Omaha, NE- It’s hard to believe, but what appeared to be a daunting task for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has whittled down to the last weekend of play in the NCHC Pod. The Huskies will carry their 4-3-0 record into this weekend against the Colorado College Tigers on Friday and the Denver Pioneers on Sunday. This will be the first meeting between the Tigers and SCSU in the Pod after their first scheduled game on December 3rd was postponed. After this weekend, the Huskies will return to St. Cloud for the holiday break and hopefully resume play as scheduled on Friday, January 1 vs league-leader UND at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
#9 SCSU Huskies (4-3-0 NCHC) vs # CC Tigers (2-2-1 NCHC)
TV: Midco SN (select markets)
Live Stream: NCHC.TV (Subscription Required)
Radio/Stream: 96.7 FM the River (St. Cloud) 88.1 KVSC (St. Cloud)
Tickets: (No Tickets or Passes to the Public Available)
Where: NCHC Pod | Baxter Arena | Omaha, NE
When: Fri., Dec. 18 | 7:35 PM CT
Last Time Out
The Huskies faced North Dakota for the second time in the NCHC Pod and were edged by a 4-3 score in overtime. UND surged to a 3-1 lead but the Huskies rallied with goals by Nick Perbix and Veeti Miettinen to send the game to overtime. The Fighting Hawks made quick work of things in the overtime session scoring in eight seconds on a goal by Jordan Kawaguchi. The loss dropped the Huskies to one point behind UND in the standings and five points back of UMD.
Late to the Pod party due to some positive COVID cases on the team, Colorado College has had a resurgence of sorts after going winless in the first three games of the Pod. A goaltending change and some newfound offense led to identical 4-1 wins over league-leader UMD and Miami and suddenly the Tigers are turning heads. They last faced Miami on December 15th outshooting the RedHawks 30-18 with the game-winner scored by Patrick Cozzi, his first career goal in period three. First-year goaltender Dominic Basse registered the win.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series between these two squads 53-52-9. The Huskies are 2-2-1 in the last five, 6-2-2 in the last ten, and 14-4-2 in the last twenty games. However, the Tigers were a challenge for the Huskies last season winning twice at the HBNHC and earning an overtime tie, and losing in overtime to SCSU in Colorado Springs.
Scouting the Tigers
It’s been a challenge for CC head coach Mike Haviland since taking the reigns of the Tigers hockey program in 2014-15. Replacing Scott Owens, the Tigers were coming off their worst season in Owen’s 15-year tenure at 7-24-6. But, prior to that time, they only had one other losing season. So yes, it’s been a battle to rebuild a program that possesses such a rich history of collegiate hockey. Starting his 6th season, the likable Haviland was 63-136-20 and continuing with his rebuild of the program. Making matters worse, the Tigers whose offense finished 40th in college hockey last season saw the departure of their two top goal scorers in Chris Wilke (23-8-31) and Nick Halloran (12-18-30). The defense and goaltending were relatively intact but in need of help as the Tigers finished 2019-20 with the 53rd ranked defense in college hockey yielding 3.62 goals per game. Here’s a quick look at the Tigers:
The Tigers entered the season with their goaltending intact with returnee and sophomore Matt Vernon who logged 29 games with a 3.43 GAA but a credible .901 save percentage. They also plied their east coast connections and brought in 6’6″, 200-pound goaltender, Dominic Basse, a 6th round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite unimpressive numbers of 3.48 GAA and .887 SV% for Youngstown in the USHL the athletic Basse was considered a project but has been far from it so far in the Pod. After doing mop-up duty for starter Vernon in a 6-1 loss to Omaha on December 9th, Basse started the next two games vs Miami and UMD winning both and posting a 1.80 GAA and .932 SV%. As a result, Basse may have supplanted Vernon as the starter for the balance of the Pod.
The departure of Wilkie and Halloran from last year’s squad saw the loss of 40% of their goal scoring. An obvious cavern to fill, players counted on to fill this void are returnees and juniors, Ben Copeland and Grant Cruikshank and sophomore, Josiah Slavin (a Blackhawks draft choice). The coaching staff brought in a large class of forwards and they’ll be relying on former US National U-18 player Hunter McKown, USHL veteran Logan Will and Jackson Jutting, the son of former long-time Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting to have an impact.
So far in the Pod, Cruikshank (4-1-5, 2 PP goals), Copeland (2-3-5), and Slavin (1-4-5) are the team leaders in points.
The defense is led by 2018-19 NCHC All-Rookie team choice, Bryan Yoon who can be an impact player on the blue line. The junior finished 4th on the squad in points in 2019-20. The Tigers have upgraded their defense with Swede and Boston University transfer, Hugo Blixt, a 6’4″ defender who brings both size and durability to the unit. First-year players and USHL veterans Jack Millar and Nicklas Andrews bring additional offense to the position and in the early season, Millar has added 2 goals and 1 assist. Connor Mayer is a steady and reliable defenseman and can log lots of minutes.
|Goals||14 / 2.80|
|Goals Against||16 / 3.20|
|Avg. Height / Weight||5′ 11.33″ / 177.0 Ilbs|
Scouting the Huskies
SCSU lost six players from its 2019-20 roster, which includes seniors Jack Ahcan, Jack Poehling, Nick Poehling, Clark Kuster and Jake Wahlin. The team will return a total of 21 players from its 2019-20 roster. This list of veterans includes six returning seniors, six juniors and nine sophomores. They return 3 goalies, 7 defense and 11 forwards. SCSU has four NHL draft picks on its roster this year including Nick Perbix (Tampa), Sam Hentges (Minnesota), David Hrenak (Los Angeles) and Veeti Miettinen (Toronto). The Huskies welcome two senior transfers to its roster (Seamus Donohue from Michigan Tech and Jared Cockrell from Colgate). Newcomers include two defensemen and four forwards.
David Hrenak is the anointed starter. The draft pick of the LA Kings won his 50th career game at SCSU on Dec. 1. He is one of just four SCSU goalies to win 50 career games. The others include Brian Leitza (66 from 1994-98), Ryan Faragher (53 from 2011-14) and Charlie Lindgren (51 from 2013-16). Hrenak is currently tied for first in the team records with 9 career shutouts.
Backing up Hrenak to start the season, Joey Lamoreaux and Jaxon Castor could be starters on many Division I teams. Castor was inserted for the game vs Omaha and after a shaky start, settled down stopping 24 of 27 shots on goal (.888 SV%) to earn his first win since December 28, 2019. The 6’1″ Lamoreaux, an NCHC All-Academic Team selection was inserted in two games in 2019-20 and had a 3.25 GAA and .893 SV%. He was given the nod in the last game vs Omaha and suffered the loss stopping 19 of 21 shots.
Hrenak currently has a 3.02 GAA, .897 SV% and 3-2-0 record.
The Huskies are looking to re-tool an offense that saw its point production drop from 156 goals and 429 points in 2018-19 to 94 goals and 260 points in a season-shortened 2019-20. They’ll rely on senior, Easton Brodzinski (12-15-27) who led the team in scoring last season for a big year as he approaches the 100 career point milestone. The junior class of Sam Hentges, Micah Miller and Nolan Walker have come of age and the coaching staff looks for more consistency and scoring out of this bunch. The coaching staff wants these players to use their speed to be first on pucks, get to the net and create traffic. Upperclassmen and experienced forwards Kevin Fitzgerald and Colgate transfer Jared Cockrell need to be factors on offense as well.
Brodzinski continues his march toward the 100-point club with 45 goals and 40 assists in 118 games played for the Huskies. He paces SCSU on the +/- this winter at +5 and also leads the team with 25 shots on goal.
The sophomore class of Jami Krannila, Chase Brand, Zach Okabe, Kyler Kupka and Thomas Rocco all had their moments and gained experience last season. The question is how much of a jump can they make this season after a solid offseason of improving their strength and speed. Krannila in particular has been effective and is currently tied for second in points with two goals and three assists for five points.
Finally, newcomers Veeti Miettinen, Jack Johnston and Joey Molenaar will be thrown into the mix. Miettinen has already had an impact for the Huskies with two goals and three assists for five points. First-year graduate transfer Jared Cockrell has had an impact player as an integral part of a grinder line and netted a goal vs Omaha.
The defense will be solid but not flashy with Captain Spencer Meier leading the unit. The loss of Jack Ahcan to graduation was huge making the contributions from junior Nick Perbix and senior transfer Seamus Donohue that more paramount. Luke Jaycox, Brendan Bushy, Ondrej Trejbal, Tyler Anderson, Trevor Zins and Freshman, Brady Ziemer will all be vying for the 4-6th position.
Perbix has been outstanding thus far in the Pod and is showing great leadership back at the blueline and along with Donohue and both are logging a lot of minutes. Perbix moved into the team’s scoring lead with his goal vs. UND on Dec. 16. Perbix now has six points, which includes a team-leading three goals and three assists. The game vs. UND was the 80th career game for Perbix and he now has 12 goals and 29 assists in three seasons for the Huskies.
Freshman, Ziemer, has been effective as a first-year defenseman and is exhibiting the toughness and tenacity he is known for. Ziemer scored his first collegiate goal vs Omaha on December 6th and has played in all seven games.
|Goals||22 / 3.14|
|Goals Against||20 / 2.86|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.13″ / 185.1 lbs.|
The results in the NCHC Pod have been highly unpredictable. This first and only game between the Tigers and Huskies is no different. Colorado College has been surging with two consecutive wins including an impressive victory over league-leading UMD in their last game. The Huskies, on the other hand, started off well by winning their first three contests but have gone 1-3-0 since.
However, if we drill things down further, we should note the Huskies outshot Omaha 41-21 and 18-3 in the third period in the 2-0 loss and ran into a very hot goaltender in Adam Scheel who single-handedly preserved the 4-3 overtime win for North Dakota. In a game where the Huskies once again outshot their opponent 27-21 and limited North Dakota to ten five-on-five shots on goal, they were undone by their inability to take advantage of a five-minute power play in period three.
The Huskies will presumably be facing a hot goaltender in Dominic Basse tonight. He’s won two straight games and he’s allowed less than two goals per game. However, even if they play Vernon, he carries an all-time record of 2-1-1 vs the Huskies. SCSU needs a better performance out of senior David Hrenak. His 3.02 GAA and .897 SV% need to improve.
The Huskies penalty kill has been outstanding at nearly 90%. The power plays not so at 10% and that needs to improve. In the three losses to WMU, Omaha, and North Dakota, the Huskies have gone 0 for 9 on the power play in games with an average goal differential of 1.33. Look for changes in tonight’s contest with the Tigers.
Finally, the Huskies will need to contend with the Tigers 1-3-1 neutral zone play and avoid turnovers. the Tigers are currently playing with confidence and getting an early lead could put the Tigers on their heels a bit. SCSU has been outscored 8-6 in period one but has outscored their opponent 9-8 in the second and 9-3 in period three.
SCSU concludes play in the NCHC Pod on Sunday at 4:05 PM CT vs Denver.