Preview: Princeton Tigers Open Season at St. Cloud State

St. Cloud, MN –

David Hrenak (Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – The Huskies continue their stretch of non-conference play hosting the Princeton Tigers of the ECAC on Friday and Saturday. With the Ivy League schools beginning play three weeks after a number of their league members, the Tigers will take the ice for the first time in the 2019-20 season against the Huskies. After two non-conference games with the Huskies, the Tigers then dive right in to conference play with seven consecutive games against league members. This will be the second trip in team history to St. Cloud with the last visit almost exactly 16 years ago.

#16 St. Cloud State University Huskies (1-1-2 | 0-0-0 NCHC) vs Princeton  University Tigers (0-0-0 | 0-0-0 ECAC)

TV: Friday, Nov 1 FSN Plus | Saturday, Fox 9 +
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: ($)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO 
Radio: The River 96.7 FM (SCSU) | KVSC 88.1 FM (SCSU)  
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, Nov 1 – 7:37 PM CT | Saturday, Nov 2 – 6:07 PM CT


Last Time Out:

SCSU faced a very tough opponent in the Northeastern University Huskies this past weekend in St. Cloud earning a split in the non-conference series. Northeastern broke open a 1-1 game with two goals in the second period and an empty net goal in period three for a 4-1 win. NU outshot SCSU 34-20 for the game. On Saturday, SCSU tuned tables on Northeastern, dominating the first period and setting the tone with a gritty, blue collar effort that lasted the bulk of the sixty minutes earning SCSU a well-deserved 2-1 bounce-back win in the rematch of this non-conference series. SCSU outshot the NU Huskies 33-18 in this game.

The Princeton Tigers have yet to play a game in the 2019-20 season. The program’s last two games were a pair of losses (3-0, 6-5) to Brown University in the first round of the ECAC playoffs on March 8/9, 2019.

Head to Head

St. Cloud State and Princeton University have a limited history of competition. They’ve faced each other a total of six times with SCSU carrying a 3-1-2 advantage in the series. The Huskies last faced Princeton in St. Cloud during the 2013 season sweeping the weekend series by 3-1 and 2-1 scores.


Scouting the Princeton University Tigers

The Tigers, were picked by the ECAC coaches to finish in a tie for 9th out of 12 teams and are a team in transition and in the process of a re-build. Having lost 40% of their of offense from a season ago and 107 points due to the departure of Ryan Kuffner, Max Veronneau and Alex Riche they need to find out who will provide offense. Senior Jackson Cressey is the top returnee in points with 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points. From there it’s a huge drop-off with Jake Paganelli producing 10 points last year. Here’s a quick look by position:

Colgate alum, Ron Fogerty is entering his sixth season and will have to rely on returnees Cressey, Paganelli, Corey Andronovski, Liam Grande and Christian O’Neill to lead but as a group only produced 15 goals in 2018-19. As a result, they are going to have to count on some production from first-year forwards 6’3″ 197 Liam Gorham, a Pittsburgh Penguins draft choice and Spencer Kersten who posted 60 points in the OJHL and was the top scorer for Canada East in the 2018 World Junior A Challenge.

On Defense, the situation is a little more encouraging with four upperclassmen including Derek Topatigh (6-4-10 +2), Matthew Thom (4-5-9 +3), Mark Paolini (2-6-8 -4) and Reid Yochim (0-2-2). Add to the group sophomore, Matt Kellenberger who logged 27 games last season and they bring a fair amount of experience to the ice. It’s also expected All-BCHL Rookie team selection 6’2″ 192 Pito Walton will bring some offense to the blue line.

You would expect junior Rylan Ferland to be the front-runner as the #1 goalie after logging 60 games the previous two seasons but the coaching staff contends the position is wide open to start the season. After posting a 18-11-4 record and 2.91 GAA and .912 SV% in 2017-18 Ferland’s numbers reflected the fortunes of the team and he finished with a 6-16-1 record and 3.08 GAA and .904 SV% in 2018-19. Sophomore, Jeremie Forget is expected to push Ferland for minutes and despite limited playing time last season his numbers of 1.80 GAA and .941 SV% were quite good. The team also has freshman, Aidan Porter a 6’2″ 180 import from the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL.

National Statistics: 
(note: no games played)

Offense:  na
Defense: na
Power Play: na
Penalty Kill:  na
Penalties: na

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. Hrenak has started all four games so far and he’s posted credible 2.41 GAA and .920 SV% numbers.

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. Of the group, Clark Kuster has been the surprise thus far with a goal and an assist and +1.

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. So far, sophomore forward Sam Hentges has stepped forward to fill the void on offense with 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points in the first four games. He contributed to each SCSU goal last weekend vs Northeastern. Senior Jack Poehling has also stepped in with a point a game in the first four. 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.

National Statistics:

Offense:  2.25 GPG (37th)
Defense:  2.75 GAPG (29th)
Power Play: 9.09% (40th) 
Penalty Kill:  88.89% (16th)
Penalties:  8.25 APG (48th)

Game Prospectus:

With this the first series of the season for Princeton, the SCSU coaching staff will not have had the luxury of watching any video of the Tigers. On the other hand, the Tigers will have that advantage as video of the Huskies two series will be available.

“We don’t know that much about them” said coach Larson. “We’ll worry about us. We want to focus on being as good as we can be and continue to create our identity. We want to prepare but we also just want to play. We have to let them (our young players) play through mistakes.” With 10 new faces on the roster this season, there is a lot of competition for playing time. “We are watching the competition throughout the week and we are trying to find the right chemistry and combinations” said Larson.

With four games in hand, the Huskies should have a distinct advantage in nearly every aspect of the game including special teams. In particular, the penalty kill has been outstanding turning away 8 of 9 man-advantage opportunities so far for a penalty kill of 88.89% vs a 9 percent power play (1 of 11). It’s proof how well penalty kills are early when the SCSU penalty kill is ranked 16th in the country despite allowing only one man-advantage goal.

It’s assumed junior Rylan Ferland will be the starter in goal on Friday. He faced the Huskies twice in the 2017 meetings facing 85 shots over the weekend and stopping 80. He was named “First Star of the Game” both nights.  

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