St. Cloud, MN – There is no easy out in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. In a highly entertaining game, the Huskies were pushed hard by the Miami RedHawks before rallying from a one-goal deficit midway through the game to earn a hard-fought 3-2 win at the HBNHC on Friday, January 22. Once again, the “Foreign Legion” line of Zach Okabe, Jami Kranilla and Veeti Miettinen scored all three goals and accumulated six points in this bounce-back win for the Huskies who were swept on the road by WMU last weekend.
The Huskies fell behind early making it necessary to solve goaltender Ludvig Persson who entered the game with a .951 save percentage and a 1.54 goals-against average. Persson certainly did his best, stopping 37 of 40 SCSU shots but fell short after facing 15 shots in the third period and succumbing to a goal by sophomore forward Zach Okabe which turned out to be the game-winner.
“I think Miami came out and played well in the first (period),” said coach Brett Larson. “We took a couple of penalties that hurt our momentum. But, we were able to string together five or six shifts in the second half of the second period where we were able to get on our toes and get a lot of zone time. We started to wear them down which ended up being the difference in the game.”
Jaxon Castor got the start in goal and Larson was pleased with his effort. “I thought he played well. He stopped the pucks he needed to stop. I thought he did his job and he gave us an opportunity to win the game.”
Zach Okabe, who scored the game-winning goal complimented his linemates Kranilla and Miettinen. “We really enjoy playing with each other,” he said. “I love that I get to play on a line with my best buds. We have to be one of the youngest lines in the league and we just have fun out there. I feel really happy with where our game is going.”
The RedHawks showed no sign of fatigue in the first period despite a long bus trip from Oxford, Ohio, and on the larger sheet of ice. Obviously, it didn’t help that the Huskies took the first two penalties of the game that stunted their ability to get any momentum going. The Huskies spent a third of the first 12 minutes in the penalty box and it was the RedHawks who scored first at 14:46 on Rourke Russell’s first goal of the season. Russell fielded a pass on the blue line from Matt Barry positioned along the half-wall and he ripped a shot past Castor’s glove side for a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies did outshoot Miami 12-10 in period one.
Miami handed the Huskies an opportunity 1:40 into period two when Russell who scored the lone first-period goal was whistled for cross-checking. The Huskies cashed in on an energetic play by Sam Hentges and Veeti Miettinen. Nick Perbix floated a pass to Sam Hentges charging up ice and with a burst of speed split the defenseman and wristed a shot on Persson from about five feet out. Persson made the save but the rebound was corraled by Miettinen who wristed it past Persson to tie the game at 1-1.This was Miettinen’s eighth goal of the season.
But, the RedHawks kept battling and eight minutes later they regained the lead on defenseman Bray Crowder’s second goal of the season. Matt Barry, the transfer from Holy Cross who assisted on Miami’s first goal made another nice play feeding Crowder from the left dot who beat Castor high from the right dot for a 2-1 Miami lead.
With the Huskies seeming to get stronger as the game progressed they scored the equalizer with 1:06 remaining in period two. With the Huskies applying offensive zone pressure and the RedHawks on their heels, Nick Perbix carried the puck deep and shuffled the puck to Okabe who backhanded the puck to Kranilla in the slot and he fired the puck off his left knee past Persson. This was Kranilla’s 5th goal of the season and it evened things up 2-2 after two periods. In a lopsided period, the Huskies outshot Miami 13-5.
It didn’t take the Huskies long to take the lead scoring in the first two minutes of the final period. This time it was the third member of the “Foreign Legion” line, Okabe netting his third goal of the season with assists from linemates Kranilla and Miettinen. The Huskies Kranilla forced a turnover at the SCSU blue line and sent the puck up to Miettinen and it developed into a two on one with Okabe. Miettinen slid the puck over to Okabe and he beat Persson with a quick shot to give the Huskies their first lead of the game at 3-2.
The Huskies had additional opportunities to extend their lead with penalties to Derek Daschke at 3:19 and Jack Olmstead at 14:15 but the RedHawks and Persson defended well keeping it a one-goal game. The RedHawks eventually pulled Persson for the extra attacker with 1:03 remaining but were unable to get the equalizer.
In another strong period for the Huskies, they outshot Miami 15-7 in the period and 40-22 for the game. The Huskies Jaxon Castor stopped 20 of 22 shots to earn the win and improve his record to 3-0-0. Ludvig Persson was strong in goal turning aside 37 of 40 shots in the loss. His record falls to 4-4-2.
Jami Kranilla (1-1-2), Veeti Miettinen (1-1-2), Zach Okabe (1-1-2) and Nick Perbix (0-2-0) all had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
Stars of the Game: #1 Zach Okabe (SCSU) #2 Veeti Miettinen (SCSU) #3 Jami Kranilla (SCSU)