Duluth, MN – The Huskies needed a win badly on Friday vs the UMD Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, MN. The formula to win was to score first, ride some good goaltending from David Hrenak and grind out a win like they did against the Bulldogs in a January sweep. The game plan was working perfectly for the first 37:38 of the contest until the Huskies fell on the sword and yielded a 4-1 win for the #5 ranked Bulldogs in the first game of the final regular season series of 2019-20. The loss eliminated any possibility for the Huskies to earn home ice for the NCHC quarterfinals and steered their destiny to either Denver or Western Michigan next weekend.
The game couldn’t have started out any better for the Huskies scoring in the first 8:16 of play to take a lead in this crucial game. Jami Krannila fed Zach Okabe who was streaking down the right wing into the UMD zone and he took a bad angle shot that beat Hunter Shepard high for a 1-0 SCSU lead. It was a solid period on the road for the Huskies keeping the Bulldogs offense on the perimeter, blocking eight shots and killing a late period penalty to Nick Perbix. UMD outshot the Huskies 8-7 in the period and was 0 for 1 on the power play.
The Huskies maintained their one-goal lead well into period two continuing to keep much of the Bulldogs play on the perimeter and allowing only one Grade A opportunity the entire period. Meanwhile, three consecutive penalties to the Bulldogs gave the Huskies plenty of opportunities to extend their lead but they were only able to muster one shot on goal for two of the man-advantage opportunities and four on the other but Shepard was there to keep it a one-goal game. Finally at 18:38 the Bulldogs got the break they needed with a goal by Quinn Olson, his 7th of the season. Olson took a shot from outside the right circle that deflected off the sick blade of Spencer Meier and past David Hrenak to tie the game at 1-1. UMD outshot the Huskies 12-9 in the period and attempted 24 shots on goal with six blocked by the SCSU defense.
A mishandled puck led to the Bulldogs second goal just 2:08 into the final period. A simple dump of the puck into the SCSU zone had some miscommunication between goaltender Hrenak and defenseman Brendan Bushy after Hrenak played the puck at the back wall. UMD’s Koby Bender scooped it up between the two and deposited it in the SCSU goal for a two-goal UMD lead. It began a period that saw the Huskies place only two shots on goal in the scoring area and only seven shots on goal total for the period. Another turnover this time while attempting to control the puck in the UMD zone led to another Bulldog goal. A turnover just inside the UMD blueline had the Bulldogs off to the races in the other direction and had the Bulldogs leading goal scorer, Cole Koepke taking advantage circling behind the SCSU goal and burying the puck on a wraparound on Hrenak for a 3-1 lead at 12:10. An empty net goal at 19:40, again by Koepke sealed the 4-1 win for the Bulldogs.
UMD outshot the Huskies 35-23 for the game. David Hrenak stopped 31 of 34 shots on goal while Hunter Shepard turned aside 22 of 23 shots. Neither team scored on the power play with SCSU 0 for 3 and UMD 0 for 2. UMD had the advantage in the faceoff circle 34-29.Will hammer won 9 of 13 faceoffs for the Huskies.
“I thought our first shift of the game was good” said coach Scott Sandelin. “After that, a little bit with the power play, but that was not a very good period by us. We got a little better in the second and the third period was our best. We got down by a goal – it could have been more. We kept it close and killed some penalties and didn’t let it become a two-goal game. If that happens, who knows.”
On Koepke’s second period goal Sandelin said “It was a big goal, it gave us some momentum and a spark and we got out of that period with a lead and had a strong third period. That was a big time goal going around the net and sneaking it in.”
Stars of the Game: #1 Hunter Shepard (UMD) #2 Cole Koepke (UMD) #3 Koby Bender (UMD)
The St. Cloud State record falls to 13-14-2 overall and 10-11-2 NCHC. The Bulldogs improve to 21-10-2 overall and 16-5-2 NCHC.