St. Cloud, MN – If you’ve been a loyal follower of the St. Cloud State University Huskies this season you realize what a special year it has been. If you are a casual follower be assured you may never see a season like this again. With the sweep of the #3 ranked UMD Bulldogs the Huskies accomplished a rarity. They’ve gone sixteen regular season games at home without a loss. To be exact, they finished the regular season with a 15-0-1 record with the only blemish being a 2-2 overtime tie with Colorado College on February 8. The two wins gave SCSU a 19-2-3 record good for first place and their second consecutive Penrose Cup. Opponent UMD finished in second place 19 points behind the Huskies. It certainly wasn’t easy falling behind 2-0 to the Bulldogs early in period two requiring a methodical two period comeback to capture the win against a strong defensive team in UMD. With the final weekend results now in, the Huskies will host the Miami RedHawks next weekend in the quarterfinals of the NCHC Tournament.
UMD got off to a good start in the game capturing an early lead on a power play goal at 9:01 by Jackson Cates. With Blake Lizotte penalized for holding, Cates beat Jeff Smith with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle for a 1-0 UMD lead. That was the extent of the scoring in period one with the Bulldogs outshooting the Huskies 8-6. The Huskies were unable to capitalize on one power play opportunity in the period.
The Bulldogs tacked on another goal early in period two on the power play after a slashing call on Jon Lizotte. Riley Tufte carried the puck into the SCSU zone and took a hard wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Smith for a 2-0 UMD lead. This was Tufte’s third power play goal against the Huskies this season. The Huskies finally responded on a power play of their own at 3:52 of the second period by Nolan Walker (Ahcan | Perbix). Perbix fed Ahcan who took a shot from the high slot that was deflected by Walker past Shepard to narrow the UMD lead to 2-1. SCSU added another power play goal at 10:23 by Easton Brodzinski (R Poehling | Schuldt). Poehling placed a shot on goal from the right slot that Shepard was unable to contain and a sprawling Brodzinski poked the puck past Shepard to tie the game at 2-2. In a good period for he Huskies, they outshot UMD 11-6.
The Huskies took their first lead of the contest at 7:59 of period three. Ryan Poehling made a cross ice pass to Jack Ahcan who fanned on his first shot but made the second attempt count beating Shepard to give the Huskies a 3-2 lead. But, the Bulldogs fought back getting a goal by Jade Miller at 16:26 to tie the game at 3-3. Miller carried the puck into the SCSU zone along the left wall and beat Jeff Smith with a shot glove side high from the left dot. SCSU completed the comeback win on a goal by first-year forward Sam Hentges (Brodzinski | Schuldt) at 18:49. Hentges found himself smothered in front of the UMD net but somehow punched the puck past Shepard for the game-winning goal. The Bulldogs outshot the Huskies 11-8 in the period.
For the game, SCSU and UMD traded 25 shots on goal with Hunter Shepard stopping 21 of 25 shots in his second loss of the weekend. SCSU’s starter, Jeff Smith turned aside 22 of 25 shots on goal to improve his record to 7-1-1. Both teams had success on the power play with the Huskies converting 2 of 3 and the Bulldogs having success on 2 of 4 opportunities. SCSU had the advantage in faceoffs 42-30.
“It was a heavyweight fight between two of the best teams in the country and nobody wanted to budge.” said coach Brett Larson. “We knew they’d push hard and we had to find a way to respond. It was a great precursor of how you need to play and types of teams to play against in the tournament. They didn’t give us much – everything had to be earned. That’s a team we could play a few more times down the stretch. Obviously we were really happy to come out with a couple of wins. When you play the best it pushes you to play your best.”
“The character of the guys tonight was awesome.” said captain Jimmy Schuldt.” They are tough to play against and I thought our guys really stepped up. If we keep pushing good things happen. Tonight we went to dirty areas and Sam scored that last one and it feels really good. We just took care of business. The biggest part of tonight was how great the fans were. The building was packed and obviously there was a snow storm outside and there was a really good excuse to stay at home and watch on TV. But, they came out to support us. That will be one of my fondest memories looking back.”
Easton Brodzinski (1-1-2), Jack Ahcan (1-1-2), Jimmy Schuldt (0-3-3) and Ryan Poehling (0-2-2) all had a multiple point game for the Huskies.
Stars of the Game: #1 Hentges (SCSU), #2 Schuldt (SCSU), #3 Ahcan (SCSU)