St. Cloud, MN – In retrospect, coach Larson’s intuition was dead on. He wanted goaltender David Hrenak to take a mental break from the game and start Jeff Smith on Friday vs the Bemidji State University Beavers at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. He couldn’t have planned a more accurate move. Smith, who fell out of the rotation for two games earned a shutout after stopping 32 shots on goal including several big saves down the stretch as the Huskies squeezed by a very tough Bemidji State squad by a 2-0 score. And, to top things off, he added a third period assist on Kevin Fitzgerald’s empty net goal to garner the games #1 star. The other key component on the night was Easton Brodzinski who scored the game-winning goal on a power play but easily could have had several more were it not for a strong effort on the other end of the rink by Henry Johnson, the BSU netminder. It turns out the Beavers were what they thought they were – disciplined, dedicated to a strong forecheck , tight gap play and jumping on the numerous turnovers they forced. In the end, the Huskies were outshot 32 to 21 and despite being frustrated to no end at times by the battle-ready Beavers won their fifth straight game and fifth at home to improve their overall record to 10-1-0.
The Beavers, who lost a number of key players following the 2017-18 season and were picked to finish fifth in the WCHA, showed little signs of being intimidated outshooting the Huskies 12 to 7 in period one but yielding a power play goal to Easton Brodzinski (R Poehling | B Lizotte) midway through the period. They were able to kill off a penalty to Dillon Eichstadt but a hooking call at 11:15 gave the Huskies the break they needed. Lizotte fed Poehling who was along the left sidewall and he threaded a goalmouth pass to Brodzinski who chipped the puck from in the paint past the glove of Johnson for the eventual game-winner.
The Huskies attempted to return the favor to Bemidji with two penalties in the second period – elbowing to Jimmy Schuldt at 11:37 and two minutes after that infraction expired a hooking penalty to Robby Jackson. However the nations second best penalty kill shut both down allowing the Huskies to hang on to the tenuous one-goal lead by the end of the second. Once again, with the help of the two power plays, the Beavers outshot the Huskies 11 to 6 in the period.
After trading penalties early in period three, the Beavers seemed to get stronger as the period wore on controlling the puck in the SCSU zone and disrupting any type of transition by the Huskies. The Huskies who seemed to be growing weary of the constant pressure by the Beavers had to resort to dumping the puck out of the zone something they normally force on their opponents. The Huskies caught a break when BSU’s Alex Ierullo was able push a puck under Smith and over the goal line but it was ruled the whistle had blown and it was waved off. A big save by Smith with 7:03 remaining in regulation also maintained the one-goal lead. Kevin Fitzgerald finally sealed the win with an empty net goal assisted by Smith at 18:49. Fitzgerald captured the puck behind the SCSU goal and skated it along the wall to the red line where he deposited a 100 foot shot into an empty net to clinch the 2-0 final. Once again, BSU outshot the Huskies 9 to 8 in the period.
Bemidji outshot SCSU 32-21 for the game with Jeff Smith stopping all 32 to preserve his first shutout of the season and improve his record to 3-1-0. BSU’s “Hank” Johnson provided a strong effort as well allowing one goal on 20 SCSU shots. The Huskies were 1 for 3 on the man-advantage while Bemidji was 0 for 3. Both teams took 4 penalties for 8 minutes. SCSU had the advantage in faceoffs 39-21 and blocked 15 shots to BSU’s 7.
Coach Larson commented “We showed some frustration and got off our game. Bemidji did a great job playing to their game plan disrupting everything and making it hard to gain any room all over the ice. We at times got a little rattled. We haven’t seen that from our team so far this year. Give credit to Bemidji for how hard they play and the way they play. There was no room out there and we had to play through it.” Concerning the play of Jeff Smith he remarked “Smith was determined in there tonight. He hadn’t been in for a while and his compete level rubbed off on the group. ”
Stars of the Game: #1 Smith (SCSU) #2 Brodzinski (SCSU) #3 Johnson (BSU)