoln Griffin and Brandon Hawkins. However, they only produced 19 goals all last season combined.

Defense will be a strength with returnees Jeremy Davies (6-29-35) and Ryan Shea (1-16-17) leading the way. But, most important is the return of sophomore goaltender Cayden  Primeau, one of college hockey’s top goaltenders last season with a 1.92 GAA and .931 SV%. It may be hard to repeat those numbers with the loss of their dominant top line and they’ll have to rely on others to step forward on defense as they wade through the start of the 2018-19 season. The Huskies were predicted to finish fourth in the coaches poll.

Offense:  3.50 (16th) 
Defense:   2.25 (15th)
Power Play: 17.39 PCT (33rd)
Penalty Kill:  80.00 PCT (29th t)
Penalties:  6.00 APG (53rd)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

Experience, depth and strong goaltending should lead the Huskies to success in 2018-19. The Huskies were picked to finish 2nd in the tough NCHC conference in the preseason coaches poll.

With a great deal of depth and experience at defense this will be a position of strength for the Huskies and one of the top units in college hockey. Led by All-American senior, Hobey Baker finalist, pre-season All, NCHC pick  and captain, Jimmy Schuldt,  Jon Lizotte, a four- year player and alternate captain and talented puck mover Jack Ahcan, currently leading the team in points, this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top threesomes in college hockey. Add to the group, sophomore, Luke Jaycox and a talented group of newcomers – Brendan Bushy, NHL draft choice Nick Perbix and local native Spencer Meier and you have one of the most talent-laden defensive units in college hockey. Unfortunately, sophomore, Tyler Anderson, another solid contributor sustained an upper body injury vs Mount Royal and may be out for another seven weeks. There will be lots of competition for playing time and all will be shuffled into the lineup.This is a deep, deep unit and the envy of coaches around the league.

The Huskies are blessed with a lot of experience at forward and seniors Robby JacksonPatrick Newell and Jacob Benson have experienced loads of success during their time at SCSU. They’ve experienced a Frozen Faceoff Championship, a Penrose Cup and have been a part of two NCAA tournament squads. Pre-season all-league NCHC pick Robby Jackson, a 21 year-old senior led the Huskies in scoring in 2017-18 with 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points and has a deadly accurate wrist shot accounting for many of these tallies. Not just an offensive player, Jackson has a solid work ethic and his defensive game has blossomed as well. Jackson already has 5 points in 4 games and will join the 100 point club this season. Senior Patrick Newell is an experienced forward being counted on to be a leader this season. Skilled and tough along the boards for his size he’s finally filling out physically which will certainly help his game this season. He currently leads the squad with 4 goals and 7 points. Senior Jacob Benson was named alternate captain and he too has started the season well with 2 goals and three points in four games.

Finishing 4th on the team scoring chart last season, Montreal Canadiens first-rounder Ryan Poehling ( 13-17-30) is primed for a break out season. He has 5 points in four games and a shooting percentage of 25%. The Poehling twins, Jack and Nick are a coaches dream with a work ethic through the roof. Junior Jake Wahlin is another that scores big goals but needs to have a more consistent offensive game. The talent is there and as a Junior it’s hoped he’ll at least double his 11 points from last season. Sophomore Blake Lizotte made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season and is quickly becoming one of the most exciting forwards in college hockey. Another player with tons of talent and a motor that won’t quit he’ll be a scoring leader for the Huskies this season. Easton Brodzinski is another member of the  2017-18 NCHC All-Rookie team and it was well-deserved. A natural goal scorer with a wicked wrist shot he netted 14 goals his rookie season and scored twice last weekend vs Northern Michigan. He’s another primed for a huge offensive year. Sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald was a surprise as a rookie earning 38 games of playing time and added 5 goals and 14 assists. He has a combination of skill and grinder and skating with the Poehling twins are relentless in their forecheck.

Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. All three are extremely talented and will be contributors as freshman. Both Hentges and Walker have combined for two goals and seven points already. Micah Miller is another talented newcomer that will be battling for ice time along with senior Mika Ilvonen and sophomore Will Hammer.

With  senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have one of the top one-two punches at goaltender in college hockey. David Hrenak, from Slovakia arrived at SCSU as a heralded freshman from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL and ended the season as a member of the NCHC All-Rookie team and an All-NCHC Honorable Mention honoree. Validating his success, following the season, he was drafted in the fifth round by the LA Kings. Highly competitive, he took hold of the #1 position as the season wore on and finished with a 13-7-2 record, a 2.03 GAA and .922 SV% including three shutouts. With a tremendous upside, he’s an athletic and positionally sound goaltender with a good glove. Hrenak will once again be one of the top goaltenders in the NCHC. Jeff Smith, played in 19 games last season losing only twice and proving to be worthy of splitting time in goal with Hrenak. Smith finished with a 11-2-4 record, 2.57 GAA and .910 SV%. The 6’2″ 190 pound native of Maple Ridge, BC improved his agility and quickness and he’ll be ready to compete for playing time this season. Both goaltenders are 2-0-0 to start the 2018-19 season.

Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:

Offense:  4.50  (6th t)
Defense:  1.25  (2nd) 
Power Play:  22.22 PCT (22nd)
Penalty Kill:  95.00 PCT (2nd)
Penalties:  14.75 APG (18th)

Game Prospectus:

This will be a very challenging road trip for the Huskies. It’ll be a disjointed weekend with games on Thursday and Saturday and contests at two different venues. Additionally both rinks are about 10 feet narrower giving the Huskies, a speedy team less room to maneuver. The majority of the players on SCSU faced Boston College a year ago so there is some familiarity with them. They are a team with some very high talent and should be anxious to exact some revenge after last years sweep at the hands of the Huskies. However, the Huskies haven’t faced Northeastern in close to two decades so there should be a feeling out period in that contest. One note of interest is that current senior goaltender Jeff Smith did face Northeastern during his freshman year while with UMass-Lowell and earned a shutout.

After facing Northeastern last weekend , Union coach Rick Bennett remarked “Northeastern was a very fast, structured team. Something different from what we’d faced in previous games.I was just really impressed with their speed and a lot of offensive guys. And their defensemen were very good offensively. Just the shots they were putting on net and the amount of time they had the puck. It just creates a tough matchup. Every time I looked over, I saw the coaches with the hockey board going at it. So I know they’re very well-coached by (head coach) Jim (Madigan), Jerry and (assistant) Jason Smith.”

Coach Mike Gibbons shared ” We were impressive and satisfied with how we played (last weekend). It was a great start and It gives us confidence. We know how we have to play to be a good team. Teams that play us have to prepare for all four lines. Our strength is when we can roll lines. We are better off when we stay with that routine.” In other words, the Huskies need to limit the penalties this weekend. In facing Boston College Gibbons stated “Their forwards are outstanding. They are very talented. We swept them last year and they are a proud program. It will be a terrific and fun challenge.”

 

 

 

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