2015-16 Frozen Faceoff Champions SCSU (Photo Prout)
St. Cloud, MN – The top-ranked St. Cloud State University Huskies are looking to pursue their second Frozen Faceoff Championship since they last won the trophy in March of 2016 with a 3-1 win over UMD. Current players Jimmy Schuldt, Robby Jackson, Jon Lizotte, Patrick Newell and Jacob Benson all participated in that game. Mikey Eyssimont scored the game-winning goal in each of the Huskies games to take tourney MVP. The Huskies will face the Colorado College Tigers at 4:05 PM CT in the first game of the Frozen Faceoff at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Friday, March 22. By virtue of winning the Penrose Cup and winning their quarterfinal series, the Huskies are the #1 seeded team for the tournament. Colorado College finished sixth in the final NCHC standings and is the #4 seed after defeating Western Michigan on Monday night in the NCHC quarterfinals by a score of 3-2. The Huskies faced the Tigers four times during the 2018-19 season with the Huskies carrying a 3-0-1 record vs Colorado College. SCSU defeated the Tigers 5-3 and 2-1 in Colorado Springs on November 2-3 and earned a 2-2 tie and 5-4 overtime win on February 8-9. The tie on February 8th was the only game which the Huskies did not win this season at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (29-4-3 | 19-2-3 NCHC) vs #NR Colorado College Tigers (17-18-4 | 9-12-3 NCHC)
TV: CBS Sports Network (all games except third place)
Live Stream: NCHC.TV $ (third place game only)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud) 88.1 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU Huskies
Where: Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul, MN
When: Fri, March 22 – 4:00 PM CT | Sat. March 23 TBD
Last Time Out:
The top-ranked Huskies swept their quarterfinal series with the Miami RedHawks last weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center by 5-2 | 6-3 scores. In the series opener, the eighth-seeded Miami RedHawks pushed hard but were unable to overcome a strong third period by the SCSU Huskies dropping game one of the NCHC quarterfinals 5-2 at the HBNHC on Friday, March 15. The Huskies received scoring from five different players including two third period goals to pull away from the RedHawks in the three goal win. David Hrenak stopped 23 of 25 shots to earn his 21st win of the season and see his record improve to 21-3-2. Nine players hit the score sheet for SCSU with Jack Poehling ( 0-2-2), Easton Brodzinski (1-1-2), Jack Ahcan (1-1-2) and Nick Poehling (1-1-2) all having a multiple point night. In the Saturday rematch, the Huskies found themselves battling to a draw early in period three only to splurge for three goals in the final thirteen minutes to capture a 6-3 win at the Brooks Center. David Hrenak allowed three goals on 21 shots and saw his record improve to 22-3-2. Robby Jackson (1-2-3), Easton Brodzinski ( 2-1-3), Jimmy Schuldt ( 1-1-2) , Blake Lizotte ( 1-1-2 ), Patrick Newell ( 0-2-2 ) and Sam Hentges (1-2-3 ) all had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
The Tigers traveled to Kalamazoo, MI to face the 14th ranked Western Michigan Broncos in their quarterfinal series. In this closely contested series, the Tigers prevailed in three games to advance to the Frozen Faceoff. Due to weather related travel issues, the series did not start until Saturday but that didn’t deter the Tigers who earned a 2-1 win in game one. Tied 1-1 entering period three, Erik Middendorf scored on the power play at 6:42 and that held in the 2-1 win. Alex Leclerc stopped 29 of 30 shots on goal in the win. Western Michigan rebounded for a 5-2 win on Sunday sending the series to the third game finale on Monday. In another closely contested game, tied at 1-1 entering period three, CC scored twice with goals by Alex Berardinelli and Trevor Gooch and held on for a 3-2 win. Alex Leclerc turned aside 32 of 24 shots on goal.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series between these two squads 51-48-2. However, the Huskies are 4-0-1 vs CC the last 5, 8-1-1 in the last 10 and 16-2-2 of the last 20. The Colorado College last win vs the Huskies was on March 17, 2017 by a 2-1 score. St. Cloud native Matt Hanson scored the game-winning goal in period one.
Scouting the Colorado College Tigers:
This is the 80th season of collegiate hockey at Colorado College. After a few lean years, the rebuilding process by Mike Haviland is finally starting to take form. The season thus far has been marked with inconsistency with the Tigers winning 4 of their first 5 games then getting only 4 wins in their next 17 games. However, they seem to have righted things lately going 5-2-0 in the last seven games including a sweep of Frozen Faceoff participant Denver, a win over North Dakota and two wins over #14 Western MIchigan.
The Tigers returned 98% of their scoring from last season including the trio of Mason Bergh, Trey Bradley and Nick Halloran that produced 116 points (44g,72a) and is the NCHC’s most productive returning line. Halloran was named to the pre-season All-NCHC team. Unfortunately Halloran has been shelved for the balance of the season with a lower body injury. Halloran was a first-team all-conference pick and a Hobey Baker nominee after registering 19 goals and 45 points as a sophomore. Coach Mike Haviland told the Colorado Springs Gazette “It’s a huge hit. You’re talking about an All-American. He’s tough to replace but certainly you’ve got to have the ‘next man up’ mentality. Guys are going to have to take his minutes.” He was right on as others have picked up the offense in his absence.
Currently, team scoring is led by upperclassmen with senior Trey Bradley the current goal and point leader with 14-18-32. Feisty senior Westin Michaud (11-17-28 +14) has stepped forward as has junior Alex Berardinelli (9-8-17) and senior Trevor Gooch (11-12-23). More has been expected out of senior Mason Bergh who is one of 15 nominees for the 2018-19 Senior CLASS Award who compiled 18-22-40 in 2017-18. He currently sits at 7-19-26. Junior and North Dakota transfer and NHL draft choice Chris Wilkie has chipped in 6-13-19 but is currently shelved with an injury.
On defense, the team is led by seniors Andrew Farney (0-7-7), the always reliable Cole McCaskill (2-3-7 +4) and Ben Israel (2-2-4). They’ve been most impressed with first-year defender and Colorado native Bryan Yoon who is currently 4th on the squad in points (3-21-24). Yoon is quickly becoming one of the top young defenseman in the league and he has 2 game-winning goals.
Goaltender Alex Leclerc is in his third year and is a workhorse in goal for the Tigers. He can steal a game and is currently 17-17-3 with a 2.55 GAA and a .919 SV% and two shutouts.
The team has 5 Minnesotans and 4 Colorado natives on their roster.
Team Offense: 2.92 (14th)
Team Defense: 2.64 (33rd)
Power Play: 19.5% ( 23rd)
Penalty Kill: 83.2% (20th)
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. They are excelling on both ends of the ice and ranked second in the nation in offense and 12th on defense. Special teams have been strong – fifth nationally on the penalty kill and seventh on the power play. Seniors are providing tremendous leadership, there is balanced scoring, the first-year class is contributing and both goaltenders are getting the job done. They will be a #1 seed for the NCAA tournament and most likely will be placed in the West Regional in Fargo. Since January 1, SCSU is 16-3-1 and are undefeated since February 1st with a 11-0-1 record.
Currently, the Huskies are the 12th ranked defense in the nation allowing 2.16 goals per game. Led by All-American, two-time Hobey Baker finalist, 2018-19 All-NCHC 1st team pick and captain, Jimmy Schuldt (9-22-31 +20), alternate captain and senior Jon Lizotte (1-7-8 +13), and talented puck mover and 2018-19 second team All- NCHC Jack Ahcan (5-27-32 +30), this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top three-some in college hockey. Schuldt has played in 153 consecutive games, and surpassed Kelly Hultgren for career points by a defenseman with 116 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 (+3), NHL draft choice and All NCHC Rookie Team Nick Perbix (5-15-20 +23) and local native Spencer Meier (+3) and you have one of the top defensive units in college hockey. The entire unit is plus 104 and not a single regular is in the minus.
The Huskies are currently ranked second in the nation on offense with a lot of depth at forward. Senior Patrick Newell is an experienced forward and is the teams offensive leader this season and was just named to the 2018-19 All-NCHC First team and is a Hobey Baker Top Ten Finalist. Newell is leading the team in points and goals with 19-24-43 and has six game-winning goals. He’s also joined the career 100 point club. Pre-season all-league NCHC pick Robby Jackson, led the Huskies in scoring in 2017-18 and currently is second in team points with 17 goals and 38 points. He also leads the team with 110 shots on goal. Jackson has joined the 100 point club this season along with Jimmy Schuldt. Montreal Canadiens first-rounder, Ryan Poehling also was named to the 2018-19 All-NCHC First team has 31 points in 34 games and 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 34 points and are +20. Sophomore Blake Lizotte made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season and the All-NCHC First team in 2018-19 and is one of the most exciting forwards in college hockey. He currently has 37 points in 34 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. He has 15 goals and four game-winning goals and six power play goals. Sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald is back in the lineup after missing 12 games and has 10-6-16 in 23 games.
Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. Hentges has 10 goals and 10 assists including two game-winning goals. Walker was just named to the 2018-19 NCHC All-Rookie team and has contributed 7 goals and 19 assists for 26 points. Micah Miller is another talented newcomer that has been a staple in the lineup the second half of the season and has 4 goals and 3 assists for 7 points.
With senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have a solid one-two punch at goaltender. Hrenak, named to the 2018-19 All-NCHC Second team is 22-3-2 and has a 2.20 GAA and a .906 SV% and four shutouts. Smith has split time with Hrenak and is 7-1-1 with two shutouts and 2.01 GAA and .923 SV%. Both can be counted on to get the job done for the Huskies.
Offense: 4.11 (2nd)
Defense: 2.16 (12th)
Power Play: 24.1% (7th)
Penalty Kill: 87.1% (5th)
Expect a very competitive game with the sixth-place Tigers who are playing their best hockey of the season. In addition to being the only team that did not lose to the Huskies at the HBNHC, the Tigers also had leads in every game between the two squads this season. In the most recent meeting, the Tigers carried a 4-2 lead into the third period only to lose in overtime after a furious rally by the Huskies. Despite having college hockey’s 7th ranked power play, the Huskies have found it difficult to be effective on the man-advantage vs Colorado College with only a 16% success rate. Conversely, the Tigers power play has not been effective either converting only 3 of 17 opportunities for a 15% success rate. In the four contests, the Huskies have outshot CC 155 to 94 and have had the advantage in faceoffs by a 136 to 107 margin.
Patrick Newell leads all scorers with four goals vs the Tigers in four games with both Jack Poehling and Ryan Poehling scoring twice. For the Tigers, Trevor Gooch has had the most success with two goals.
Most disastrous for the Tigers in the four games has been the dominance by the Huskies in period three. SCSU has outscored CC 9 to 1 and has outshot the Tigers 59 to 26. Unless the Tigers can tighten up in the final period the Huskies have the clear advantage when the game is on the line. Additionally, with a goal differential of less than half a goal (2.92 GF /2.64 GA) the Tigers have not been leaving themselves much of a margin to win and thus the reason for 22 games that either ended in a tie or a one-goal difference.
The dilemma for the Tigers is they are scoring less than three goals per game. And, if the contest is close going into period three, the odds are against the Tigers to shut down the Huskies in the third period. For the Huskies, it’ll be key to have a better start on offense in the first two periods. They also need to take advantage of any man-advantage opportunities better than they’ve done in the previous four games.
Exceptional play out of Alex Leclerc will be needed for Colorado College to be successful against the Huskies. The Tigers have had a lot of travel in the past week. They also last played on Monday and will have less than four days rest heading into Friday’s game. The Huskies, on the other hand, will have had six days rest and have had no travel time in the past week.
The Tigers are playing with confidence. The question is whether they have enough left in the tank to hang with the Huskies. For Colorado College it’s win or their hopes for post season NCAA play are over.
On the close games with Colorado College this season Jimmy Schuldt noted in Tuesday’s media conference “It’s a reminder how tough this league is. Anyone can win on a given night whoever executes the best and that’s the beauty of this conference and the Frozen Faceoff.” On playing the Frozen Faceoff at the Xcel Energy Center he commented “I think it’s cool being near my home town playing in the Twin Cities. It’s a big stage to play and be part of. In the past when we’ve played there the atmosphere has been awesome with good fan support. There will be a little less green in the crowd than normal but it will still be fun.”
On playing Colorado College coach Brett Larson said ” I’d like to give their staff a lot of credit. They were picked to have a real good year and they had some bounces go against them early and things didn’t go well but they did a good job keeping them in the right direction and playing their best hockey. We know it’s going to be a huge challenge and we know what they’ve done the last few games. We know how tight the games were when we played them. With any challege it brings out your best. That is our goal on Friday to be executing on our highest level.”
Colorado College captain Mason Bergh commented ” It’s not an easy task to get here with the teams we compete with to be down here. To be in the Frozen Faceoff with a chance to win the championship It’s special and an honor to be there. I’m looking forward to getting to St. Paul and playing the number one team in St. Cloud.”
On playing St. Cloud coach Mike Haviland said “You’re talking about the best team in the country. They have been pretty much the entire year. They deserve it They are the best team. We played well against them and that’s a good thing for us and our confidence level. Knowing up there or at home we had a chance to close it out but we didn’t. We’ve learned in the last month with tough games on closing teams out. We are a different team from a few weeks ago. We need to just play the game and worry about how we play.”
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