St. Cloud, MN – The top-ranked Huskies enter the final stretch run of ten conference games with two consecutive home series vs Miami and Colorado College. This weekend, they face the struggling RedHawks who may be without their top offensive player and face a head coach that got his hand slapped by the league for conduct during their most recent series with Colorado College. Just another indication of the frustrations of a trying season for the program. The Huskies on the other hand move on after a feisty series with North Dakota and try to recover from a flu bug that had the Huskies out-manned in Saturday’s contest. They’ll be facing a Miami squad that always seems to give the Huskies fits and as a result seem to have added confidence whenever they face SCSU.
#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (18-4-2 | 10-2-2 NCHC) vs Miami University RedHawks (9-13-4 | 3-9-2 NCHC)
TV: SCSU Sports Network | Charter 426/823 (St. Cloud Area) Comcast 999 (Twin Cities) 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) 88.1 FM KVSC (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, February 1 – 7:05 PM CT | Saturday, February 2 – 6:05 PM CT
Last Time Out:
The Huskies completed a split in Grand Forks last weekend with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. In a heated weekend series, the Huskies posted a 3-1 win on Friday and suffered a 5-1 loss on Saturday. On Friday, starting strong, the Fighting Hawks took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by former Brett Larson recruit, Nick Jones but couldn’t hold up to the relentless attack of the Huskies offense getting only ten shots on goal the final two periods in a key conference game. SCSU got stronger as the game progressed and by period three outshot UND 16-4 in the period and 36 to 15 for the game. Micah Miller, Patrick Newell and Blake Lizotte (EN) scored for the Huskies. Saturday, the Huskies had a short bench due to the flu bug rendering them to nine healthy forwards. On Saturday, the Fighting Hawks took advantage scoring early in the first period, victimizing David Hrenak for two more goals in the first nine minutes of the second and ending the Huskies hopes for a road sweep with a 5-1 win. Jimmy Schuldt scored a short-handed goal for the Huskies.
The RedHawks were at home to face the Colorado College Tigers and took two on the chin being swept by scores of 6-1 and 3-2. Friday was disastrous with the Tigers scoring the first five goals of the contest before Miami got on the board. Grant Hutton scored the lone goal for Miami and Ryan Larkin was shelled for four goals on eights shots. In the rematch, CC outshot Miami 34-23 yet trailed 2-1 entering period three. Two third period gals spelled doom for the RedHawks in the 3-2 final. Derek Daschke and Scott Corbett scored for Miami. Following Saturday’s game, the NCHC issued a letter of reprimand to Miami head coach Enrico Blasi “for a violation of the conference’s Sportsmanship and Conduct Policy.” After the second game, Blasi made “unsportsmanlike actions and comments toward on-ice officials during and immediately following Miami’s game,” the league said.
Head to Head:
Miami leads the all-time series going back to 1987 by a one-game margin – 16-17-4. SCSU is 9-5-2 all-time vs Miami at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. In the last 5 games the Huskies are 2-1-2 vs the RedHawks and 6-2-2 in the last 10 games.
Scouting the Miami University RedHawks :
It’s been a tough several seasons for the RedHawks who have not had a winning conference or overall record since the 2014-15 season. Since finishing second in the conference in 2014-15, the RedHawks have gone 23-50-13 in conference and 45-71-19 overall and have advanced to the NCAA tourney just once in the past five years. This resulted in a major overhaul of the coaching staff with Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia released and Peter Mannino (UNO) and Joel Beal (Sacred Heart) added. It hasn’t been easy for the RedHawks since joining the NCHC and the glory years of 8 straight NCAA appearances and 2 consecutive years in the Frozen Four in 2009 and 2010 are a thing of the past when they were members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Conference.
They visit St. Cloud currently 7th in the NCHC with a 3-9-2 record and have not won a game since they last played the Huskies on December 1. As a matter of fact they have not won a game since a 3-2 win at Colorado College on November 17. Since that time, the RedHawks have gone 0-8-4 and have lost six straight. And, in those six games, the RedHawks have been outscored 23-8. Senior defenseman, River Rymsha told Macy Whitaker of the Miami Student “We’re just trying to get back to the basics and make sure our work ethic is above and beyond what it has been. When you’re in a slump like this, you have to work twice as hard to try to get out of it. It’s tough, you wish things were going better,” Rymsha said, “but this is the stuff you prepare for all summer and all year, so that when the tough times do come, you know how to work out of it the best you can.”
Two major departures from the 2017-18 squad were defenseman and team leader Louie Belpidio (10-20-30) to graduation and junior Kiefer Sherwood (9-21-30) who signed early with Anaheim of the NHL. Otherwise, the squad is essentially intact and has relied heavily on seniors Josh Melnick and Grant Hutton and juniors Gordie Green and Karch Bachman to support the offense. Melnick is a talented collegiate player, historically has been good vs the Huskies and leads the team with 7-12-19. However, he’s been injured with an undisclosed injury and has been out the last six games. He’s back skating but not in full contact so it’s undetermined whether he’ll be available this weekend. Gordie Green (9-9-18) and Grant Hutton (5-9-14) are essential parts of the offense. Hutton is a defenseman but still finds away to pile up the points. Finally, Karch Bachman a Florida Panthers draftee has blazing speed and was perhaps the RedHawks best player when the two teams met in December. The RedHawks have been waiting for Bachman to reach his offensive potential and he’s come to life with seven goals. Sophomores Casey Gilling and Phil Knies need to support the offense and they’ve combined for 7 goals and 16 points. Rookie Jonathan Gruden is a highly touted first-year player and has nine points in the last eleven games including 4 goals.
Defense has taken a step backward from the first meeting with the Huskies. At the time, they were ranked 8th in the country allowing 2.06 goals per game. Currently they are 25th allowing 2.65 goals per game. The aforementioned Grant Hutton is a team leader and graduate transfer from Dartmouth, River Rymsha is a welcome addition if only for one season. First-year player Derek Daschke has been an impact player already with 5-12-17 and is third in team points.
Goaltending did take a step backwards last season. However, the finger has to be pointed in the direction of the defensive unit as contributors as well to the lack of results. Ryan Larkin is back for his third season and they were hoping he could put last season behind him and return to his freshman form when he compiled a .910 SV% and 2.77 GAA. He was off to a great start this season with a 8-4-1 record, .939 SV% and a 1.76 GAA. But those numbers have deteriorated to the current 2.59 GAA and .917 SV%. He’s backed up by Alabama-Huntsville graduate transfer Jordan Uheliski currently 1-5-2 with a .918 SV% and 2.40 GAA.
Team Offense: 2.38 GPG (51st)
Team Defense: 2.65 GAPG (25th)
Power Play: 15.53% (46th)
Penalty Kill: 77.67% (47th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.08 (29th)
Scouting the SCSU Huskies:
Sure, there’s been a couple of bumps in the road but how can you complain when the team is 18-4-2, #1 in the Pairwise, Krach, USCHO and in first place in the NCHC on February 1st. For the most part, they are excelling on both ends of the ice and ranked third in the nation in offense and 8th 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 both goaltenders are usually getting the job done. They are undeniably one of the top collegiate teams in the country right now.
Currently, the Huskies are the eighth-ranked defense in the nation allowing 2.17 goals per game. Led by All-American, Hobey Baker finalist, pre-season All-NCHC pick and captain, Jimmy Schuldt (7-13-20 +7), alternate captain and senior Jon Lizotte (1-4-5 +7), and talented puck mover Jack Ahcan (2-18-20 +15), this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top threesome in college hockey. Add to the group, sophomore, Luke Jaycox (1-1-2 +4) and a talented group of newcomers – Brendan Bushy, NHL draft choice Nick Perbix (+15) and local native Spencer Meier and you have one of the top defensive units in college hockey. Unfortunately, sophomore, Tyler Anderson, sustained an upper body injury vs Mount Royal and subsequently a knee injury in practice and he’ll be shelved for the balance of the season. The entire unit is plus 44 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. Pre-season all-league NCHC pick Robby Jackson, led the Huskies in scoring in 2017-18 and currently is second in team points with 22. Jackson has joined the 100 point club this season along with Jimmy Schuldt. Senior Patrick Newell is an experienced forward being counted on to be a leader this season and he’s done so having his best offensive season ever leading the team in points and goals with 12-13-25. He’s also close to joining the 100 point club. He’s tops in college hockey with 5 GWG. Montreal Canadiens first-rounder, Ryan Poehling has 19 points in 22 games, is a 200 foot player and is integral to both the power play and penalty kill. The Poehling twins, Jack and Nick are preferably matched against the opponents top line and are beginning to add offense as well. They’ve combined for 21 points. Sophomore Blake Lizotte made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season and is one of the most exciting forwards in college hockey. He’s another player with tons of talent and a motor that won’t quit. He currently has 19 points in 22 games and is the top face-off player. Easton Brodzinski is another member of the 2017-18 NCHC All-Rookie team and netted 14 goals his rookie season. and tends to score in bunches. He has 10 goals and four game-winning goals and five power play goals. Sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald was having an impact season until he was injured the recent UMD series. He is expected to be out until March.
Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. Hentges and Walker have combined for 11 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 has finally found the back of the net with three goals in his last four games.
With senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have a solid one-two punch at goaltender. Hrenak is 14-3-1 and has a 2.21 GAA and a .902 SV% and three shutouts. He needs to be more consistent down the stretch. Smith has split time with Hrenak and is 4-1-1 with two shutouts and 2.03 GAA and .918 SV%.
Offense: 3.75 (3rd)
Power Play: 23.66% (9th)
Penalty Kill: 89.61 (2nd)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 10.25 (41st)
Throw out the records. These teams have skated to four straight overtime games. Why expect anything different. This will be a competitive weekend of hockey as it always is against the RedHawks. The December series in Oxford series was a run and gun affair with the Huskies placing 74 shots on goal and Miami 60 over the weekend. It’ll be a plus for the Huskies if Josh Melnick is not suited up for the RedHawks. He’s had a history of great play against the Huskies. Players to keep an eye out for on Miami are forward Karch Bachman who has blazing speed and should be a handful on the larger surface of the HBNHC. Forward, Casey Gilling had a strong weekend with two goals in the last meeting. First-year forward Jonathan Gruden is the son of former Ferris State player John Gruden whose family has its roots in Eveleth, MN. The elder played eleven seasons of professional hockey finishing his career with the Washington Capitals in 2003-04. Jonathan is a crafty player and will have an outstanding college career.
On defense, two pro-style players – 6’2″ 191 freshman Derek Daschke (+9) and 6’3″ 196 senior Grant Hutton (+2) are two of the best in college hockey and really support the offense. They’ve combined for 10 goals (4 on the power play) and 31 points.
On paper, the Huskies are the better team. The RedHawks need to keep it simple and stay out of the penalty box and keep it a 5×5 game. If it turns into a special teams affair the Huskies have the clear advantage. Obviously goaltending will be a key.The Huskies averaged 37 shots on goal in the last series. If they repeat that against the offensively challenged RedHawks they should have success this weekend as they are 12-2-1 when getting 30-39 SOG. It’ll probably also mean they’ll face both goaltenders – Ryan Larkin and UAH transfer Jordan Uhelski. And, oh by the way, the Huskies are 10-0-0 on home ice this season. They have not been swept at home since November of 2016.
“We know how good St. Cloud is, and we know what kind of threats they have, and we know how hard they play and how structured they play,” Blasi told the Miami Student. “For us, it’s just a matter of getting ready to go for Friday.”
“We can’t overlook Miami” said coach Larson. “They have pride. We know they’ll be desperate and we have to be at our best.”
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