St. Cloud, MN – The red-hot SCSU Huskies stretched their unbeaten streak to seven games as they toppled the #6 ranked Denver Pioneers by a 5-1 score at the HBNHC on Friday, February 28. Entering the weekend four points behind Denver for the final home playoff position, they closed the margin to just one point with the win. In a show of offense seldom seen this season, the Huskies ambushed the Pioneers with three goals in the second period and rolled to the four goal win. Kevin Fitzgerald had a big night with two goals and an assist and the Huskies had success on 2 of 6 power play opportunities. David Hrenak had another outstanding game in goal stopping 31 of 32 shots on goal (96.8%) to earn his 12th win of the season. The Huskies look towards a possible sweep in the series finale on Saturday.
“David Hrenak stopping two breakaways in the first period against one of the better offensive teams in the country was huge for us” said coach Brett Larson. “when we needed him he stood up for us. ”
“Our thought process going into the game was to try to funnel as many pucks to the net as we could and try to work for some ugly goals. We just got better and better as the game went on.” said Larson. “Right now, every game feels like a playoff game for us. That’s what we need to push us to get better. Tomorrow night is even bigger. We’ve earned the right to play in a big game tomorrow. We all know Denver is going to come out flying and it’s going to be a war from the drop of the puck and we have to be ready for it. It’s just one weekend at a time.”
In a fairly even first period with opportunities in each direction, David Hrenak was called on to make several key saves before the Huskies took an early 1-0 lead at 9:42. On a beautiful three-way play by the Huskies, Kevin Fitzgerald made a rink-wide pass to Jack Ahcan who sent a pass from the left point to Jami Krannila who one-timed it off one knee past DU’s Devin Cooley for a 1-0 lead. This was Krannila’s 4th goal of the year and Ahcan’s 17th assist.
A hooking penalty to Easton Brodzinski midway through the period gave the Pioneers an opportunity to even things up but the Huskies held firm allowing only one shot and played out the balance of the period with a one goal lead. Denver outshot the Huskies 9 to 5 in the period with SCSU defenders blocking two shots.
A tripping penalty to Zach Okabe a mere 24 seconds into the second period gave the Pioneers another opportunity to narrow the lead and it only took them 26 seconds to do so. Defenseman, Ian Mitchell attacked the zone, put on the brakes in the left circle and floated a pass to DU leading scorer Emilio Pettersen who snapped off a quick wrist shot from the right circle that beat Hrenak high to tie the game at 1-1.
The Huskies responded quickly taking the lead once again just 1:15 later on some more nice passing by the Huskies. Jake Wahlin dealt a pass from the goal line out to Spencer Meier at the right point who fired a pass to Fitzgerald parked to Cooley’s left and he re-directed it pass him for a 2-1 lead.
A holding call to Tyson McLellan at 4:02 gave the Huskies their first power play opportunity and they added to their lead with a goal by Zach Okabe (Brodzinski | Walker) at 5:29. Walker made a backhand pass to Brodzinski in the left circle and he sent a quick pass to Okabe who was parked in the high slot. Okabe released a quick wrist shot past Cooley for a 3-1 SCSU lead.
A penalty to Denver’s Brett Edwards at 11:14 for hooking had the Huskies on the man-advantage again and this time it was Nick Poehling (Hentges | Perbix) scoring at 12:57 to increase the SCSU lead to 4-1. Hentges accepted a pass from Perbix and he curled low in the zone and fed Poehling who was alongside the net. Poehling quickly spun in front of the goal and slid the puck under Cooley for the three-goal lead. The goal spelled the end of the night for Cooley who was relieved by freshman, Magnus Chrona.
In an active period for the Huskies, they attempted 28 shots to the Pioneer’s 18 and outshot Denver 14 to 10. SCSU blocked four more shots that period.
Discipline became an issue for the Pioneers in period three as they were whistled three times in first 11:27 of the period. They were able to withstand the penalties but they ate up valuable time with the Huskies holding a three-goal lead and on the man-advantage. The Pioneers elected to pull Chrona for an extra attacker with 3:50 remaining and it backfired with the Huskies Kevin Fitzgerald (empty) netting his second goal of the game at 18:49. The puck was sent to Clark Kuster at the right point and he slid a pass to Nick Perbix at the left point and he shot it towards to net where a waiting Fitzgerald re-directed it between his legs into the open goal for a 5-1 lead.
It appeared Fitzgerald may have earned himself at hat trick at 19:32 but the Huskies were whistled for too many men and the goal negated. Denver placed 13 shots on goal in period three and outshot SCSU 13-3 for the period.
“that’s the first time I played with Will and Jake” said Kevin Fitzgerald who led the team with three points. “I love playing with them. They play with so much energy and tenacity. We play a similar style.”
In regards to the atmosphere Fitzgerald said “You know our fans they are crazy, they are the best. It’s such a blast playing in front of those fans every night, playing here and playing for this program. I’m really happy to be here.”
David Hrenak stopped 31 of 32 shots on goal while the tandem of Cooley and Chrona stopped 23 of 27 with one empty net goal. Chrona did not allow a goal in relief of Cooley. SCSU was 2 for 6 on the man-advantage while Denver was 1 for 5. SCSU blocked a total of 12 shots and the Pioneers with 4. The Huskies won the battle in the faceoff circle by a 32-27 margin. Sam Hentges won 7 of 8 to lead the team.
Jack Ahcan was crushed into the boards in the second period and did not return to the game. There was no further word on his injury.
Nick Perbix (02-2) and Kevin Fitzgerald (2-1-3) were the only multi-point scorers for the Huskies.
Stars of the Game: #1 David Hrenak (SCSU) #2 Kevin Fitzgerald (SCSU) #3 Easton Brodzinski (SCSU)