Huskies Face MSU in Mariucci Classic (aka SCSU Coaches Reunion)

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – When the Beavers, Huskies, Gophers and Mavericks meet in the Mariucci Classic this weekend, you might not be aware of all the coaching connections to St. Cloud State University hockey at play. It gets rather convoluted, so let’s see if we can lay out some of the SCSU Hockey ancestry.

In 1986-87 legendary coach Herb Brooks, now the namesake of the program’s hockey building, was named head coach at SCSU before transitioning to the Division I level the following season. Brooks, who was a collegiate player at the University of Minnesota from 1956 to 1959 and coach from 1972 to 1979 hired Craig Dahl as his assistant in 1986. Dahl, coincidentally, had received a football scholarship from the University of Minnesota in the early 70’s. Bob Motzko, who had played under Herb Brooks was hired as a graduate assistant at SCSU for one season in 1986-87. Mike Hastings, who played for Herb Brooks during the 1986-87 season also played a year for Craig Dahl who was installed as the head hockey coach in 1987.

Hastings subsequently was hired by Dahl as an assistant and remained with the Huskies from 1990 to 1992. After coaching stints in the United States Hockey League, Hastings also had assistant positions at Omaha and the University of Minnesota before accepting the head coaching position at Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2012.

Dahl began his tenure as head coach in 1987 and led the team through the 2005 season. During that time, he hired Tom Serratore as an assistant in 1993 and Serratore remained in that capacity until 1999 when he accepted an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, Bemidji State in 1999. He was subsequently hired as head coach in 2001. Serratore, by the way, played two seasons for the MSU Mavericks and then transferred BSU where he captained the team in 1986-87.

Motzko, also parlayed his experience at SCSU into a coaching position in the United States Hockey League and collegiate coaching stops at Miami, Denver and the University of Minnesota before replacing Dahl as the head coach at St. Cloud State in 2005 where he remained until accepting the coaching position for the Gophers in 2018. Motzko hired former Bemidji State player and seasoned coach Mike Gibbons as an assistant at SCSU in 2007 where he remains today. In 2012, he also hired one of his former players and captains, Garrett Raboin, as an assistant coach. Raboin skated for the Huskies from 2006-10. After accepting the head coaching position at the University of Minnesota in 2018, Motzko hired Garrett Raboin as his assistant.

Brett Larson was hired as the successor to Motzko at St. Cloud State in 2018 and hired former SCSU captain, Nick Oliver who played for the Huskies from 2011-2015 as an assistant in 2018.

Three of the opposing head coaches and one assistant have connections to St. Cloud State.

With that as a background, let’s take a look at the Huskies schedule and the teams in this years Mariucci Classic:

SCSU Huskies (5-7-4 |3-5-0 NCHC) vs  MSU Mavericks (15-2-1 |10-2-0  NCHC)

(Sun) vs Bemidji State (8-5-3 | 8-3-1 WCHA) or University of Minnesota (5-9-4 | 2-4-4 BIG TEN) 

Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: ($)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
When: Saturday,  Dec 28 – 4:00 PM CT | Sunday, Dec 29 – 4:00 PM CT or 7;00 PM CT

Series notes – SCSU | Series Notes – MSU

Last Time Out:

The  Huskies hosted the Omaha Mavericks in conference action at the Brooks Center on December 13/14 and earned a 4-1 win on Friday before being edged 4-3 in overtime in the rematch. It may not have been a perfect game but darn close as the Huskies battled to a 4-1 win at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on Friday, December 13. Micah Miller scored the game-winning goal, his first of the season and David Hrenak was 20 seconds shy of a shutout as the Huskies won their third consecutive conference game. On Saturday, the Huskies rallied from an early two-goal deficit to tie the game at 3-3 on a third period goal by Kevin Fitzgerald to send the game to overtime. However, the game ended quickly as Omaha scored eleven seconds into the session for a 4-3 win.

The WCHA league leading Mavericks split a weekend series on the road at Northern Michigan winning 5-2 in the series opener off two power play goals by senior Marc Michaelis and a 23 save performance by Drydan McKay. On Saturday, despite outshooting the Wildcats by a 31-22 margin, NMU scored two empty net goals in period three to break open a tight 2-1 contest. Jake Jaremko had the lone goal for the Mavericks.

Bemidji State split a home series with Alaska winning 3-1 on Friday before falling by a 5-3 score on Saturday. In the opener, Charlie Combs scored the game-winning goal and Zach Driscoll stopped 21 of 22 shots in the win. in the finale, Alaska scored three times in the third period to earn the two goal win. Aaron Miller scored twice for the Beavers and Zach Driscoll allowed four goals on 18 shots.

The Golden Gophers last played on December 6/7 resulting in two overtime contests with Ohio State losing on Friday 3-2 and skating to a 1-1 draw on Saturday. Robbie Stucker and Sampo Ranta scored power play goals for the Gophers on Friday and Jonny Sorenson the lone goal on Saturday in the tie.

Head to Head:

he Huskies lead the all-time series with Mankato at the Division I level by a 29-18-7 margin. In the last five games, SCSU is 2-3-0 and 7-3-0 in the last ten. The Huskies hold a 10-7-3 advantage in the last 20 games. The Huskies have won both previous meetings on neutral ice at the Xcel Energy Center by scores of 5-3 on January 30, 2016 and 6-4 on January 25, 2014.

Scouting the MSU Mavericks:

The #2 (USCHO) ranked Minnesota State University Mavericks are also ranked #3 in the Pairwise and should be considered the favorite in this tournament. St. Cloud State University alum Mike Hastings has done an outstanding job with this program winning 21 or more games each and every season over the past seven years. His teams have also qualified for the NCAA tournament five times, won the WCHA regular season championship four times and the league post season championship three times in the past seven seasons.

He’ll bring an experienced squad into the Mariucci Classic with 15 upperclassmen including 7 seniors and the second oldest team (by average age ) in college hockey. The Mavericks who were the preseason favorite to win the WCHA also had three of six players on the preseason All-WCHA team including senior forwards Marc Michaelis and Parker Tuomie and goaltender Dryden McKay. Additionally, freshman forward Nathan Smith was named preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year.

Upperclassmen currently dominate the scoring with eight of the top ten players in point production either seniors or juniors. Leading the team is Michaelis, currently tied for seventh nationally in scoring with 10-12-22 in 18 games. Fellow seniors Parker Toumie, Charlie Gerard and Ian Scheid are also in the the top ten. Jake Jaremko and Reggie Lutz, both with six goals, lead a strong group of juniors that buoy the offense. The aforementioned Nathan Smith is having a solid freshman campaign with 4-11-15.

Defense, again, is experienced with three starters having logged over 100 career games including senior Ian Scheid who has 139 career games. As expected, as a unit they’ve been very solid with a +39 rating. Connor Mackey leads the group statistically with 3-9-12 and +11. Senior Ian Scheid has 10 assists and is +6. Defensively, the Mavericks are ranked #1 inn the country yielding only 1.28 goals per game.

Goaltender, Dryden Mckay has played in 17 of the teams 18 games and is the top-ranked goaltender in college hockey. He’s third in winning percentage and has the nation’s leading save percentage (.955) and goals against average (1.09).

Statistically, the Mavericks are clearly the top-rated team in the tourney with highest ranked offense, defense and power play.

National Statistics

Team Offense: 3.67 GPG (8th)
Team Defense: 1.28 GAPG (1st)
Power Play: 31.51% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 92.42% (3rd)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.89 (26th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The Huskies, loaded with ten first-year players have been a work in progress evidenced by their seven overtime games and several third period meltdowns. But, as the youngsters have gained experience, so have their fortunes winning three of their past four games and despite playing well, lost two close games on the road vs top-ranked North Dakota including an overtime loss.

Second-year coach Brett Larson is relying heavily on senior defenseman, Jack Ahcan and senior forwards Nick and Jack Poehling to provide upper class leadership. They’ve responded with all three in the top five in team points with Ahcan (4-11-15), Nick Poehling (5-6-11) and Jack Poehling (3-5-8). All three play in every conceivable situation and log tremendous minutes of ice time.

Leading the offense is sophomore forward, Sam Hentges, a Minnesota Wild draft choice who is currently tied for thirteenth in the nation in scoring with 7-14-21. Also contributing is junior forward Easton Brodzinski, who is second in goal scoring with six goals including three power play goals. Junior Kevin Fitzgerald is a good fit on the top line with Nick and Jack Poehling and has four points in the last three games. As a team, they’ve been seeing more balanced scoring as of late with 15 players having at least one goal.

The defense is led by Ahcan, a certain All-American and defensive partner and sophomore, Nick Perbix (3-5-8), a draft choice of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fellow sophomores Spencer Meier (3-2-5) who has become a key member of the power play and Brendan Bushy round out this group of second-year players. Senior and assistant captain Clark Kuster provides leadership and at +2 is one of the few defensemen in the plus.

LA Kings draft choice David Hrenak has had an inconsistent season and has a .887 SV% and 3.04 GAA after 16 games. They’ve expected better results out of the junior and it certainly creates opportunity for backups Jaxon Castor and Joey Lamoreaux. They’ve been inserted sparingly and have only logged 70 minutes total but the results have been good when given the opportunity.  I suspect you’ll see one of the two this weekend.

Coach Brett Larson is currently with USA Hockey at the World Junior Championships and will be absent this weekend. Assistants Mike Gibbons and Nick Oliver will be skippering the team at the Mariucci Classic.

National Statistics

Offense: 2.88 (25th)
Defense: 3.25 (46th)
Power Play: 21.31% (16th) 
Penalty Kill: 75.93% (52nd) 
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.75 (29th) 

Scouting the BSU Beavers

Former SCSU Assistant Tom Serratore’s Beavers had a large first-year class in 2018-19, particularly at forward, bringing in five new faces so it was a learning year last season. With the exception of the loss of Jay Dickman who netted 6 goals last season, the forward position is basically intact but with more experience behind them. Their top six scorers return and they’ve been productive thus far including senior Adam Brady (8-8-16), junior Charlie Combs (5-0-5), junior Aaron Miller (9-11-20), Sophomore Owen Sillinger (5-4-9) and sophomore Nick Cardelli (5-4-9). The key is  balanced scoring with 16 different players hitting the scoreboard. Adam Brady leads the squad with 4 power play goals.

The Beavers took a substantial hit at defense due to graduation. Unfortunately, none of the regular returnees finished the season on the plus side of the plus/minus and none finished with more than single digits in points. However, coach Serratore and staff have done their best to bring in some quality reinforcements with good leadership skills. Bemidji native Nick Leitner was a captain at Green Bay of the USHL last season. 6’3″ 192 pound Kyle Loof was an assistant captain at Cedar Rapids of the USHL. Will Zmolek adds size at 6’3″ 195 and is the son of former NHLer Doug Zmolek and also played for Cedar Rapids of the USHL. Swede, Elias Rosen skated in 51 games for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL last season.

The Beavers have an experienced goaltender tandem in juniors Zach Driscoll, a former SCSU Husky and Henry “Hank” Johnson. Driscoll played the balance of the games for BSU during the second half of last season and has booked 14 games this season with a .932 SV% and 1.70 GAA.  . Johnson has seen action in two games with a .917 SV% and 2.40 GAA.

Serratore, who is known for his defensive schemes, has his defense ranked fourth in the country allowing just two goals per game and his penalty kill ranked 1st with an incredible success rate of 47 out of 50 this season (.94%). His offense is performing as well ranked 11th in the country scoring 3.38 goals per game.

National Statistics

Offense: 3.38 (11th)
Defense: 2.00 (9th)
Power Play: 19.64% (22nd)
Penalty Kill: 94.00% (1st)
Penalties (Ave Minutes Per Game): 8.88 (53rd) 

Scouting the U of MN Gophers

Former St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko is in his second year as head coach of the Gophers. The sledding has not been easy with a 23-25-8 record. He too, has faced a lot of roster turnover and has 11 new faces on his squad this season. As such, his team enters this tournament lagging in almost all meaningful statistical categories including offense (38th), defense (50th) and power play (30th). The two categories with positive numbers are his penalty kill (84.75%/15th) and staying out of the penalty box averaging only 7.83 minutes per game (56th).

Motzko coached teams have the personality of a free-flowing, quick transition offense supported  by several puck-moving defenseman. However, the offense has sputtered with top point producers Sammy Walker and Sampo Ranta registering 11 points and the top offensive producer on defense, senior Tyler Nanne with 2-3-7. They’ve expected more offense out of players like junior, Brannon McManus (4-6-10) and sophomores Blake McLaughlin (3-6-9) and Nathan Burke (2-1-3). Top-scoring freshman Ben Meyers (3-7-10) has shown flashes of excitement and they are counting on him to continue his improvement the second half of the season. Third round NHL draft choice Ranta, will not be available for this tourney as he will be playing for team Finland in the World Junior Tournament.

Goaltending is unsettled as well with Michigan transfer Jack LaFontaine and Jared Moe each logging 10 games. Both have goals against averages north of 3.00 and save percentages hovering around 90%. These numbers are certainly a reflection of the play of the teams defense but still they are looking for more consistency in goal.

For the Gophers, having 14 NHL draft choices is not a guarantee of success and they’ll enter the Mariucci Classic as the underdog in their own tournament.

National Statistics

Offense: 2.44 (38th)
Defense: 3.33 (50th)
Power Play: 18.64 (30th)
Penalty Kill: 84.75 (15th) 
Penalties (Ave Minutes Per Game): 7.83 (56th)

Game Prospectus:

The Huskies have a huge challenge in the opening game of the Mariucci Classic against #2 ranked MSU-Mankato. Facing the country’s top-ranked power play, it’s imperative SCSU plays a disciplined brand of hockey. It’ll be an uphill battle against a strong defensive squad in the Mavericks and a huge test for David Hrenak on the other end of the ice as the presumed starter. On the other hand, a successful outing for the Huskies validates the improvements they have made in their growth as a team over the past six games. The big question is whether the Huskies can mount some offense against a very strong defensive team. Head coach Brett Larson will be away at the World Junior Championships requiring assistants Mike Gibbons and Nick Oliver to share coaching duties.

In the other opening game, the Gophers will have their hands full in a Bemidji squad loaded with experienced forwards. I’m sure the Beavers have had this game circled on their calendar since the season started and they will be primed to put forth a good performance.

All the links for this weekends games can be found HERE

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