St. Cloud, MN- The SCSU Huskies host the Colorado College Tigers in an unusual single game this weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. This is a make-up game from the Pod that was previously scheduled for December 3rd but postponed due to COVID protocol.
This will be the first of three games to wind down the conference regular season. The Huskies will conclude the season with a home and home series with the University of Minnesota-Duluth next weekend as they position themselves for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Grand Forks, ND.
#6 SCSU Huskies (13-8-0 ) vs Colorado College Tigers (4-13-2 )
Last Time Out
The Huskies were on the road to Oxford, OH to face the Miami RedHawks resulting in a split of the weekend series by 3-2 (loss) and 4-2 (win) scores. On Friday, the Huskies entered the third period with a one-goal advantage only to yield three goals in the period in the 3-2 loss. The Huskies tied the contest at 2-2 after a Jami Krannila goal at 10:18 of the third period. But a power-play goal by Miami with 7:10 remaining in the game held for the RedHawks win.
In the series finale, it was the Huskies who had to rally. Playing perhaps their best period of the weekend, the Huskies rallied for three goals including an empty-netter to salvage a 4-2 win and split of the weekend series. Brendan Bushy scored his first career goal and Kevin Fitzgerald added two more in the third period to steer the victory. Easton Brodzinski inched closer to the career 100 point mark with a first-period goal giving him 93 career points.
The Tigers made the trip to Duluth to face the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena in a single game. Despite being outshot 43-14 the Tigers found a way to hang around scoring twice in the third period for a 2-1 win. In an exemplary effort in goal, freshman Dominic Basse stopped 42 of 43 shots on goal to earn his 4th win of the season. A power-play goal by Matt Gleason, his first collegiate goal, and the game-winner by Troy Conzo with 2:30 remaining spelled doom for the Bulldogs.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series between these two squads 54-52-9. The Huskies are 2-2-1 in the last five, 6-2-2 in the last ten, and 14-4-2 in the last twenty games. As of late, these teams have seen a number of their games go to overtime. The last three games and five of the last eight games have gone to overtime. The Huskies won the last contest on 12/18/2020 by a 4-3 score in overtime in the NCHC Pod in Omaha.
Colorado College Tigers Notes
It’s been a challenge for CC head coach Mike Haviland since taking the reigns of the Tigers hockey program in 2014-15. Replacing Scott Owens, the Tigers were coming off their worst season in Owen’s 15-year tenure at 7-24-6. But, prior to that time, they only had one other losing season. So yes, it’s been a battle to rebuild a program that possesses such a rich history of collegiate hockey. Starting his 6th season, the likable Haviland was 63-136-20 and continuing with his rebuild of the program. Making matters worse, the Tigers whose offense finished 40th in college hockey last season saw the departure of their two top goal scorers in Chris Wilke (23-8-31) and Nick Halloran (12-18-30). The defense and goaltending were relatively intact but in need of help as the Tigers finished 2019-20 with the 53rd ranked defense in college hockey yielding 3.62 goals per game. Here’s a quick look at the Tigers:
The Tigers entered the season with their goaltending intact with returnee and sophomore Matt Vernon who logged 29 games with a 3.43 GAA but a credible .901 save percentage. They also plied their east coast connections and brought in 6’6″, 200-pound goaltender, Dominic Basse, a 6th round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite unimpressive numbers of 3.48 GAA and .887 SV% for Youngstown in the USHL the athletic Basse was considered a project but has been far from it so far this season. After doing mop-up duty for starter Vernon in a 6-1 loss to Omaha on December 9th, Basse started the next two games vs Miami and UMD winning both, and has supplanted Vernon as the starter logging 71% of the minutes and compiling a 3.14 GAA and .893 save percentage.
The departure of Wilkie and Halloran from last year’s squad saw the loss of 40% of their goal scoring. An obvious cavern to fill, players counted on to fill this void are returnees and juniors, Ben Copeland and Grant Cruikshank and sophomore, Josiah Slavin (a Blackhawks draft choice). The coaching staff brought in a large class of forwards and they’ll be relying on former US National U-18 player Hunter McKown (2-3-5), USHL veteran Logan Will (3-1-4) and Jackson Jutting (1-2-3), the son of former long-time Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting to have an impact. The Tigers also enticed Minnesota native Matt Gleason to join the squad midway through the season. A four-year player for Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, MN impacted the game in the Tigers 2-1 win over UMD on February 18 with a power-play goal in period three.
So far, Cruikshank (8-2-10, 2 PP goals), Copeland (4-7-11), and Slavin (5-7-12) are the team leaders in points.
The defense is led by 2018-19 NCHC All-Rookie team choice, Bryan Yoon who can be an impact player on the blue line. The junior finished 4th on the squad in points in 2019-20. The Tigers have upgraded their defense with Swede and Boston University transfer, Hugo Blixt, a 6’4″ defender who brings both size and durability to the unit. First-year players and USHL veterans Jack Millar and Nicklas Andrews bring additional offense to the position and in the early season, Millar has added 2 goals and 4 assists. Connor Mayer and Zach Berzolla are steady and reliable defensemen and can log lots of minutes.
|Pairwise Record||4-11-2 .311|
|Goals||34 / 1.79 (48th)|
|Goals Against||64 / 3.37 (39th)|
|Power Play||7.2% (50th)|
|Penalty Kill||71.2% (47th)|
|Avg. Height / Weight||5′ 11.23″ / 176.8 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||21y 7m|
St. Cloud State University Notes
The Huskies have had a few bumps along the way but overall are exceeding preseason expectations and currently second in the league standings seven points 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 13 assists for 18 points and has two game-winning goals. Perbix is also tied for third in the country for points by a defenseman.
Freshman sensation, Veeti Miettinen ( 9-12-21 +10) 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’s a two-time NCHC Rookie of the Week and a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.
Other key factors to the Huskies’ success on offense have been the play of the junior class of forwards Nolan Walker, Micah Miller, and Sam Hentges. These three have combined for 22% of the team’s goals and 20% of the point totals and three game-winning goals.
Seniors Kevin Fitzgerald and Easton Brodzinski have combined for 15 goals and 10 assists including 3 game-winning goals and 5 power-play goals. Brodzinski has 93 career points and is only 7 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 (3-11-14 +9) and Jami Kanilla (8-8-16 +11) 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 five in points on the team.
As a unit, the defense is +24 led by junior captain Spencer Meier and senior transfer Brendan Bushy at +9 and +8 respectively. The team does not have a single regular in the minus. Senior transfer Seamus Donohue (0-3-3 +6) has been teamed with Nick Perbix and they’ve been a strong pairing.
Goaltending has been solid but not spectacular with David Hrenak logging 79% of the minutes and compiling a .906 save percentage and 2.62 goals-against average placing him 35th in save percentage and 31st 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 +12 differential vs even in period one and +2 in period two.
Special teams cooled off last weekend going 0/9 on the power play and allowing 2 goals in 8 opportunities (75%).
|Pairwise Record||11-5-0 .640|
|Goals||69 / 3.29 (17th)|
|Goals Against||56 / 2.67 (22nd)|
|Power Play||21.4% (18th)|
|Penalty Kill||85.0% (13th)|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.26″ / 186.6 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||22y 3m|
On paper, the Huskies have the advantage in every statistical category. But, that’s why they play the games. Both teams play on an Olympic sheet of ice so no advantage there. The Tigers have been badly outscored in the second and third periods with a goal differential of -14 in period two and -28 in period three. The Huskies on the other hand have a +12 differential in period three. Not a good matchup if the game is close heading into period three.
The Tigers’ special teams have been very poor with nearly no success on the advantage at 7% and allowing a success rate of 29% on the penalty kill. The Huskies should have a huge advantage there despite having zero success on the man-advantage vs Miami last weekend. Last Saturday, after their lack of success on the power play, the coaching staff changed personnel on the unit and simplified things to generate more movement and pressure on the opponent’s penalty kill. We’ll see if that contributes to more success this weekend.
Coach Larson also advised that forward Sam Hentges, who was injured in practice last week should be back in the lineup this weekend. You may see him on a line other than his usual trio to ease him back into the lineup.
To position themselves for the Frozen Faceoff, this is a key game for the Huskies. But, as we’ve seen in the last couple of weekends, they’ve stumbled in games in which they’ve carried the lead in the third period. Also, strangely enough, five of the last eight games between these two have gone to overtime.
From here on out, every game needs to be approached as if it is a playoff contest.