Womens Hockey: SCSU Faces Rival Minnesota State in Season Opener

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – To start Mondays weekly press conference SCSU coach Steve Macdonald exclaimed “Is it really game week?” After having his season-opening series with Bemidji State derailed due to a number of positive COVID tests, his excitement was apparent. “Obviously, we’re really excited starting off the season and that it’s game day Friday. We have a lot of eager faces in the locker room – freshman, seniors and coaches alike”.

The extended wait to begin the Huskies WCHA season starts with a weekend series vs in-state rival Minnesota State (0-2-0) on Friday and Saturday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:07 PM CT on Friday and 3:07 PM CT on Saturday.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the team with players on mandatory quarantine. “We didn’t have enough players to play (Bemidji State) and obviously this last week was challenging with seven skaters and two goalies.” said Macdonald. But things have improved. We have a path to have more than the required minimum per WCHA protocal. We’ll have 15 skaters and 2 goalies available. It’s been a prolonged pre-season but I feel our team is ready to go.”

Here’s a look at the Huskies:

The Huskies graduated eight players from the 2019-20 squad with the biggest dents being forward Hallie Theodosopoulos, who led the team with 12 goals last season and logged 141 games and 34 goals in her career. On defense, the departure of Abby Theisen leaves a hole to fill having played in 105 games for  SCSU after transferring from North Dakota. Finally, outstanding goaltender Janine Alder’s career at SCSU ended after 4 games in 2019-20 after a posting career numbers of 2.55 GAA and .931 SV%.

However, they return three of their top five scorers including sophomore Klara Hymlarova (8-18-26), sophmore Olivia Cvar (10-5-15) and junior, Jenniina Nyland (4-9-13). In goal, senior Emma Polusny stepped in and was a workhouse playing in 32 games and despite a 3.37 GAA had a credible .911 SV%.

 

Picked in the preseason poll to finish 7th, the Huskies will need to improve on both ends of the ice completing last season 34th in the country on offense scoring 1.77 goals per game and 36th on defense allowing 3.49 goals per game. Special teams lagged as well with the power play converting only 15.5% of the time and the power play at 78.5%.

First-Year Players 
The coaching staff has added eight new players to the team including a transfer in 2020-21. “We’re really impressed with our freshman and our transfer Addi Scribner and what she can bring to the table.” said Macdonald. The sophomore from Woodbury is a transfer from Ohio State and although she only played in two games has collegiate experience and a productive resume being an All-State player from East Ridge High School. “She has that experience of being in a college program already. She can play defense and forward” said Macdonald.

The biggest impact from a first-year player may come from Emma Gentry, a 5’10” forward from Alpena, MI. A prolific scorer, Gentry helped the U.S. claim gold at the 2020 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships. Macdonald projects Gentry to play a significant role offensively. ” She’s a big-body, power forward with quick hands and a heavy shot. She plays at a high level.”

Freshman include 5’5″ Mckenzie Bourgerie from St. Michael, MN who has a good eye for the net and registered 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points as a senior. Linnea Melotindos, a 5’4″ forward from Espoo, Finland has competed in three world junior championships and is described as a good 200 foot player with experience on a larger rink. Defenseman, Adela Skrdlova was one of the top young defenseman in the Czech Republic and has participated in the U18 World Championship for Czech Republic National team  the last three years. “She has been looking great and she’ll be able to play a significant role for us at the back end right away.” said Macdonald. Forwards Nicole Ness, a 5’8″ forward from Apple Valley, MN played her senior season for the Alaska All-Stars and Anchorage, Alaska native  Allison Green who brings some size at 5’11” and strong scoring ability for the 19U AAA Girls Belle Tire Hockey team in Michigan round out the forwards.

Finally, the Huskies snared a top-notch goaltender with International experience in Sanni Ahola, one of the top young goaltenders in the Finnish system.  The 5’7″ goaltender from Helsinki competed on the Team Finland U18 and U23 teams internationally. Most recently she played for Helsingin IFK. She is expected to provide solid competition to Emma Polusny.

“There will be some freshman put in some roles they normally would not have been put in that first weekend.The biggest thing (about the freshman) is their eagerness and willingness to put in the work.” said Macdonald.

Anna Wilgren (Photo Prout)

Here’s a Look at Minnesota State:

Former SCSU mens hockey assistant John Harrington and SCSU head women’s coach Jeff Giesen seem to be be in the same boat as the Huskies attempting to gain some traction in this disjointed season. Picked one notch ahead of the Huskies in the pre-season WCHA poll at 6th, they fell flat in their opening series vs highly-ranked Minnesota-Duluth at home getting swept  by scores of 5-0 and 7-3. “We weren’t good from the goaltender on out vs the Bulldogs” coach Geisen told me. “But, we have to give credit to the Bulldogs, they have some high-end players.”

Giesen feels they have more depth this season but similar to the Huskies need more offense. With four freshman in the lineup it’s a learning experience. “The biggest thing for us is scoring some goals. We’ve played pretty good defensively and in goal.” he said.

Undoubtedly, their best player entering the season is defenseman Anna Wilgren a defenseman from Hudson, WI. She led the squad in scoring last season with 7 goals and 18 assists for 25 points. Giesen says she could play 30-40 minutes a game if she had to. Others that they’ll be looking to for offense are returnees sophomore Kelsey King (6-16-22) who is a play-maker, senior Brittyn Fleming (6-12-18) and senior Mariah Gardner (6-11-17). Sophomore Kennedy Bobyck and junior Madison Oelkers combined for 2-1-3 vs the Bulldogs and are off to a good start. On defense, Charlotte Akervick is another to keep an eye on. According to coach Giesen, she had a great offseason preparing for her sophomre year.  It appears they’ll be missing some experience at defense with Tristen Truax probably out of the lineup this weekend. 

In goal, they have one of the top young goaltenders in the WCHA in Calla Frank who appeared in 17 games for the Mavericks last season compiling a 2.76 GAA and .909 SV%. The 2019 Lets Play Hockey Goaltender of the Year in MN high school hockey was also named to the WCHA All-Rookie team after the 2019-20 season.

Game Prospectus

The Mavericks will travel to St. Cloud for a Friday AM skate and return to Mankato immediately following the game on Saturday.

This looks to be a typical tightly contested SCSU vs Minnesota State series. The Mavericks need to recover from being swept by the Bulldogs and the Huskies would like to get off to a good start in the game-shortened season.

Last season, the Mavericks were badly outscored in the first period 14-35 but finished games strong skating even with their opponents being outscored by a thin 34-32 margin in the third period. They had a great deal of success getting on the board  first in a contest going 7-3-0.  Minnesota State, which started in 1998-99, is in its 23rd season of competition and has compiled a 196-505-70 (.254) record in 771 total games played. The Mavericks are in their 22nd year as members in the WCHA and hold a 101-398-55 (.182) record in 554 games played. The Mavericks hold an all-time record of 35-43-13 against St. Cloud State in a series that dates back to Nov. 21, 1998. Last season, the Mavericks went 3-1-1  vs. the Huskies, outscoring the in-state rival 13-8 over the course of five games. The Mavericks hold a 18-23-5 all-time record against the Huskies in games played in St. Cloud.

In preparing for Minnesota State, coach Steve Macdonald said ” We are focusing on ourselves and what we do and our identity and systems on the ice. Obviously it’s a point for us to hone in on scoring more goals. We have worked a lot on our offensive game and re-defining what that looks like. We’ve been focusing on creating more scoring off the rush and focusing on our zone entry.  We feel we have our special teams in order.  In the end, our players just have to play.”

Note: There will be no tickets sold to the public for this game. Both games will be streamed on flohockey.tv (Subscription required).

SCSU WOMENS ROSTER

MINNESOTA STATE ROSTER

MINNESOTA STATE WEEKLY RELEASE

SCSU WEEKLY RELEASE

 

 

 

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