St. Cloud, MN – Following Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the UMD Bulldogs, a disappointed Brett Larson felt his team was too soft and didn’t compete hard enough five on five. He felt the #4 ranked Bulldogs were stronger and quicker to the puck. It led him to say “We are going to have to play a lot harder tomorrow if we are going to have a chance.”
The loss prompted the coaching staff to re-shuffle the lines placing second-leading goal scorer Easton Brodzinski on a line with Sam Hentges and Kevin Fitzgerald and moving sophomore forward and import, Zach Okabe to a line with Finnish imports Jami Kranilla and Veeti Miettinen. Not a coach to do a lot of line shuffling, the moves paid off for coach Larson with the “Foreign Legion” line scoring all three goals (one on a power play) in the Huskies important 3-1 win over the top-ranked Bulldogs.
The line was simply miserable to contend with for the Bulldogs and combined for eight points. Add Czech import Ondrej Trejbal to the picture and you can include another point contributing an assist on the game-winning goal by Jami Kranilla in the third period.
“These games (with UMD) are the wars of the little play,” said coach Brett Larson. “When you play Duluth, the ice is contested everywhere. You don’t have much room and you have to make plays under pressure. I thought we adjusted and played to that type of pressure and spent a little more time in their zone.”
On the play of the Finnish imports, Larson said ” Obviously, the immediate impact of Veeti Miettinen has been big time. He’s a guy that has a knack to score goals. Whenever the puck is on his stick between the dots in the offensive zone you feel like something good is going to happen. Jami (Kranilla) continues to get better for us every game as well.”
From the drop of the puck on Sunday, the Huskies were clearly controlling play early and essentially playing keep-away with the puck until Easton Brodzinski was whistled for slashing at 4:03 of period one. However, even with the man-advantage, the Bulldogs had difficulty setting up their power play and the Huskies limited them from getting a shot on goal. The first real opportunity for the Bulldogs wasn’t until the ten-minute mark of the period as Hrenak had to make a key save on a point-blank shot by Kobe Roth. Two more penalties to the Huskies, first to Luke Jaycox at 11:12 and Kevin Fitzgerald at 14:49 had the Huskies on the defense but they weathered the storm ending the period in a scoreless contest with the Bulldogs outshooting the Huskies 12-7.
The Huskies finally dented the scoreless contest in the first minute of the second period with a highlight-reel goal by Veeti Miettinen (Kranilla, Okabe), his sixth of the season and fifth goal in five games extending his scoring steak to five games. Miettinen carried the puck from his own blue line and right up the center alley unloading a quick wrist shot from the high slot that beat Ryan Fanti clean for the first goal of the game and 1-0 SCSU lead.
The Huskies clearly had more jump in period two and despite having two man-advantage opportunities in the period were unable to extend their one-goal lead. After a penalty to Koby Bender at 19:02 for hooking, the Huskies had a late scare on a short-handed opportunity by the Bulldogs. The Huskies coughed up the puck at the blue line to Cole Koepke and he streaked in all-alone on Hrenak but he was able to make a save on Koepke’s broken stick shot from the slot. In a dominant period for shots on goal, the Huskies outshot the Bulldogs 14-9.
The Huskies started period three on the power play but couldn’t get much traction and after a tripping penalty to Seamus Donohue at 5:44 placed the Bulldogs on their fourth power play of the game. This time they cashed in with Jackson Cates ripping a shot from the top of the right circle beating Hrenak short side to knot the game at 1-1.
The Huskies finally re-took the lead at 14:38 with a goal by Jami Kranilla (Miettinen, Trejbal), his third of the season. On a well-executed rush up ice, Zach Okabe dropped a pass to a trailing Ondrej Trejbal who backhanded a pass to Miettinen who slid the puck across the low slot to Kranilla who punched the puck past Fanti for the eventual game-winning goal.
A holding call to the Bulldogs Matt Anderson at 17:24 placed SCSU on their fourth power play of the game and it was Miettinen with help from fellow imports Kranilla and Okabe to net his second goal of the game to seal the win for the Huskies. With the Bulldogs caught up ice, the deadly trio of Okabe, Kranilla and Miettinen had a three on one into the UMD zone. Okabe fed Kranilla who dropped the puck back to a trailing Miettinen who unleased another pin-point wrist shot that caught the right upper corner of the net for a 3-1 lead. This was Miettinen’s 7th goal of the season and 6th goal in five games.
Both teams placed eight shots on goal for the period and 29 shots each for the game. The Huskies excelled in the faceoff circle winning 22 of 35 faceoffs.
David Hrenak earned his fifth win of the season turning aside 28 of 29 Bulldog shots on goal. His record improves to 5-3-0. The Bulldogs Ryan Fanti saw his record drop to 5-3-2 with the loss as he stopped 26 of 29 shots on goal.
The line of Miettinen-Okabe-Kranilla had a productive game scoring all three goals and combined for eight points and were +6 for the contest. Miettinen (2-1-3), Kranilla (1-2-3) and Okabe (0-2-2) all had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
The win earned the Huskies four out of six league points in the weekend series which lifted them into first-place by two points over idle North Dakota and the Bulldogs. The teams renew their rivalry next weekend with two more games at Amsoil Arena.
Stars of the Game: #1 Veeti Miettinen (SCSU) #2 Jami Kranilla (SCSU) #3 David Hrenak (SCSU)