St. Cloud, MN – It’s another long road trip for the #6-ranked St. Cloud State University Huskies as they travel to Oxford, OH to face the Miami RedHawks on Friday, February 12-13. After practice sessions on Monday and Tuesday, the team departed on Wednesday via two team buses for the 11-hour drive and a practice session on Thursday at Steve Cady Arena.
After a disappointing loss to the Western Michigan Broncos in overtime last Saturday, the Huskies will attempt to recoup some points after falling to third place in the conference standings. Currently, two points behind the UMD Bulldogs and one point behind North Dakota ( with one more game played) the Huskies have five-games remaining before the playoffs start.
During his weekly radio show, head coach Brett Larson noted “For us heading into Miami we’re going into a buzz saw playing a team that plays extremely hard and has a lot of pride. They didn’t get a win last weekend (at Duluth) and they want to put some points on the board. I see it as a major challenge and something we have to be ready for.”
#6 SCSU Huskies (12-7-0 ) vs Miami RedHawks (4-14-2 )
Last Time Out
The Huskies hosted Western Michigan last weekend and split the weekend series wining Friday by a 5-1 score and dropping the series finale in overtime by 5-4.
On Friday, the Huskies had their way with WMU scoring within the first three minutes and adding a shorthanded goal midway through the first period to take a two-goal lead they never relinquished in a convincing 5-1 win. Brendan Bushy (0-2-2) and Jami Kannila had a multi-point game for the Huskies. In an excellent night of goaltending for David Hrenak, he turned aside 22 of 23 shots on goal to log his 9th win of the season. And, to top things off, they had three players get a first. Will Hammer with his first goal of the season in period one and defenseman Ondrej Trejbal his first career goal in the third. Freshman, Joe Molenaar assisted on Trejbal’s goal for his first career point.
In the rematch, down by a goal late in the game, the Broncos scored an extra attacker goal with 18 seconds remaining in regulation then made quick work of things in the three on three overtime to salvage two of six points out of the weekend. Despite allowing four goals, Hrenak actually had a strong game making a number of key saves, particularly in the second period. For the game, Hrenak turned aside 25 of 29 shots in a losing effort. Easton Brodzinski (1-1-2) and Veeti Miettinen (0-2-2) had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
The RedHawks had a tough go of it in Duluth, getting swept by the Bulldogs by 8-1 and 3-1 scores. On Friday, the game was essentially over in the first period falling behind by a 4-0 score. UMD stretched the lead to 7-0 in period two before the RedHawks were able to get on the board in period three. In a tough game for Ludvig Persson, he was pulled after 15 minutes and allowing 4 goals on 7 shots.
On Saturday, It was a much closer contest getting outshot by the Bulldogs 58-31 losing 3-1. Tied 1-1 heading into period three, the Bulldogs scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the period and added an empty-net goal to seal the win. Matthew Barbolini scored the lone goal for Miami. Ludvig Persson stopped an astounding 55 of 57 shots on goal (.964 SV%) allowing two goals.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series going back to 1987 by a nine-game margin – 26-17-4. In the last 5 games, the Huskies are 5-0-0, 10-0-0 in the last 10 games, and 16-2-2 in the last 20. They last met on January 22-23, 2021, in St. Cloud with SCSU winning 3-2 and 8-2.
Miami RedHawks Notes
The RedHawks are continuing the transition from the Rico Blasi era to the Chris Bergeron era. They continue to methodically assemble the pieces to bring this program back to prominence. The last winning season for the program was in 2014-15 when they finished with a 25-14-1 record and were the conference post-season champion and a participant in the NCAA tournament.
Attempting to assemble a solid defensive structure, the team brought in five defensemen and two goaltenders, in the past two recruiting years and currently have 10 rostered defenseman.
Freshman Ludvig Persson took the goaltending reigns in the NCHC Pod and has played in close to 70% of the game minutes for the RedHawks. His numbers have cooled somewhat but are still outstanding with a .934 SV% and a 2.26 goals-against average and two shutouts. Sophomore Ben Kraws has logged the balance of the minutes and was probably assumed to get the bulk of the action this season but Persson has changed that. Kraws currently owns a .875 SV% and a 4.49 goals-against average.
Offensive production continues to be a concern with the team scoring less than two goals per game and averaging only 23 shots on goal. They’ve tried to address that through a mix of upperclassmen, transfers and seven recruits at forward over the last two years.
Matt Barry, a junior transfer from Holy Cross has been a good addition leading the squad in points with 14. Grinder and senior captain, Phil Knies has been the glue between the two coaching staffs, and in addition to adding some scoring is a good team leader. Other players from the old regime include seniors Ben Lown and Casey Gilling, both in the top six in team points.
Youngsters Matthew Barbolini a 6’2″ 190-pound speedster (tied for the team lead in goals with 4), Ryan Savage, Joe Cassetti, a transfer from Merrimack, and John Sladic are all forwards the coaching staff is building around.
Senior Derek Daschke is an experienced leader on defense and their best power play player. He’s currently tied for the team lead in goals with 4 and that includes 2 power-play goals. Junior, Bray Crowder was probably the best defenseman before being injured in the Pod and missing seven games. He’s back in the lineup and getting himself back to pre-injury form.
Dylan Mouland, Hampus Rydvist, and Robby Drazner are three freshmen that have impressed the coaching staff and they’ve shown signs they will keep getting better.
|Pairwise Record||4-13-2 .273|
|Goals||37 / 1.85 (48th)|
|Goals Against||68 / 3.40 (37th)|
|Power Play||14.5% (43rd)|
|Penalty Kill||75.8% (39th)|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.24″ / 181.7 lbs.|
|Average Age||21y 3m|
St. Cloud State University Notes
The Huskies have had a few bumps along the way but overall are exceeding preseason expectations and currently third in the league standings two points behind UMD and one point behind North Dakota. They are ranked 6th in the country in the USCHO poll and 7th in the College Hockey News Power 16.
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 four others for points by a defenseman.
Freshman sensation, Veeti Miettinen ( 9-12-21 +9) 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 was named both NCHC and American Hockey Coaches Association Rookie of the Month for January. He most recently was named NCHC Rookie of the Week for his weekend vs Western Michigan. 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 23% of the team’s goals and 21% of the point totals and three game-winning goals.
Seniors Kevin Fitzgerald and Easton Brodzinski have combined for 12 goals and 10 assists including 2 game-winning goals and 5 power-play goals. Brodzinski has 92 career points and is only 8 points shy of the watermark 100 point club for his career at SCSU. Senior transfer Jared Cockrell and senior Will Hammer have both been invaluable for their leadership and ability to log extensive crucial defensive minutes.
Sophomore forwards Zach Okabe (3-10-13 +8) and Jami Kanilla (7-7-14 +9) have benefitted from being on a line with the dynamic Miettinen but are having a solid season in their own right with two game-winning goals from Krannila and one by Okabe. Both are in the top six in points on the team.
As a unit, the defense is +13 led by junior captain Spencer Meier and senior transfer Seamus Donohue at +6 and +5 respectively. The team does not have a single regular in the minus. Junior Brandon Bushy (0-5-5 +4) is probably the most improved player on the blue line.
Goaltending has been solid but not spectacular with David Hrenak logging 77% of the minutes and compiling a .908 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against average placing him 32nd in save percentage and 39th in goals-against average. Jaxon Castor is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .903 save percentage.
The Huskies have been a third-period team with a +11 differential vs even in period one and +2 in period two.
Special teams are excellent, with the power play ranked 6th in the country and the penalty kill 11th (see below)
|Pairwise Record||10-4-0 .655|
|Goals||63 / 3.32 (19th)|
|Goals Against||51 / 2.68 (22nd)|
|Power Play||24.6% (6th)|
|Penalty Kill||86.1% (11th)|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.26″ / 186.6 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||22y 3m|
Series Prospectus / Coaching Comments
The Huskies are riding a 10 game winning streak and a 13 game unbeaten streak vs the RedHawks. But, I wouldn’t place much credence on that after completing a lengthy bus trip to Oxford in the most unusual of seasons. The RedHawks will certainly attempt to take advantage of that on Friday by jumping on the Huskies early and attempting to take an early lead.
Ten of the Huskies wins this season have been by two goals or less and with the caliber of goalie they’ll be facing in Ludvig Persson, the Huskies need to be ready to play from the drop of the puck on Friday as the RedHawks will be looking for some payback after being swept in St. Cloud in January.
In his weekly press conference, Miami coach Chris Bergeron stated ” We need to play better. We need to get back to the competitive level that we showed against Duluth in our home series (in January). St. Cloud has taken it to us for the past 5 or 6 years. It’s been a bunch in a row. We’ve been on the losing end four times last year and twice this year.”
“St. Cloud poses a lot of problems. When we don’t compete hard enough we don’t give ourselves a chance. We’ll look at the first period and a half or two periods of the Saturday game at St. Cloud, where we had a goal disallowed, fought back and made it 2-2 with nine minutes to go in the second period. ”
“They are very dangerous and they have lots of top-end players at all three positions. Our mindset going into this weekend first and foremost will probably have to be some damage control mentally because we’ve been beaten up pretty well mentally as far as our results go. Our margin for error is so extremely small. We make a mistake and it goes in our net. The other teams make a mistake and we struggle to score goals. None of it is excuses, it’s strictly from an execution standpoint.”
“We need to let the weekend (vs UMD) and our record go and focus on getting better.”