St. Cloud, MN – In the waning moments of a tie game on Saturday, the Huskies had a sweep clearly within their grasp. Kevin Fitzgerald was poised to bury a wraparound with Omaha goaltender Isaiah Saville seemingly out of position by about two and a half feet. But, as Saville did all weekend, he found a way to make a big save by kicking his pad towards the post and thwarting the game-winning goal by Fitzgerald. Ironic, as Saville, who was recently named to the preliminary roster for the USA World Junior Team was in an odd way auditioning for Brett Larson, an assistant coach for that same team. Saville made the save, the game went to overtime and the Mavericks snapped a ten-game losing streak to the Huskies by scoring eleven seconds into the overtime session.
The Huskies came out pushing the play in period one and had multiple opporunities to score early including a doormouth save on Nolan Walker by Saville one minute into the contest. But, despite dominating play in the Mavericks end of the ice it was Omaha that victimized David Hrenak early with two goals on their first two shots of the game. First it was Minnesota native Jason Smallidge who buried a big rebound from the high slot at 2:05 for the Mavericks first lead of the weekend. Less than a minute and a half later they added another, on their second shot, by Nolan Sullivan who snapped off a shot from about five feet inside the blue line that beat Hrenak glove side for a 2-0 lead. However, the Huskies were not deterred and actually stepped up the pressure in the Omaha zone with Saville making big saves on a strong shot by Nick Poehling and on a semi-breakaway by Sam Hentges. With Joey Abate whistled for kneeing, he was called on again to stop a backhand in close by Nolan Walker. But seconds later, Walker made a smart diagonal pass to Jami Krannila who crushed a shot from the top of the right circle past Saville at 9:47 to draw SCSU to within one goal. The power play goal lit a fire under the Huskies and they applied an extended spirited forecheck on the Mavericks. Appearing to survive the period with a one-goal lead the Mavericks did one better adding another goal with slightly over a minute in the period. Teemu Pulkkinen took a shot from the right circle that luckily rebounded back to him and he slapped it past Hrenak for a 3-1 Omaha lead. Obviously, this was a frustrating end to a period in which the Huskies dominated territorial play, outshot Omaha 16-10 and had 25 attempted shots.
The second period began with the collegiate debut of first-year goaltender Jaxon Castor replacing David Hrenak who allowed three goals on ten shots in the first period. The Huskies continued their energetic play and had the puck in the Omaha zone almost exclusively for the first two minutes of the period. Walker who was snake bit all weekend had another point blank shot from the right circle stopped by Saville slightly over a minute in. A penalty to Nate Knoepke at 7:04 had the Huskies on the power play again and Spencer Meier placed a shot from the right slot off the post. With the Huskies having a territorial advantage, Castor wasn’t tested much in the first half of the period with only two Omaha shots on goal. Saville again made a big save on Sam Hentges who had a clear shot from the left of the goal. Fiinally, at 16:21 the Huskies were able to solve Saville again with a very alert play by Nick Perbix. Seeing a lane open up, Perbx drove the net and waited for Saville to commit and slid a backhand past him to close the score to 3-2. SCSU outshot Omaha 9 to 6 in the period with Saville having to make five saves on shots inside the dots. Castor on the other hand was making the saves he had to make to keep the game close.
With momentum clearly on the side of the Huskies, they jumped on Omaha early in period three with a goal by Kevin Fitzgerald (N Poehling | Brodzinski) 1:13 into the period. Fitzgerald captured the puck along the right wall and curled to the net stick handling past Dean Stewart and placing a shot off the post past Seville to tie the game at 3-3. A penalty to Easton Brodzinski at 4:34, their first of the game, gave Omaha an opportunity but Castor made several nice saves to keep the game tied. The Huskies killed the penalty which was their 12th consecutive since the North Dakota series. A time out by Omaha with 12 minutes to play gave them time to regroup and the balance of the period was tactical with neither side wanting to make a mistake. The Huskies nearly ended the contest with seven seconds remaining as Fitzgerald who was posted low to the right of the net had several feet of space available for a wraparound but Saville kicked his pad to the post and make the save. A premature whistle had a faceoff to the right of Saville with .6 seconds to play in regulation. Fitzgerald, who already won 10 faceoffs, won this draw and Poehling got a last second shot on goal that was saved by Saville sending the game to overtime tied 3-3. Omaha outshot the Huskies 10 to 7 in the period and had four shots inside the dots vs the Huskies two shots.
The overtime ended quickly with Omaha scoring a mere 11 seconds into the session. The Huskies lost the opening faceoff and with the Huskies out of position defensively, yielded a two on one with Martin Sundberg and Zach Jordan. Castor had no chance as Sundberg slid the puck to Jordan on his right for an easy tap-in to end the game. The win was the first in eleven games games for Omaha vs the Huskies.
” Obviously it’s gut-wrenching to lose in overtime like that when you feel you played good enough to win and it just doesn’t happen” said coach Larson. “Omaha played a lot better tonight and we knew they were going to. I’m proud of how our guys battled. We were down 2-0 early and 3-1 late in the first period and found a way to come back. There was no quit or panic on the bench. I tried to give the team a boost. (Castor) came in in a tough spot and did a great job.”
SCSU outshot Omaha 32 to 27 with Jaxon Castor stopping 16 of 17 shots on goal in relief of David Hrenak who allowed three goals on 10 shots. It was a solid debut for Castor who registered the loss. Isaiah Saville was strong once again making some key saves to earn his sixth win of the season. SCSU was 1 for 4 on the man-advantage while Omaha was unsuccessful in their only opportunity. The Huskies won 31 of 57 faceoffs. For the game, SCSU blocked six shots to the Mavericks thirteen.
Nick Perbix (1-1-2) was the only multi-point player for the Huskies.
The Huskies return to action vs hghly ranked Minnesota State University – Mankato in the Mariucci Classic on December 28th.
Stars of the Game: #1 Zach Jordan (Omaha) #2 Nick Perbix (SCSU) #3 Jaxon Castor (SCSU)