St. Cloud, MN – The #6 ranked SCSU Huskies return to the port city of Duluth on Saturday for a single game against the #10 ranked Bulldogs in the first of two games to end the NCHC regular conference season. In a schedule change, the teams announced they will scrap the home and home schedule for this weekend with single games this weekend in Duluth and next Saturday in St. Cloud. The teams, with the approval of the league, came to this agreement to avoid being idle for two weeks prior to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Grand Forks, ND commencing on March 12th.
These will be the 5th and 6th games between the rivals in this unusual season.
#6 SCSU Huskies (14-8-0 NCHC) vs #10 UMD Bulldogs (12-8-2 NCHC)
Last Time Out
The Huskies and Bulldogs each had single games with the Colorado College Tigers at home last weekend with different results.
The Bulldogs faced Colorado College at Amsoil Arena on Thursday, February 18 getting edged by the Tigers by a 2-1 score despite outshooting their opponent by a 43-14 margin. After skating to a scoreless first period, the Bulldogs Nick Swaney scored 19 seconds into period two for a one-goal lead that held until the final period. Matthew Gleason scored his first collegiate goal for the Tigers at 6:33 and they added another at 17:31 by Troy Conzo to gain the victory. Ryan Fanti stopped 13 of 14 shots in the loss.
The Huskies, on the other hand, leveraged a strong two-goal first period into a 4-0 shutout for goaltender David Hrenak at the HBNHC on Saturday, February 20. Goals by Easton Brodzinski and Nolan Walker (PP) in period one and Kevin Fitzgerald and Beodzinski (EN) in period three sandwiched around a scoreless second period in the win. Hrenak was perfect stopping all 23 shots to earn his 11th career shutout, a school record.
Head to Head
SCSU has an overall advantage of 75-55-6 and a 72-49-8 record since joining the NCAA Division I ranks. SCSU is 3-2-0 in the last five, 6-4-0 in the last 10, and 12-8-0 in the last 20 games. The Huskies are 5-5-0 in the last 10 games at Duluth. Six of the last twenty games have gone to overtime.
UMD Bulldogs Notes
The three-time national champions have won two consecutive national championships in 2018 and 2019. They have been participants in the NCAA tournament six of the last seven seasons and nine of the last twelve seasons. The Bulldogs were picked to finish third by the media in the preseason poll.
Despite some major losses from last year’s squad, the Bulldogs have one of the top returning rosters in terms of goals. UMD returns 90 goals and seven of their top-10 from last season.
The Bulldogs suffered a major hit in the goaltending department with the graduation of NCHC Goaltender of the Year, Hunter Shepard. However, sophomore goalie Ryan Fanti has had a strong start to his career with a 9-6-2 record logging 77% of the minutes. He’s been solid with a .906 save percentage (fifth in the NCHC) and a 2.28 goals-against average (3rd in the NCHC). He’s backed up by Zach Stejskal (3-2-0) .927 SV% and 1.78 GAA.
The departure of NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year Justin Richards was a big loss but the team returns one of the top offenses in the league with seven of their top ten goal scorers. Leading the group are junior forwards Cole Koepke (12-7-19) and Noah Cates (5-10-15) and senior forward and Minnesota Wild draft choice Nick Swaney currently third in the conference in points with 24. Senior forward Kobe Roth is second on the squad in goals with 10 and is tied for fifth in the NCHC goal scoring. Junior forward Jackson Cates is tied for 9th in points in the conference with 8-11-19 and leads the team with five power-play goals.
The Bulldogs also saw the early departure of Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovich who signed a professional contract with the St. Louis Blues in the off-season. Two other huge losses were Dylan Samberg who signed early with the Winnipeg Jets after playing in 109 career games and the graduation of Nick Wolff, a four-year starter and physical presence on the blueline who signed with the Boston Bruins.
Senior and assistant captain Louie Roehl will lead the defense. He’s been a part of two national championships and has played in 136 games. Roehl has 26 (7g, 19a) points and a +33 rating for his career. Others expected to step forward are senior, Matt Anderson and junior Hunter Lellig. The addition of NHL draft choice and senior Dan Cairns, a 6’2″ 203-pound transfer from Cornell brings experience and size to the unit and he is +16 for the season.
Freshman Wyatt Kaiser, Darion Gotz, and Connor Kelly fill out the roster. Kaiser, an 18-year-old draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks has been very impressive and is currently 6th on the team in points with 9 assists and +3.
|Goals||64 / 2.91|
|Goals Against||49 / 2.23|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.35″ / 187.8 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 who has clinched the Penrose Cup. They are ranked 6th in the country in the USCHO poll and 6th 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 second in the conference for points by a defenseman.
Freshman sensation, Veeti Miettinen ( 9-13-22 +10) with one game-winning goal and five power-play goals leads the team in points and is first in the conference for points by a first-year player. 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 18 goals and 10 assists including 3 game-winning goals and 5 power-play goals. Brodzinski has 95 career points and is only 5 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 (3-12-15) and Jami Kanilla (8-8-16 ) 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 +30 led by junior captain Spencer Meier and junior 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 +9) has been teamed with Nick Perbix (5-13-18 +6) and they’ve been a strong pairing.
In goal, David Hrenak is logging 80% of the minutes and his numbers are improving compiling a .910 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average placing him 4th in both categories in the conference. 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 +14 goal differential vs +2 in period one and +2 in period two.
Special teams are strong with a power play at 21.9% and a penalty kill at 85.9%.
|Goals||73 / 3.32|
|Goals Against||56 / 2.55|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 0.26″ / 186.6 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||22y 3m|
Game Prospectus and Players/Coaches Comments
Expect a focused and ornery Bulldogs squad entering this game on Saturday. They’ve been snakebit on offense scoring only two goals in the last three games and shutout on the power play in ten straight opportunities. They also allowed a success rate of 55% by their opponents on the man-advantage. However, they’ve outshot their opponents 90-57 in those games.
“Obviously, at the beginning of the season, we were scoring huge power-play goals, and down towards the end of the year special teams is such a huge thing,” said senior forward Nick Swaney. “It’s something we have to continue to work on and keep building on because down the stretch it’s so big for us.”
On the frustration of the last few weekends, Swaney commented “It’s just the little things that add up. At the end of the year you have to find ways to win. We’re going to just keep chipping away and build on things and hopefully, we can improve going into the weekend.”
In preparing for the Huskies, teammate Noah Cates said ” We need to get back to work and work on details – working through some things and bearing down on the details. We’ll look at the last couple of games and try to tighten up some of our mistakes and just be better in those little areas. We are getting a lot of shots these last couple of games. We’d like to simplify things and get a body at the net and get more pucks there and try to get shots from the point and get some traffic there. You can’t stop what you can’t see. We need to get second and third opportunities around the net.”
On the frustrations of not scoring, the always direct Scott Sandelin said ” Right now the puck luck is not going our way. We need to get back to work and get ready for St. Cloud. We need to get more bodies to the net and around the net. We need to create second and third opportunities. We have to be determined around the net.”
Commenting on the three-game losing streak Sandelin said “We’ve lost three games in a row. There is a lot of pride in our room and there is pride in our coaching staff and pride in this program. We didn’t get it done (against CC) so we can either sit and dwell on it or move forward. Right now, we have two games moving forward against St. Cloud and we have to get ready to play them and then we have the playoffs. So, we have to figure out a way to become a better team quick and we have to use the weekends against St. Cloud to build some mojo and confidence in this group moving forward. You stay together and get back to work.”
For the Huskies, things are not as urgent as the Bulldogs but getting swept by UMD combined with a sweep of North Dakota (who has already clinched the title) by Omaha could drop the Huskies to fourth place, two points behind UMD and one point behind Omaha. With the league’s Frozen Faceoff single elimination this season, there is no home-ice advantage, and pairings for the postseason become that much more important. It could be the difference between playing Denver or Western Michigan vs Miami or Colorado College.
Garnering at least two points vs the Bulldogs would lock up second place for the Huskies regardless of Omaha’s success vs North Dakota. This could place the Bulldogs in a precarious position entering the playoffs.
Expect a focused, determined UMD team entering these last games. This should make for two exciting “playoff” atmosphere games between the Huskies and Bulldogs.