St. Cloud, MN – Junior forward Nolan Walker busted loose with four goals and his mates piled on four more as the #6-ranked Huskies stormed past the Miami RedHawks 8-2 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on Saturday, January 23. The win completed a weekend sweep for the Huskies and provided a tenuous hold on first place by one point over North Dakota who has played two fewer games.
The four-goal burst by Walker was a career-high as a Husky and increased his season totals to seven goals. His previous season-high was when he scored eight goals as a freshman and was named to the All-NCHC Rookie team. However, it’s not that unusual for a Husky as current sophomore forward Zach Okabe scored four goals vs Minnesota State on December 28, 2019, in the Mariucci Classic.
Not to be outdone, Walker’s linemate Micah Miller had a generous night setting up teammates to the tune of four assists.
For the Huskies, the last time they scored eight goals was on March 2, 2019 vs Western Michigan defeating the Broncos by an identical 8-2 score.
However, this game was surprisingly close through the first 31 minutes and 9 seconds when Walker scored his second goal of the game to give the Huskies a 3-2 lead which they never relinquished. Also, surprising was despite scoring 8 goals, they were outshot 33-32 in the contest by the RedHawks.
” I really didn’t like our first period at all,” said coach Brett Larson. “It was an odd game. We gave up more chances in the first period tonight than we did the whole game last night. Luckily, we were able to get the game back in favor in that segment of four on three and four on four. ”
On the play of Micah Miller, who had four assists, and Nolan Walker who had four goals and five points he commented ” I thought Micah had a great game and great weekend. (He) played really hard, playing north, using his speed, taking things to the net and a great job on the penalty kill. Nolan is showing he wants to take the next step. He’s playing harder and being a little more selfish. Now, he’s looking to attack and shoot more.”
“I think I went 29 straight games last year without scoring a goal,” said Nolan Walker. Coming into this year, I worked on getting stronger and working on my shot and just getting pucks to the net and attacking more.”
Micah Miller (Photo Prout)
The Huskies got off to a nice start in the game taking an early lead on a goal by Colgate transfer, Jared Cockrell (Trejbal/ Hammer) 5:22 into the contest. The Huskies won an offensive zone faceoff and Ondrej Trejbal tossed the puck towards the goal and Cockrell who was left all alone spun to his right and slid the puck past Ludvig Persson for a 1-0 SCSU lead.
With the RedHawks Matthew Barbolini in the penalty box, the Huskies struck again at 7:12 with Walker’s first goal of the evening. Walker took a feed from Perbix and he skated to the top of the slot and fired a high shot past Persson stick side for a 2-0 lead.
Miami thought they closed the game to a goal with slightly over a minute left in the period but on review, it was determined Casey Gilling interfered with David Hrenak and the puck in the goal was waved off.
Despite being down by two goals, the RedHawks outshot the Huskies 15-9 in period one.
With Kevin Fitzgerald penalized for hooking 8:10 into the period, the RedHawks finally cashed in with their first goal of the game. Senior Derek Daschke, their point man on the power play, fired a shot from just inside the blue line past Hrenak to narrow the Huskies’ lead to one goal at 2-1.
Coincidental penalties to Rourke Russell and Jami Kranilla placed the teams on four on four and the RedHawks capitalized. On a drive into the Huskies zone by the RedHawks, Hrenak overcommitted sliding out of position to his right and Jack Clement had an open right side of the net to shoot at and he didn’t miss to tying the game at 2-2.
But, it only took the Huskies 14 seconds to regain the led on a nice play by Miller. On a two on two into the RedHawks zone, Miller fed Walker, and he wristed it past Persson from the top of the left circle for a 3-2 SCSU advantage.
A penalty to Miami’s Barbolini put the Huskies on the advantage once again and Walker completed his hat trick less than a minute later. Okabe controlled the puck high in the Miami zone and took a shot from the high slot that was saved by Persson. But, Walker (Okabe/Perbix) snared the rebound and placed a backhand past Persson for a 4-2 SCSU lead.
The Huskies added one more before the end of the period with Sam Hentges scoring his sixth goal of the season at 12:40. Spencer Meier drove deep into the Miami zone and fed Hentges who was in the high slot who beat Persson with a wrist shot glove side for a 5-2 SCSU lead.
The goal spelled the end of the night for Persson who was replaced by Ben Kraws after allowing five goals on 19 shots.
Despite the three-goal barrage, the Huskies only outshot Miami 11-10 in the period.
With the momentum clearly in the Huskies favor and the game pretty much out of reach, the Huskies piled on three more goals in the third period.
Veeti Miettinen joined the party with his ninth goal of the season 4:23 into the final period. Okage won the faceoff and Miettinen captured the puck and rifled a shot from the top of the right circle past Ben Kraws for a 6-2 SCSU advantage.
Two minutes later, the Huskies struck again and it was Walker adding his fourth goal of the game. A turnover below the Miami goal line was captured by Miller and he fed Walker at the goalmouth and he had an easy tap in to extend the Husky lead to 7-2.
The Huskies closed out the scoring at 16:36 and Miller was in the middle of things again. Miler charged down the ice from inside his blue line and entered the Miami zone with a full head of speed and dropped the puck back to Chase Brand who beat Kraws stick side snapping off a quick shot for the 8-2 final.
The game concluded with four double minor penalties issued to Miami’s Andrew Sinard and Phil Knies and the Huskies Sam Hentges and Easton Brodzinski.
Miami outshot the Huskies 33-32 for the game. David Hrenak stopped 31 of 33 shots on goal to improve his record to 8-5-0. The duo of Ludvig Persson and Ben Kraws had a rough night with Persson allowing five goals on 19 shots and Kraws allowing three goals on 13 shots. SCSU was 2 for 4 on the power play while the RedHawks were 1 for 6.
The offensive output had Veeti Miettinen (1-1-2), Nolan Walker (4-1-5), Nick Perbix (0-2-2), Micah Miller (0-4-4) and Zach Okabe (0-2-2) with a multi-point game for the Huskies.
Stars of the Game: #1 Nolan Walker (SCSU), #2 Micah Miller (SCSU) #3 Nick Perbix (SCSU)