Minneapolis, MN – With as much skill as Zach Okabe has it was bound to happen. The first-year forward who racked up 53 goals and 115 points in two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League had zero points entering Saturday’s contest with #2 ranked MSU Mankato. He ended the game tied for fourth in team scoring after a stupendous performance against college hockey’s top goaltender, Dryden McKay who entered the game with a ridiculous .955 SV% and 1.09 GAA. Okabe, the youngest player on the ice at just 18, beat McKay four times ending his night just 7:17 into the second period. It was a tough night overall for the Mavericks who yielded seven goals after entering the contest as college hockey’s #1 defense allowing just 1.28 goals per game. The 7-2 win lifted the Huskies to the championship game of the Mariucci Classic against former SCSU coach Bob Motzko and his Golden Gophers who defeated Bemidji State 5-2 (2 EN goals).
The Huskies came out flying in the first period and appeared to surprise the Mavericks with their speed and tenacity. They thoroughly dominated the first three minutes of the period and followed that up with Okabe’s (Krannila | Brand) first goal of the game at 5:22. During an energetic forecheck, Chase Brand threw the puck towards the net from the right half wall that was captured by Jami Krannila who took a shot on net from the low slot. McKay made the save but Okabe was there to bury the rebound from the right slot for a 1-0 SCSU lead. The Huskies didnt allow a shot on starter, Jaxon Castor until nearly eight minutes were gone in the period. A tripping penalty to Brendan Bushy at 12:39 had the Huskies facing college hockey’s top power play unit but they handled things perfectly not allowing a single shot on goal. A minute and a half later Okabe added his second of the game with assists once again to Krannila and Brand. Brand entered the zone and dropped a pass to a trailing Krannila who fed Okabe to his right who beat McKay glove side for a 2-0 SCSU advantage. In a dominant first period, the Huskies attempted 19 shots with 8 hitting the mark and outshot the Mavericks 8-3.
The second period turned out to be an even more dominant outing for the Huskies outshooting Mankato 12-5 and adding four more goals. Okabe completed his pure hat trick just 1:38 into the period with assists from Nolan Walker and Jami Krannila. With a Maverick penalty to Parker Tuomie expiring, Jami Krannila carried the puck rink length and dropped a pass to Nolan Walker who fed Okabe in the left slot who one-timed a shot past McKay for a three-goal SCSU lead. Less than two minutes later, Easton Brodzinski, who had a 102 degree temperature the day before showed no signs of illness beating McKay at 3:30 for his seventh goal of the season. Brodzinski muscled his way into the crease and tapped a pass by Walker from below the blue line past McKay for a 4-0 lead. The Mavericks finally beat Castor on their 4th shot of the game at 5:45 when Parker Tuomie beat him in close for his 8th goal of the season. But, Okabe wasn’t done as he added his 4th goal of the game at 7:17. Ondrej Trejbal sent a shot from the point that Okabe tipped by McKay for a 5-1 SCSU advantage. The goal chased McKay from the game as the Mavericks inserted backup Jacob Berger. However, it didn’t stop the SCSU scoring as Jake Wahlin (Meier | Trejbal) added his second goal of the season at 11:25. A shot from the right point by Spencer Meier was tipped by Wahlin to extend the Huskies lead to 6-1. The Huskies outshot the Mavericks 12-5 in the period.
With the Huskies in a defensive posture, the Mavericks did outshot SCSU 10-5 in the final period. They added their second goal of the game at 7:52 narrowing the lead to 6-2 after a goal by Jack McNeely. However, the goal celebration didn’t last long as sophomore forward Micah Miller closed out the scoring for the Huskies at 10:58 with his second goal of the season. On a line change, Miller pounced on an open puck and bolted by a Maverick defender and beat Berger with a backhand for the 7th and final goal.
St. Cloud State outshot MSU 25-18 for the game. Jaxon Castor won his first start in goal as a Husky stopping 16 of 18 shots. For the Mavericks, Dryden McKay stopped 9 of 14 shots in 27:17 of play and reliever, Jacob Berger turned aside 9 of 11 shots on goal. SCSU was 0 for 3 on the man-advantage while Mankato was 0 for 1. The Huskies lost the battle in the faceoff circle winning 22 but losing 25.
Zach Okabe (4-0-0), Nolan Walker (0-2-2), Jami Krannila (0-4-4), Ondrej Trejbal (0-2-2) and Chase Brand (0-2-2) all had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
SCSU’s record improves to 6-7-4 overall and 2-0-3 vs WCHA opponents.
The Huskies return to the ice in the championship game of the Mariucci Classic at 7:00 Pm CT on Sunday vs the University of Minnesota.
Stars of the Game: #1 Okabe (SCSU) #2 Krannila (SCSU) #3 Walker (SCSU)