First-Place Huskies Travel to Duluth to Face the Bulldogs This Weekend

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – For the second consecutive weekend, the Huskies will face the same opponent – #5-ranked Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, MN. The Huskies earned four of six points vs the Bulldogs last weekend in St Cloud but they can file that success away as the slate will be clean for this week’s battle. With two points separating the teams in the conference standings, it becomes another crucial series for both squads.

#6 SCSU Huskies (7-4-0 NCHC) vs #5 UMD Bulldogs (6-3-2 NCHC) 

TV: CBS Sports Network (Fri) Fox 9+ (Sat)
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($)    
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud) KDAL AM 610 & FM 103.9 (Duuth)
Where: Amsoil Arena – Duluth, MN
When: Sat., Jan. 8 (7:30 PM CT) | Sun., Jan. 9 (6:00 PM CT)

Last Time Out

The Huskies and Bulldogs faced each other in St. Cloud last weekend with the Huskies earning four of six league points.

On Saturday, a battle in the trenches between then  #4 ranked University of  Minnesota-Duluth and #6 ranked St. Cloud State evolved into a contest of special teams play ultimately ending up in overtime. And, in the battle of three-on-three, it was the Bulldogs Noah Cates who ended it two minutes into the extra session to award the Bulldogs a hard-fought 4-3 win over their rival to the south.

On Sunday, the coaching staff did some line shuffling moving Zach Okabe to a line with Veeti Miettinen and Jami Kranilla, and the move paid off with the line scoring all three goals (one on a power play) in the Huskies 3-1 win over the top-ranked Bulldogs. Veeti Miettinen scored twice and Jami Kranilla the other in this important bounce-back win. David Hrenak earned his fifth win of the season turning aside 28 of 29 Bulldog shots on goal.

Head to Head 

SCSU has an overall advantage of 73-55-6 and a 70-49-8 record since joining the NCAA Division I ranks. SCSU is 2-3-0 in the last five, 6-4-0 in the last 10 and the teams have won 10 games apiece in the last 20. the Huskies are 8-7-1 in the last 16 games at Duluth. Five of the last twenty games have gone to overtime.

Ryan Fanti (Photo Prout)

Scouting the UMD Bulldogs

The three-time national champions have won two consecutive national championships in 2018 and 2019. They have been participants in the NCAA tournament six of the last seven seasons and nine of the last twelve seasons. The Bulldogs were picked to finish third by the media in the preseason poll.

Despite some major losses from last year’s squad, the Bulldogs have one of the top returning rosters in terms of goals. UMD returns 90 goals and seven of their top-10 from last season.

Goaltending
The Bulldogs suffered a major hit in the goaltending department with the graduation of NCHC Goaltender of the Year, Hunter Shepard. However, sophomore goalie Ryan Fanti has had a strong start to his career with five wins. He’s been solid with a .910 save percentage (fifth in the NCHC) and a 2.36 goals-against average (fifth in the NCHC).

Forwards
The departure of NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year Justin Richards was a big loss but the team returns one of the top offenses in the league with seven of their top ten goal scorers. Leading the group are junior forwards Cole Koepke (3-4-7) and Noah Cates (4-5-9) and senior forward and Minnesota Wild draft choice Nick Swaney currently leading the conference in points with 14.

Senior forward Kobe Roth leads the team in goals with six and is tied for third in the NCHC goal scoring. Junior forward Jackson Cates leads the team with four power-play goals.

Defense
The Bulldogs also saw the early departure of Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovich who signed a professional contract with the St. Louis Blues in the off-season. Two other huge losses were Dylan Samberg who signed early with the Winnipeg Jets after playing in 109 career games and the graduation of Nick  Wolff, a four-year starter and physical presence on the blueline who signed with the Boston Bruins.

Senior and assistant captain Louie Roehl will lead the defense. He’s been a part of two national championships and has played in 125 games. Roehl has 25 (7g, 18a) points and a +31 rating for his career. Others expected to step forward are senior, Matt Anderson and junior Hunter Lellig.

The addition of NHL draft choice and senior Dan Cairns, a 6’2″ 203-pound transfer from Cornell brings experience and size to the unit.

Freshman Wyatt KaiserDarion Gotz, and Connor Kelly fill out the roster.  Kaiser, an 18-year-old draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks has been very impressive and is currently 6th on the team in points with 6 assists.

Statistics

Record 6-3-2
Head-to-Head 1-1-0
Goals 31 / 2.82
Goals Against 26 / 2.36
Power Play 22.7%
Penalty Kill 76.1%
Avg. Height / Weight 6′ 0.35″ / 187.8 lbs.
Avg. Age 21y 7m

Zach Okabe (Photo Prout)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies

A comprehensive preview of the team is here

SCSU lost six players from its 2019-20 roster, which includes seniors Jack AhcanJack PoehlingNick PoehlingClark Kuster, and Jake Wahlin. The team will return a total of 21 players from its 2019-20 roster and welcomed two senior transfers to its roster (Seamus Donohue from Michigan Tech and Jared Cockrell from Colgate). Newcomers include two defensemen and four forwards.

Goaltending
David Hrenak, a 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. Hrenak is currently tied for first in the team records with 9 career shutouts. Hrenak currently has a 2.63 GAA, .912 SV% and 5-3-0 record.

Backing up Hrenak to start the season, Joey Lamoreaux and Jaxon Castor could be starters on many Division I teams. Castor has seen action in 2 games, has a 2-0-0 record and a 1.65 GAA/.919 SV%. 6’1″ Lamoreaux, an NCHC All-Academic Team selection has also seen two games with an 0-1-0 record, 4.35 GAA and .808 SV%.

Coaches Comments: “We want to see some more consistency from David and we know he wants to see it as well.” commented coach Larson. “I really like the steps he took this past weekend. We need those nights where he can get in there and steal a game. He knows he has to be at the top of his game because we have those other guys (Joey and Jaxon) right behind him”.

Forwards
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 HentgesMicah Miller and Nolan Walker have come of age and the coaching staff looks for more consistency and scoring out of this bunch. Upperclassmen and experienced forwards Kevin Fitzgerald and Colgate transfer Jared Cockrell need to be factors on offense as well. Senior, Will Hammer anchors a checking line providing grit and defensive play spelling minutes for the top lines.

The sophomore class of Jami KrannilaChase BrandZach OkabeKyler Kupka and Thomas Rocco all had their moments and gained experience last season. In particular, Kranilla, Okabe and Kupka have been key performers thus far.

Finally, newcomers Veeti MiettinenJack Johnston and Joey Molenaar will be thrown into the mix. Miettinen, a prolific Finnish scorer has transitioned well to US college hockey leading the Huskies in scoring with 7-6-13. He has one game-winning goal, 4 power-play goals, and is +6.

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 JaycoxBrendan BushyOndrej TrejbalTyler AndersonTrevor Zins and Freshman, Brady Ziemer will all compete for the 4-6th position. Bushy has been a welcome surprise with his physical play on defense.

Perbix is unquestionably one of the top defensemen in the NCHC Pod. He’s currently leading the Huskies in points with 4-8-12 including one game-winning goal and is +5.

Graduate transfer Seamus Donohue is +5 with three assists, has logged lots of minutes, moves the puck well, and meshes well with defensive partner Nick Perbix. Brady Ziemer has provided some toughness and tenacity and has played in ten of eleven games.

Statistics

Record 7-4-0
Head-to-Head 1-1-0
Goals 35 / 3.18
Goals Against 29 / 2.64
Power Play 23.7%
Penalty Kill 86.7%
Avg. Height / Weight 6′ 0.26″ / 186.6 lbs.
Avg. Age 22y 3m

Game Prospectus and Coaches Comments

This will be a different kind of series compared to last weekend for several reasons. First, the game will be played on a standard-sized sheet of ice vs the Olympic sheet at the HBNHC. That will affect special teams and defensive play. Second, as the home team, the Bulldogs will have the last change. the Huskies will be unable to get as many preferred matchups as they did last weekend. This is a key factor between two closely matched teams.

Coaches Comments: “We’ll do some small area games this week in practice to get ready for this weekend on a smaller rink.” commented coach Larson. ” We’ll have to manage the first 20 minutes of the game pretty well as you know they are going to come pretty hard in their rink. Usually what they’ll do is put a ton of pressure on you and make you feel like you are on your heels. They are trying to pressure your defense and trying to create turnovers. You want to get through that first twenty and hopefully weather it and hopefully start your own push.”

This should be another closely contested weekend. They usually are against the Bulldogs.

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