St. Cloud, MN – The Pairwise doesn’t discriminate. The ranking model which is deadly accurate in predicting teams for the NCAA tournament places just as much weight on an early season win as a late season win. This weekend, two teams whose Pairwise should benefit from a successful performance on the ice face-off in a return engagement at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on Friday and Saturday, October 25 and 26.
A year ago, the (St. Cloud) Huskies made an early season swing through Boston blowing out the Boston College Eagles 7-0 and then visiting historic Matthews Arena for a single game with those other Huskies, Northeastern University of Hockey East. SCSU forged a 2-0 lead early in the second period and it appeared they were on their way to their sixth win of the season. However, NU had other designs for the outcome in front of their home crowd. Out-shooting SCSU by a 15-10 margin in the second period, they scored a late period goal and leveraged that momentum into the third scoring two more times en-route to a 3-2 comeback win over the then #2 ranked Huskies. A return engagement looms this weekend as the Boston, MA based Huskies make the trip to St. Cloud in an important non-conference series.
#14 St. Cloud State University Huskies (0-0-2 | 0-0-0 NCHC) vs #11 Northeastern University Huskies (3-0-1 | 1-0-0 Hockey East)
TV: Friday, Oct 25 Fox9+ | Saturday, Oct 26 FSN Plus
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: The River 96.7 FM (SCSU) | KVSC 88.1 FM (SCSU) The Sports Hub 98.5 FM (NU)
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, Oct 25 7:37 PM CT | Saturday, Oct 26 6:07 PM CT
Last Time Out:
The Huskies skated to two overtime ties at Bemidji State on October 11 and 12. On Friday, the Huskies rallied from a 4-0 deficit to earn an unlikely 4-4 overtime draw with the Beavers. Bemidji State outshot the Huskies 33-30 for the game and David Hrenak turned aside 29 of 33 of those shots. Sam Hentges (1-1-2), Nick Perbix (0-2-2), Clark Kuster (1-1-2) and Nick Poehling 0-2-2) all had a multi-point game for the Huskies. In the rematch on Saturday, the Beavers got a bit of redemption as they forged a third period two-goal rally to earn a 2-2 overtime tie. Hrenak turned aside 39 of 41 shots.
Northeastern, on the other hand, had an early week game on Tuesday, October 15th defeating Hockey East rival Massachusetts 3-1 scoring twice in period two and holding on for the two-goal (EN) win. On Saturday, they skated to a 2-2 overtime tie with Atlantic Hockey foe Holy Cross University. In a hard-fought battle, the teams traded goals in the second and third periods before settling for the draw.
Head to Head
There has been limited head to head competition between these schools with each school winning a game in the all-time series . On November 24, 2000 SCSU defeated Northeastern 4-1 at Matthews Arena. A return trip to Matthews on October 27, 2018 yielded a 3-2 come from behind win for Northeastern.
Scouting the Northeastern University Huskies
Northeastern finished second in the Hockey East regular season standings last season but captured the Hockey East Tournament championship defeating Boston College. They advanced to the NCAA tournament losing to Cornell in the quarterfinals by a 5-1 score. The off-season saw the loss of seven players that completed their eligibility and suffered significant hits with the loss of defenseman and points leader Jeremy Davis who signed early with the Nashville Predators and junior-to-be goaltender Cayden Primeau who signed with the Montreal Canadiens. The balanced scoring attack that characterized this team saw the loss of four of it’s top six points producers and 156 points from the 2018-19 squad.
The loss of Davies and Primeau required some re-tooling and they’ve done a nice job replenishing the talent across the board. Here’s a quick look at the Northeastern roster by position:
Coach Madigan found a more than adequate replacement for Primeau in Merrimack College graduate transfer, Craig Patano who had logged 56 games for the Warriors the previous two seasons. His six wins in 2018-19 and 3.52 GAA and .889 SV% were more a reflection Merrimack’s team defensive struggles than Patano’s abilities as a netminder. That’s been proven early this season with his 1.23 GAA and .949 SV%. For the time being, Patano looks to be the man for the job and he’s played all four games to start the season. “He gives you calmness, poise and leadership” said coach Madigan. “He’s a quiet guy but he’s got a unique personalty as most goalies do and he knows how to win. There is a lot of poise and composure with him and he’s giving us goaltending that has allowed us to win hockey games.”
The loss of Jeremy Davies was a huge blow to the defense but they return another top defenseman in senior, Ryan Shea, a 16 point scorer who was plus 23 on the season. The 2015 draft choice of Chicago of the NHL has logged 119 games for the Huskies and was named captain this season. “His leadership has been unbelievable ” said Madigan. “On the ice he’s been logging 28 to 34 plus minutes and is playing with confidence. He is moving pucks, taking charge and leading in the locker room. He’s a smart player with skill and offensive abilities.”
Another returnee with high expectations is Montreal Canadiens third round draft choice and sophomore, Jordan Harris, currently tied for the team lead in goals and points. On defense, they’ve reloaded with four freshman – all seeing ice-time in the early season including 6’4″ 205 pound Jeremie Bucheler and 6’4″ 190 pound Edmonton Oilers draft choice Mike Kesselring who have impressed in their first four games. Add to this group 2019 Montreal Canadiens second round draft pick Jayden Struble and USHL veteran Tyler Spott and they could ultimately have a stronger blue line than last season.
Three of the top six point scorers from last season have departed and they accounted for 30 goals and 84 points. But, they still have firepower with senior Zach Solow, their top returning goal scorer, sophomore Tyler Madden, who added 12 goals and Grant Jozefek who finished last season with 10 goals. They’ll also rely on veteran forward and senior captain, Matt Filipe, a 6’2″ 200 pound draft draft choice of the Carolina Hurricanes. They’ve also added Riley Hughes a 58 point BCHL forward and draft choice of the New York Rangers, power forward, Aidan McDonough, a 6’3″ 190 pound Vancouver Canucks draft choice and USHL veterans Neil Shea, Matt Demelis, and TJ Walsh who are all expected to see ice time. Finally, graduate transfer from the University of New Hampshire, Brendan Van Reimsdyk, a 6’3″ 200 pound forward brings more size, goalmouth presence and experience to the lineup.
Offense: 2.25 GPG (35th)
Defense: 1.25 GAPG (1st)
Power Play: 4.55% (46th)
Penalty Kill: 94.12% (8th)
Penalties: 12.25 AV PG (25th)
Scouting the SCSU Huskies:
A group of seniors will lead the Huskies into the 2019-20 season. All-American and All-NCHC player Jack Ahcan was named captain and brothers Jack and Nick Poehling and Clark Kuster, a fifth-year senior are assistant captains. The team has added ten new faces after the departure of seniors Jimmy Schuldt, Jon Lizotte, Patrick Newell, Robby Jackson, Jacob Benson and David Zevnik. They also saw the departure of two top-notch centers in Blake Lizotte and Ryan Poehling who signed NHL contracts.
Junior David Hrenak enters the season as the number one goaltender. Hrenak finished the 2018-19 season with a 23-5-2 record, a 2.18 GAA and .906 SV%. The LA Kings 5th round draft choice was a NCHC second team All-Star last season and the expectations are high for Hrenak who has played 54 career games for the Huskies. However, he’ll be pushed by two quality first-year players in 20 year-old USHL veteran Joseph Lamoureaux and another junior hockey veteran in 22 year-old Jaxon Castor. Both Lamoreaux and Castor rotated during the Alberta exhibition with Lamoreaux getting the “unofficial” win stopping 14 of 16 shots while Castor stopped all three shots he faced. Neither saw the ice in the Bemidji series.
Defense is perhaps the strongest position on the team. The Huskies return five starters from last season in Jack Ahcan, Nick Perbix, Luke Jaycox, Spencer Meier and Brendan Bushy. They add two other veterans in fifth-year senior, Clark Kuster and junior, Tyler Anderson, who missed the entire season due to injuries in 2018-19 and will likely claim a red-shirt year. Newcomers include 6’3″ 190 pound Ondrej Trejbal from the Czech Republic and Trevor Zins, a puck-moving defenseman from nearby St. Michael, MN.
The position where uncertainly surfaces is at forward and that’s for obvious reasons. The team lost it’s top five scorers – Newell, Lizotte, Jackson, Poehling and Schuldt. This group contributed 213 points (77 goals and 136 assists) and dominated minutes on the power play. Two of these players left as underclassmen and all three – Lizotte, Poehling and Schuldt could very well be in an NHL lineup this season. It’s not that they won’t have skill at this position it’s simply a matter of playing experience and the growth young players go through in their first year. They’ve recruited high-end skill in Zach Okabe, Jami Krannila and Kyler Kupka and future staples in the lineup in Chase Brand and Thomas Rocco. Henry Enebak, a Prior Lake, MN native who played with the Poehlings in Lakeville rounds out the lineup.
Offense: 3.00 GPG (16th)
Defense: 3.00 GAPG (29th)
Power Play: 20% (19th)
Penalty Kill: 100% (1st)
Penalties: 11.50 APG (29th)
Much like the SCSU Huskies, Northeastern has added a number of new faces to their lineup. NU’s Madigan says they are bigger and faster than last year’s team and will be much improved as the season progresses. The NU penalty kill (94%) is ahead of the power play (4%) due to some new faces on the unit and the amount of time they’ve had to work on things. Davies was a fixture on the power play for three years and now it’s Shae and Kisler running the unit from the blue line. They’ve made some adjustments on the penalty kill from last season including pressuring the puck more. It seems to be working. With both teams ranking near the top in penalty kill statistics, power play goals may be at a premium this weekend.
Northeastern plays much like SCSU transitioning the puck quickly and pushing the puck up ice. They have a good mixture of size and skill at both forward and defense and will let Shae and Jordan Harris ultilize their offensive abilities much like SCSU’s Ahcan and Perbix.
“We know they are very good in their building” said coach Madigan. “We know it’s a challenge for us going in there. It’s a battle of the Huskies. For us, when we play good opponents our purpose and focus gets elevated and we’re going to need that type of purpose to our game because of the challenge that St. Cloud presents. It’s going to be a fast game and were going to need to skate. We’ve had two good days of practice and we’re looking forward to going to Minnesota and playing St. Cloud.”
The Huskies are in transition at forward with two new centers to replace Blake Lizotte and Ryan Poehling. They’ve been trying to fill that void with Walker and Krannila. Coach Larson has not been shy about utilizing first year players late in the game with Okabe, Brand and Krannila all getting ice time in crucial situations late vs Bemidji. It continues to be an early season learning process.
This will be a stiff test for SCSU on their home ice this weekend. Veterans Ahcan, the Poehling brothers,Fitzgerald and Brodzinski will be counted on to lead vs a talented Northeastern squad loaded with NHL draft choices. It was an entertaining contest in Boston last October and nothing less is expected this weekend.