St. Cloud, MN – “The boys are back in town – spread the word around the boys are back in Town” – Thin Lizzy (1976). Yes, they are. the Huskies’ nemesis from Kalamazoo returns to St. Cloud for a key weekend series with the #4-ranked SCSU Huskies.
Having lost three straight to the Broncos and four out of the last five, the Broncos will approach this weekend with confidence said senior forward Brett Van Os who has netted two goals in four games vs the Huskies this season.
“Against St. Cloud this year, we’ve had some of our best games and we feel very confident going into this weekend,” he said. “We have to play hard and heavy on them. They are a really fast, quick team, and on the open ice are dangerous but if we shut them down and play our game we should be successful.”
#4 SCSU Huskies (11-6-0 ) vs WMU Broncos (5-10-3 )
Last Time Out
The Huskies were idle last weekend and last played on January 22-23 sweeping the Miami RedHawks by scores of 3-2 and 8-2 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
In a highly entertaining game in the series opener, 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. 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 the previous weekend. In the rematch, 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 January 23.
The Broncos were idle last weekend as well but suffered the opposite fate getting swept by the UMD Bulldogs by scores of 5-1 and 4-1 on January 23-24. On Friday, the Broncos fell behind by two goals in period one and never recovered in the four-goal loss. Drew Worrad scored the Bronco’s lone goal in period three and were outshot 36-18. In the rematch, the Broncos put forth a better effort outshooting the Bulldogs 25-20 but a three-goal first period by UMD was too much to overcome in the 5-1 loss. Ty Glover netted the Bronco’s only goal in period three.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series 19-9-4 going back to December 29, 2011. The teams have participated in six overtime contests with three of them ending in a 5-5 draw. The series between the teams were knotted at 3-3-2 until January 24, 2015. After that, SCSU has carried a 14-6-2 record vs the Broncos.
WMU has a 1-4-0 edge in the last five, the Huskies 5-5-0 in the last ten, and 12-6-2 in the last twenty. SCSU is 9-4-1 all-time vs the Broncos at the HBNHC.
the teams last met in Kalamazoo on January 15-16 with Western Michigan winning by scores of 6-2 and 3-1.
Western Michigan University Notes
The Broncos have had an inconsistent season at times looking like an upper-tier NCHC team and at other times like a team destined to finish in the bottom half of the league. Much of this has to do with youth with the Broncos rostering 14 first-year players. Add to that some instability at goaltender as starter Brandon Bussi was injured in the first game of the season against the Huskies and is out for the season.
The injury to Bussi forced the team to rely on senior, Austin Cain, and freshman Alex Aslandis and neither has taken hold of the position with both well under 90% in save percentage and both well over 3.00 in goals against. At semester break, they also added Ross Hawryluk from the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL who is currently eligible to play but has yet to see any minutes.
The Broncos lost a ton of offense from last season – 58 goals and 111 assists for 169 points. But, before you feel sorry for them, they’ve recovered quite nicely with a number of upperclassmen stepping forward to fill the void. Seniors Ethen Frank (10-4-14), Josh Passolt (5-9-14), and Paul Wasche (6-7-13), and juniors Drew Worrad (3-14-17) and Cole Gallant (2-8-10) power the offense at forward. The coaching staff is also quite high on first-year forward, Ty Glover, a 6’3″ 200-pound power forward who has registered 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points, and 6’0″ 200 pound Jason Polin who has three goals and 4 assists.
At defense, they feature one of college hockey’s top defensemen in Ronnie Attard, a 6’3″ 210-pound third-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Flyers who possesses a blistering shot from the blue line. He’s currently 5th on the team scoring with 4 goals and 8 assists for 12 points. Junior Michael Joyaux and senior Kale Bennett provide quality depth at the position but experience tails off after that with three freshmen and one sophomore rounding out the rest of the regular lineup. However, the entire group has had its struggles defensively with a combined -35 in plus/minus.
Special teams are a mixed bag with the power play tied for 10th in the country but the penalty kill under 80% and ranked 43rd.
|Goals||50 / 2.78 (28th in NCAA)|
|Goals Against||70 / 3.89 (44th in NCAA)|
|Power Play||23.5% ( T 10th in NCAA)|
|Penalty Kill||74.2% (43rd in NCAA)|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 1.50″ / 198.7 lbs.|
St. Cloud State University Notes
The Huskies have had a few bumps along the way but overall are exceeding preseason expectations and currently tied for second in the league standings with UMD and ranked 4th in the country in the USCHO poll.
Foremost, the play at the blue line by junior and Hobey Baker nominee, Nick Perbix has been a huge boost relieving the void left by the graduation of one of the all-time best at the position in Jack Ahcan. Perbix is currently second on the team in points with 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points and is tied for the team lead with two game-winning goals. Perbix is also tied for first in the country along with three others for points by a defenseman.
Freshman sensation, Veeti Miettinen ( 9-9-18 +7) with one game-winning goal and five power-play goals leads the team in goal scoring and points. He’s become more explosive as he’s adjusted to playing in the NCHC and this week was named both NCHC and American Hockey Coaches Association Rookie of the Month for January. He’s also a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.
Other key factors to the Huskies success on offense has been the play of the junior class of forwards Nolan Walker, Micah Miller, and Sam Hentges. These three have combined for 25% of the team’s goals and point total and three game-winning goals.
Seniors Kevin Fitzgerald and Easton Brodzinski have combined for 10 goals and eight assists including 2 game-winning goals and 3 power-play goals. Brodzinski has 89 career points and is only 11 points shy of the watermark 100 point club for his career at SCSU.
Sophomore forwards Zach Okabe (3-9-12 +6) and Jami Kanilla (5-6-11 +7) have benefitted from being on a line with the dynamic Miettinen but are having a solid season in their own right each with a game-winning goal and both in the top six of team scoring.
Defensively, as a unit, the defense is +13 led by junior captain Spencer Meier and senior transfer Seamus Donohue at +4. The team does not have a single regular in the minus. Junior Brandon Bushy (0-3-3 +3) has been solid defensively.
Goaltending has been solid but not spectacular with David Hrenak logging 75% of the minutes and compiling a .911 save percentage and 2.57 goals-against average placing him 29th in college hockey in both categories. Of interest is that Hrenak has allowed four goals in the first three minutes of play even strength and 25% of the goals he has allowed have come in the first period. Jaxon Castor is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .903 save percentage.
The above statistics seem to track quite well with the Huskies scoring differential which is -3 in period one and +10 in the third period outscoring opponents 19-9. Overall, their scoring differential is +9.
Special teams are excellent, both ranked in the top ten in the country (see below).
|Goals||54 / 3.18 (18th in NCAA)|
|Goals Against||45 / 2.65 (20th in NCAA)|
|Power Play||23.5% ( T 10th in NCAA)|
|Penalty Kill||86.9% (10th in NCAA)|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.26″ / 186.6 Ibs|
Series Prospectus/Coaches Comments
The intangible entering this series is the confidence the Broncos have playing the Huskies. Having won three of four contests this season they’ve had more success against the Huskies than any other league team. On average, the WMU Broncos are the tallest and heaviest team in college hockey and they have been quite successful in using that to their advantage at Lawson Arena where they have won four straight. Will that carry over to the much larger HBNHC?
In his weekly press conference, WMU head coach Andy Murray alluded to their strategy. “We have a tough challenge going to St. Cloud but we are excited. St. Cloud is a team that if they have the puck more than you you’re going to be in trouble. I think in all four games we’ve played against them this year we’ve had the puck a little bit more than them. I think our time of possession in terms of having the puck has been good. It takes a lot to out-possess them with the puck but that is really a focal point for us.”
On adjusting to the larger rink of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center he commented ” We haven’t talked about (the big ice) with our players this week and sometimes it becomes a bit of a mental thing. We have to play the game like we are used to playing. We have to play between the dots just as hard as you play all the time because the difference is the room outside the dots. If you’re defending between the dots you’re not going to be hurt.”
“The key thing you cannot do is turn the puck over and give them transition opportunities. Whether we are playing here or at Lawson we need to have the puck” said coach Murray.
SCSU coach Dave Shyiak echoed Murray’s comments concerning the big rink commenting ” You don’t want to make it a big reference point. I don’t think there is that much of an adjustment on the big ice. In my experience, you don’t see as many shots on a big rink as you do a small rink. Inside the dots the ice sheet is the same. It’s the extra seven and a half feet outside that angles are different and you have to make adjustments to take away time and space.”
On Western’s style of play, Shyiak noted ” We are saying the same thing about them. They feed on their speed and capitalize on turnovers and we have to make strong plays with the puck when they are there and if they’re not, we have to put the puck in an area where we can get it back. They will want to keep the game simple and get the pucks behind our defense because they forecheck aggressively.”
“This weekend, we want a great start, get on the board first, put them on their heels early, and try to have them chase the game. They will be coming off a long bus ride so we’ll want to advantage of that early in the game and not play catchup hockey,” said coach Shyiak.
The offense which has had a resurgence lately is a positive thing. “As a staff, we don’t think we’ve peaked yet and are continuing to grow. With seven games remaining this is the time of the year that you want to peak,” said Shyiak.
Game Note: This will be the first game that fans will be allowed as spectators. This will be limited to family members on a pass list and is estimated to be about 100-150 spectators.