#3 Bulldogs to Test #1 Huskies this Weekend

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – After being picked as the favorite to win the Penrose Cup in 2018-19, the defending National Champion UMD Bulldogs can finish no better than seven points shy of the SCSU Huskies in the regular season NCHC conference standings. Regardless, that’ll take nothing away from the competitive spirit of this weekends series between the Bulldogs, currently in second place and thirteen points behind the #1 ranked Huskies. ” We know how they play. It’ll be great hockey” said coach Brett Larson. ” These are two teams that don’t like each other.I want to beat them more than anybody” Larson said with a grin. “I think that’s fun. ” For the Huskies, there is nothing more they can do to position themselves for the NCHC quarterfinals. They’ll play the eighth seed. That leaves Omaha and Miami to sort things out based on their results this weekend. The Mavericks travel to North Dakota and Miami hosts Western Michigan. The Huskies swept the seasons series and are 4-0-0 vs Omaha and are 2-0-2 vs Miami. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, could fall to third place depending on this weekends results. Denver is currently four points behind the Bulldogs and face Colorado College. Fourth place Western Michigan cannot catch UMD but could finish ahead of Denver in third place.The bottom line is the Bulldogs could end up hosting Colorado College, Miami or Omaha in the NCHC quarterfinals. And, honestly, I don’t think anyone wants to face Colorado College in order to advance to the Frozen Faceoff the way the Tigers are playing right now. So, beyond competitive bragging rights, the Bulldogs have something to play for this weekend.

#1 SCSU Huskies (25-4-3 | 17-2-3 NCHC) vs #3 UMD Bulldogs (21-9-2 | 14-7-1 NCHC)  

TV: CBS Sports Network (Fri) | Fox Sports North + (Sat)
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.TV $  (Sat only)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Fri, March 8 – 7:35 PM CT | Sat,  March 9 – 4:05 PM CT

Series notes – SCSU

Series Notes – UMD

Last Time Out:

The Huskies hit the road to Kalamazoo, MI and secured an impressive sweep of then #10 ranked Western Michigan University. On Friday they were led by their seniors with Robby Jackson, Patrick Newell and Jimmy Schuldt scoring four of the Huskies five goals in an exciting 5-4 road comeback win at Lawson Arena. In the Saturday rematch, fifteen SCSU players hit the scoreboard with Blake Lizotte leading the squad with two goals and one assist for three points. Seven different players scored for the Huskies as they racked up their most lop-sided win over the Broncos since an 11-1 thrashing on November 14, 2015. Jeff Smith stopped 38 of 40 shots in earning his 6th win of the season.

The Bulldogs hosted the Miami RedHawks at Amsoil Arena picking up six points with a 4-2/6-5 sweep. On Friday, Noah Cates scored twice and Peter Krieger added the winning goal in the 4-2 win. On Saturday, in a back and forth game, the Bulldogs rallied from a 5-4 second period deficit for two goals to edge the RedHawks 6-5. Kobe Roth had the game-winner and in a tough night for Hunter Shepard he allowed 5 goals on 19 shots.

Head to Head:

In all-time competition that goes back to the year 1946, the Huskies carry a 68-51-9 advantage. During the Division One era, SCSU again holds a 65-47-8 advantage. In the last five, SCSU is 3-2-0 and in the last ten, the teams are knotted at 5-5-0. In the last 20 games, UMD carries a 11-8-1 advantage. The teams last met on January 11-12, 2019 in Duluth with the Bulldogs earning a 3-1 win on Friday and the Huskies rebounding for a 4-2 win on Saturday.

Scouting the UMD Bulldogs

UMD surprised many with their post-season run culminating in their National Championship in 2018. Picked to win the NCHC this season, the Bulldogs continued their winning ways into the 2018-19 season with a 10-2-1 start . However, they hit a rough patch in December with a 1-3-1 record and every contest a close one. Their only win was a 4-2 overtime victory vs MSU-Mankato in the Desert Classic in Arizona. Since then, they’ve gone 10-5-0 and are currently ranked #3 in the recent polls and #3 in the Pairwise and a lock for NCAA post-season play.

Goaltending
Heading into the season, UMD’s strength was from the goaltender out with junior Hunter Shepard anchoring the defense and convincing the media that the defending champs would be the team to beat in the NCHC. Shepard and the defense have lived up to expectations with the 5th ranked defense in college hockey yielding 2 goals per game and a penalty kill that is second in the country with a 88.50% kill percentage. Add to that solid numbers by Shepard, with a 1.89 GAA and a .915 SV%  and it’s obvious you won’t score a lot of goals on this team.

Defense
Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by three of the top defensemen in college hockey in Scott Perunovich, Mikey Anderson and Dylan Samberg. Throw the rough and tumble Nick Wolfe into the mix and it’s simply a tough unit to play against. Sophomore Perunovich does it all for the Bulldogs logging lots of minutes and is a key player on special teams. And, by the way, he leads the squad in points with 28 points in 31 games. Anderson, named captain of the USA World Junior team is a hybrid defenseman and can play solid defense but contribute offensively as well. He has seventeen points in 30 games and is +10. Samberg is a rugged defenseman with skill and complements the play of linemate Mikey Anderson much like Wolfe complements the play of Perunovich.

Offense
This is not an offense that will blow you away like some past UMD teams but is solid and consistent in their play and has good leadership in players like Parker McKay and Peter Krieger. McKay is having a solid season with 12-11-23 and 2 game-winning goals and third on the squad in points. Sophomore Justin Richards has been a key offensive player as well – second in team points with 27 and three game-winning goals. Minnesota Wild draft choice Nick Swaney  missed a few games due to injury but is a reliable scorer and leads the quad in goals with 13. First-year player Noah Cates was also a member of the USA World Junior team  and has had a larger role the second half of the season with 8-12-20. Disappointing thus far is the production of Dallas Stars draft first-round choice Riley Tufte who was expected to have a more prominent role in the offense this year. With seven points and +1 they need to get Tufte in gear the second half of the season. It’s interesting that he has 5 power play goals and just a single five on five goal. Another interesting offensive statistic is that forward Kobe Roth has six goals with four of them on the man-advantage. Peer Krieger gets key goals with three power play goals and three game-winning goals.

National Statistics

Team Offense: 3.22 GPG (11th)
Team Defense: 2.00 GAPG (5th)
Power Play: 23.89% (9th)
Penalty Kill: 88.50% (2nd)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.50 (25th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The banner season continues for the Huskies #1 in the Pairwise, Krach, USCHO and they have captured the Penrose Cup as the regular season Champion in the NCHC. They’ve now won the Penrose Cup 50% of the time the league has been in existence. For the most part, they are excelling on both ends of the ice and ranked second in the nation in offense and 9th in defense. Special teams have been strong –  third nationally on the penalty kill and 14th 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 and are a lock for the NCAA tournament and most likely a #1 seed. The Huskies carry a 13-0-1 home record into this series. Since January 1, SCSU is 12-3-1 and they currently have an eight game undefeated record.

Defense
Currently, the Huskies are the 9th ranked defense in the nation allowing 2.09 goals per game.  Led by All-American, Hobey Baker finalist, pre-season All-NCHC pick and captain, Jimmy Schuldt (9-19-28 +19), alternate captain and senior Jon Lizotte (1-6-7 +12), and talented puck mover Jack Ahcan (3-24-275 +26), this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top threesome in college hockey. Schuldt has played in 149 consecutive games, and surpassed Kelly Hultgren for career points by a defenseman with 111 and a school record 19 power play goals.  Add to the group, sophomore, Luke Jaycox (2-3-5 +8) and a talented group of newcomers – Brendan Bushy (+4), NHL draft choice Nick Perbix (+21) and local native Spencer Meier (+4) 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 93 and not a single regular is in the minus.

Offense
The Huskies are currently ranked second 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 29. Jackson has joined the 100 point club this season along with Jimmy Schuldt. Senior Patrick Newell is an experienced forward and is the teams offensive leader this season  leading the team in points and goals with 16-19-35 and leads the nation in game-winning goals with six. He’s also joined the career 100 point club. Montreal Canadiens first-rounder, Ryan Poehling has 27 points in 28 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 28 points and are +23.. 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 28 points in 28 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 in the recent UMD series. He may be back in the lineup for the UMD series next week..

Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. Hentges and Walker have combined for 14 goals and 39 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 and has 3-3-6.

Goaltending
With senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have a solid one-two punch at goaltender. Hrenak is 19-3-2 and has a 2.15 GAA and a .908 SV% and four shutouts. He needs to be consistent down the stretch. Smith has split time with Hrenak and is 6-1-1 with two shutouts and 1.908 GAA and .928 SV%. Both can be counted on to get the job done for the Huskies.

National Statistics:

Offense: 4.03 (2nd)
Defense: 2.09 (9th)
Power Play:  22.13% (14th) 
Penalty Kill: 88.46% (3rd) 
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 10.06 (43rd) 

Game Prospectus:

The Huskies enter the final regular season series undefeated at home this season. If there is a team that could disrupt that accomplishment it is the Bulldogs. It’s a team that has good goaltending, solid defense and four lines. They have very few weaknesses and can defend and score on special teams. They have not been swept in a series the entire season. The Bulldogs have performed well in St. Cloud and the series is knotted at 6-6-2 going back to 2009. This weekend should be no different with two hard-fought games. The series should come down to goaltending and the team that commits the fewest mistakes. The Huskies will continue to roll all four lines but as home team will have last change to match lines. That should be a slight advantage.

Kevin Fitzgerald, who was injured in the last series with UMD in January could be back in the lineup for at least one game this weekend. At the time of his injury, Fitzgerald had 10 goals and 15 assists in 19 games.

The media attention over SCSU’s Brett Larson facing his former mentor has subsided. Coach Larson summed it up by saying “It’s going to be great hockey. I like our chances.”

All the links for this weekends games can be found HERE

If surfing via mobile device check out huskiesillustrated.com 

 

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