St. Cloud, MN – This was a typical SCSU vs UND dogfight. With 8 of the last 13 games between these two squads going to overtime, why would you have expected anything different on Friday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. With an announced crowd of close to 5000 and a playoff like atmosphere, the fans were treated to a high intensity, entertaining late-season conference battle with a team that the Huskies have faced more often than any other in their Division I era. For the Huskies, it was a bit of validation that they can indeed skate with one of the top teams in the country and that perhaps they will be a factor in the playoffs. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, they’ll go at it again on Saturday with SCSU looking to construct another successful weekend against a top-ranked team.
“It was a war from the drop of the puck” said coach Brett Larson. “I was just really proud of how our guys battled and fought through it. I thought our guys handled the momentum swings pretty well. We had to hang on through some tough moments for sure. There were a couple of shifts where they were all over us but our defense did a really good job of weathering some really tough shifts. Every point is huge for us and obviously tomorrow is going to be even harder. We have to find a way tomorrow night to get some points.”
The Huskies were on the defensive early with a slashing call to Nick Poehling 4:55 into period one but they weathered the storm and did their best to manage the intensity of the top-ranked Fighting Hawks. A boarding call on North Dakota’s leading scorer Jordan Kawaguchi at 16:22 appeared to give the Huskies the break they needed but it turned sour quickly. An aggressive forecheck by UND had Colorado College transfer Westin Michaud capture an errant puck, curl and attack the net from the corner and beat Hrenak with a low shot from the front of the net. This gave UND a 1-0 lead that they carried into period two. North Dakota attempted 17 shots on goal with 11 hitting it’s mark and they outshot the Huskies by a wide 11-4 margin for the period.
After trading penalties early in the period, the teams continued to throw pucks on goal and Hrenak had to make three key saves at about the 13 minute mark of the period. After a key penalty kill midway through the period, the Huskies were finally beginning to penetrate the Fighting Hawks defense and tied the game on a goal by Jack Ahcan (J Poehling | Miller) his 7th of the season at 12:54. Ahcan started and ended the play with an end to end rush into the UND zone dishing the puck to Miller in the high slot who made a backhand feed to Jack Poehling who placed a quick shot on goal. Thome made the save but Ahcan alertly attacked the net and buried the rebound to tie the game at 1-1. With the momentum swinging to the Huskies they added another about two minutes later with a goal by Jack Poehling (N Poehling | Miller) for his 7th goal of the season. Miller started it off with a strong forecheck and pass along the back wall to Nick Poehlng who cycled the puck to brother Jack. Poehling took a bad angle shot from the corner through traffic that got by Thome for a 2-1 SCSU lead.
The lead was short-lived however as Poehling who scored the go-ahead goal was whistled for hooking at 18:09 and North Dakota cashed in exactly one minute later on Shane Pinto’s 15th goal of the season and his third against the Huskies this season.
In an active period for both teams, they threw a lot of rubber at the goal with the Huskies attempting 17 shots and the Fighting Hawks 21. UND outshot SCSU 14 to 10 for the period.
The Huskies needed a strong third period and they got it outshooting the Fighting Hawks 14-5 and clearly having more scoring opportunities in the low slot. But, it was North Dakota that again took the lead four minutes into the period. With Jacob Bernard-Docker attacking the zone, he was fed by Pinto and left all alone beat Hrenak with a high shot from the high slot for a 3-2 lead.
Hrenak had to make a key save with 13:03 remaining as he had to stray from the goal and push the puck away from an attacking Pinto to squelch a scoring opportunity. This led to a rush up ice by the Huskies and they skated the puck deep into the UND zone and from the back wall Easton Brodzinski chipped the puck to Jack Poehling and he chopped it past Thome to tie the game at 3-3. Coincidentally, during the play, Judd Caulfield was assessed a five-minute major for interference for a late hit and the Huskies were given some bonus time to try to take the lead. However, despite several nice opportunities including a blast by Spencer Meier that hit the post, the Huskies were unable to take advantage. Thome made another huge save off a deflected shot from the point by Meier with three minutes remaining in regulation to keep the game tied at 3-3.
A late flurry by the Fighting Hawks was turned aside sending the game to overtime.
North Dakota clearly had the better opportunities in the overtime session with four shots on goal including a goal crease opportunity by Colin Adams. But, Hrenak was there to make the saves and preserve the 3-3 tie. Final shots on goal for the game were 35-30 North Dakota. For the game, UND blocked 10 shots and SCSU 8. Shot attepts for the game favored North Dakota 60-56. It was a draw in the faceoff circle at 31 wins apiece. UND was 1 for 4 on the man-advantage while the Huskies were 0 for 3.
Three on Three/ Shootout
The three on three session was uneventful with North Dakota outshooting the Huskies 3-2. Easton Brodzinski ended it quickly in the shootout making it look easy with a quick wrist shot that beat UND’s Thome glove side and Hrenak turning aside the Fighting Hawks leading scorer Jordan Kawaguchi with a right pad save.
Notes: Despite the Huskies earning two league points with the tie and the shootout win the Huskies still lost ground to fourth place Denver in the league standings as they defeated Miami 7-3 on home ice to hold a five-point lead over the Huskies for the final home playoff position.
Stars of the Game: #1 J Poehling (SCSU) #2 Easton Brodzinski (SCSU) #3 N Poehling (SCSU)