SCSU to Host Omaha Mavericks this Weekend

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – So far so good. After this weekend, the #1/2 ranked Huskies will have completed one-third of their 2018-19 NCHC conference schedule. Currently 4-0-2, they lead the UMD Bulldogs and Miami Redhawks by three points and the Western Michigan Broncos and Denver Pioneers by six points in the conference standings. After the weekend they face the USA Under 18 team in an exhibition on December 27th and then participate in the Three Rivers Classic hosted by Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s not until January 11/12 until they return to conference play in a road series at the UMD Bulldogs. After earning three of six points last weekend vs Miami, the Huskies will need to re-group and finish the weekend strong as they head into a break in their schedule. SCSU will face a Omaha squad that had not won a game in the 2018-19 season until they defeated Miami at home by a 6-3 win on November 3. Since then, they’ve gone 4-2-1 and will be determined to leave St. Cloud with some conference points. 

#1/2 St. Cloud State University Huskies (11-1-2 | 4-0-2 NCHC) vs #NR Omaha Mavericks (4-8-2 | 2-3-1 NCHC) 

TV: Fox Sports North (Both Games)
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($) | Stream can also be found on: Apple TV and Roku,
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, December 7 – 7:05 PM CT | Saturday, December 8 – 6:05 PM CT

Series notes – Omaha Series notes – SCSU

Last Time Out:

The Huskies returned to NCHC conference play on Friday, November 30th and found themselves in a run and gun game with the Miami University RedHawks. The teams combined for 74 shots on goal and 6 first-period goals ultimately settling for a 4-4 overtime tie. Scoreless after the five-minute overtime session and the obligatory three on three overtime session, Blake Lzotte finally settled things quickly in the required shootout on the Huskies first attempt to earn the extra league point. For the game, SCSU outshot Miami  44-30.  SCSU’s Smith stopped 26 of 30 shots on goal. Robby Jackson (2-0-2), Patrick Newell (1-1-2),  Nolan Walker (0-2-2) all had a multiple point game for SCSU. Saturday was a polar opposite of Friday nights contest but the result was the same as the two teams skated to a 2-2 overtime draw – at least for NCAA purposes. On this night, Miami earned the satisfaction of the extra league point as Josh Melnick, always tough on the Huskies scored the three on three overtime winner for the extra point and a split of the weekend series with both teams earning three league points. Both goaltenders were solid with SCSU’s Hrenak stopping 25 of 27 shots on goal and Miami’s Uhelski 28 of 30. Blake Lizotte and Easton Brodzinski netted goals for SCSU.

The Mavericks hosted the Colorado College Tigers earning two of six points on the weekend with a 3-3 overtime tie on Friday and suffering a 6-3 loss on Saturday. On Friday, Omaha jumped out to a two-goal lead only to have the Tigers rally for three goals and a one-goal advantage in the third period. Omaha’s Fredrik Olofsson netted the game-tying goal at 17:40 of the third to send it to overtime. Scoreless after overtime, Mason Morelli earned the extra league point in the shootout. On Saturday, the Tigers were a bit too much for Omaha running up a 4-0 lead in period one and eventually winning 6-3. Mason Morelli and Riley Alford each netted their second goals of the weekend in the loss. Evan Weninger stopped 12 of 16 shots in the loss.

Head to Head:

The Huskies are 20-10-2 all-time vs Omaha going back to 1998. SCSU has dominated this opponent going 5-0-0 in the last 5, 8-2-0 in the last 10 and 14-6-0 in the last 20. SCSU is 11-4-1 vs the Mavericks in St. Cloud. The last meeting between the two squads was on February 2nd and 3rd of 2018. The Huskies swept the home series by 6-2 and 5-3 scores.

Scouting the Omaha Mavericks:

With head coach Dean  Blais and household names like Snuggerud, Ortega, Vesel, Pope, Randolph and Guentzel now at least two years in the rear view mirror just who is the current version of the Mavericks? First, let’s start with the coach. Edmonton native Mike Gabinet is a former defender for the Mavericks through the 2003-04 season and then spent six season in the ECHL and AHL before returning to Omaha as an Associate Head Coach with Dean Blais. Hired to replace Blais starting with the 2017-18 season, Gabinet is trying to put his own stamp on the Mavericks program and is 21-25-4 since taking over the reigns. Despite having 17 upperclassmen to work with, the team lost 45% of its goal scoring and 42.5% of it’s points from last season with the departure of standouts David Pope, Tyler Vesel, Jake Randolph and Luke Messner.

There are some experienced forwards in seniors Fredrik Olofsson (7-11-18), currently leading the squad in points along with Mason Morelli (9-9-18) and junior Zach Jordan (4-9-13). Seniors Riley Alfed (3-2-5), Ryan Galt (1-3-4) and Steven Spinner (2-2-4) will also be relied upon to lead. First-year forward Taylor Ward, a 6’2″ 200 pound forward has had a nice start to his career with 5-8-13 and Sauk Rapids, MN native Travis Kothenbeutal (1-3-4) will be a couple of other players to keep an eye on this weekend.

On defense, again, there is experience with Ryan Jones, Dean Stewart and Lucas Buchta. John Schuldt, the brother of SCSU captain Jimmy Schuldt is a 6″4″ 212 defender and another interesting sideline for the weekend. Cambridge, MN native and senior Jalen Schulz is another player with local ties.

The Mavericks return an experienced goaltender in Evan Weninger who has logged 93 career games. After a banner season in 2015-16 where he posted a 2.46 GAA and .923 SV% his numbers dipped to 3.36 and .899 last season and 4.05 and .885 currently. He’s backed by North Dakota transfer and Slovakia native, Matej Tomak, a 3rd round draft choice of the Philadelphia Flyers who has struggled to earn playing time since the 2015-16 season logging only six games and currently posessing a 5.02 GAA and .828 SV% after four games this season.  The other back-up Alex Blankenburg has not been the answer either with a 6.09 GAA and .750 SV% in his only start.

The Mavericks are having a tough time defending regardless if it’s at even strength or on the penalty kill. Thy are dead last in the country on defense allowing 3.14 goals per game – coincidentally, the same number of goals they are scoring per game. The penalty kill is 47th allowing the opponent to score nearly 25% of the time they are on the man advantage. Discipline has been an issue as well averaging over 17 minutes of penalties per game. A bright spot has been the power play ranked 10th nationally at 26.03%. Fredrik Olofsson and Mason Morelli have been extremely productive on the man-advantage with Olofsson’s 5 goals and Morelli’s 3 goals.

Omaha’s national statistics are as follows:

Team Offense: 3.14 GPG (23rd)
Team Defense: 3.14 GAPG (60th)
Power Play: 26.03% (10th)
Penalty Kill: 76.81% (47th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 17.64 (3rd)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The #1/2 ranked Huskies have had a highly successful start to the 2018-19 season. With a 11-1-2 record and with quality wins both on the road and at home there is little to complain about. They are excelling on both ends of the ice and ranked third in the nation  in offense and fifth in defense. Special teams have been strong –  second nationally on the penalty kill and 9th on the power play. Seniors are providing tremendous leadership, there is balanced scoring, the first-year class is contributing and despite some inconsistently, both goaltenders are getting the job done. They are undeniably one of the top collegiate teams in the country right now.

Currently, the Huskies are the fifth-ranked defense in the nation allowing only 2.00 goals per game.  Led by All-American, Hobey Baker finalist, pre-season All-NCHC pick and captain, Jimmy Schuldt (4-9-13 +4), alternate captain and senior Jon Lizotte (1-3-4 +6), and talented puck mover Jack Ahcan (1-11-12 +11), this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top threesome in college hockey. Add to the group, sophomore, Luke Jaycox (1-1-2 +6) and a talented group of newcomers – Brendan Bushy (+2) , NHL draft choice Nick Perbix (+10) and local native Spencer Meier (+2) 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 two to three weeks. The entire unit is plus 41 and not a single regular is in the minus.

The Huskies are currently ranked third in the nation on offense with a lot of depth at forward and seniors Robby Jackson, Patrick 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 and currently is second in team points with 15. Not just an offensive player, Jackson has a solid work ethic and his defensive game has blossomed as well and he’s +8. Jackson 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 has helped his game this season. He currently leads the forwards with 9 goals and 18 points. Senior Jacob Benson was named alternate captain and he has 2 goals and four points in 14 games.

Montreal Canadiens first-rounder, Ryan Poehling has 15 points in 14 games and is a shoo-n to make the US World Junior team again. The Poehling twins, Jack and Nick along with Kevin Fitzgerald are preferably matched against the opponents top line. They’ve combined for 16 points.Sophomore Blake Lizotte made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season and is one of the most exciting forwards in college hockey. He’ll be a scoring leader for the Huskies this season. He currently has 12 points in 14 games. 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 tends to score in bunches. He has 7 goals and three game-winning goals and 4 power pay goals. Sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald was a surprise as a rookie earning 38 games of playing time and skating with the Poehling twins contributes to a relentless forecheck. He has 6 goals including one game-winner.

Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. Walker has an outstanding shooting percentage of 38.5% and Hentges 25%. Hentges and Walker have combined for 10 goals and 22 points and both are making a serious case to make the NCHC all-rookie team.  Micah Miller is another talented newcomer that will be battling for ice time and has shown increased confidence and strong puck control in his last several outings.

With senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have one of the top one-two punches at goaltender in college hockey. Hrenak has yet to lose a game, is 8-0-1 and has a 2.13 GAA and a .909 SV% and one shutout. Smith has split time with Hrenak and is 3-1-1 with two shutouts and outstanding 1.78 GAA and .929 SV%.

Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:

Offense: 4.07  (3rd)
Defense: 2.00 (5th)
Power Play:  26.79% (9th) 
Penalty Kill: 88.68% (2nd) 
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 10.93 (41st) 

Game Prospectus:

On paper there are some obvious advantages for the Huskies. The nation’s 3rd ranked offense scoring at a 4.07 goal per game clip vs college hockey’s most porous defense allowing 3.14 goals per game stands out. Omaha’s propensity for penalties is not a good matchup as well vs college hockey’s 9th best power play unit. College hockey’s 2nd ranked penalty kill is also an interesting matchup against an efficient Omaha power play which is scoring 26% of the time they have an opportunity.

SCSU goaltending has been inconsistent lately and it was good to see David Hrenak get back to form last Saturday vs Miami. On the other hand, Omaha’s goaltending has struggled mightily and unless they can turn things around this weekend things could get even worse against the high-powered offense of SCSU.

Historically, the Mavericks have struggled against SCSU and that included the years when they had a very potent offense. It’s been tough for Omaha at the HBNHC and it’ll take Omaha’s best effort of the season to have some success in St. Cloud.

All the links for this weekends games can be found HERE

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