Grand Forks, ND – The semi-final contest between the SCSU Huskies and UMD Bulldogs in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff was exactly what we thought it would be. A wide-open, physical, tactical game that figured to be decided by special teams play and whoever could squeeze the best out of their goaltender.
On this night it was the Huskies who took an early lead, leveraged an exemplary performance out of senior David Hrenak, and won the special teams battle with a power-play goal and short-handed goal to advance to the Frozen Faceoff championship game with a tight 3-2 win over the UMD Bulldogs.
The game-winning goal was an oddity scored by sophomore forward Chase Brand on a shot from behind the net that was reviewed over half a minute later and ultimately ruled it was a good goal to give the Huskies a 3-2 lead they never relinquished.
“Honestly, I got the puck behind the net and tried to throw it on the net and I had no idea it went in,” said Brand. “Then I heard Nick Perbix say it went in – it went in”.
“The officials went to review it on their own,” said head coach Brett Larson. “We were yelling for it but we didn’t challenge it. The league is looking at anything that may have been a goal on its own in moments like that. It was a short-handed play and a good effort by Chase.”
This was the seventh time the two squads have met this season and it was the Huskies who won their fifth and most crucial game so far. With both teams most likely headed to the NCAA tournament, the possibility could exist for these two to meet again.
“For us, there has been a lot of growth for this group these last two games learning how to fight adversity and learning how to play against a great playoff team like UMD. Finding a way to win tonight was a big step for our team.”
” Against these guys, nothing is going to come easy. We knew we were going to have to score some “grease pan” goals against them to have any chance. Our goal was to get pucks and bodies to the net. It’s hard to be pretty against Duluth without that type of play because they are so good with their sticks and with their angles. They are always on top of you. We knew we had to get some pucks and bodies under their coverage and try to bang one in.”
Senior goaltender David Hrenak was a big part of this win stopping 24 of 26 shots in the game and 9 in the third period as the Bulldogs were putting on a big push.
“I’m really happy with David,” said Brett Larson. “He wanted to prove he’s ready for playoff hockey and I think he stepped up and did a great job for us tonight.”
The Huskies got untracked early with a goal 7:02 into the period but nearly had one a minute earlier on an innocent dump into the UMD zone by Chase Brand. He sent it towards the goal and Ryan Fanti misjudged the puck sliding to his right with the puck nearly sliding over the goal line before it was rescued by defenseman Matt Anderson.
But, Krannila made the next opportunity count scoring his 10th goal of the season at 7:02. Seamus Donohue placed a shot on goal and it was knocked down by Zach Okabe positioned in the low slot and fed Krannila who one-timed it past Franti for a 1-0 lead.
An interference call on Jared Cockrell for interference at 11:00 gave the Bulldogs an opportunity to respond and they did 1:44 into the man-advantage with a goal by Kobe Roth, his 13th of the season. Hrenak saved a backhand shot by Jackson Cates but the rebound went to Roth who tapped it in to knot the game at 1-1.
A cross-checking penalty to Louie Roehl at 16:33 placed the Huskies on the man-advantage and they continued their season-long success against the Bulldogs with a goal by Kevin Fitzgerald at 17:52. Spencer Meier placed a shot on goal from the left circle that rebounded to Jami Krannila stationed on the edge of the tight circle. Krannila ripped a shot on Franti that landed in the crease and Fitzgerald was there to bury it in for a 2-1 SCSU lead.
In an even period of play, the teams traded 11 shots on goal.
The Bulldogs spent the first half of the period in the penalty box with three consecutive penalties including coincidental minors to Matt Cairns of UMD and Easton Brodzinski for roughing at 10:29.
“The second period was terrible because I thought we just had no flow (due to the penalties) and we lost some energy. You have to be disciplined and stay out of the box,” said Sandelin.
But, they did recover to tie the game at 12:54 on a nice effort by Kobe Roth. The Huskies attempted to clear the puck to the sidewall but Roth intercepted it and took a full swing at the puck sending it towards the net where Koby Bender tipped it past Hrenak to tie the game at 2-2.
The turning point of the game occurred five minutes later after the Huskies were whistled for too many men on the ice and a power play for the Bulldogs. But, with the Huskies short-handed and Chase Brand controlling the puck behind the UMD goal, he sent a shot at Franti and it got between his skate and the pipe and over the goal line. However, it wasn’t reviewed until there was a stoppage in play for a penalty to Jesse Jacques for tripping at 17:08. After a review, it was ruled the puck crossed the goal line for the Huskies’ third goal and a 3-2 lead.
With the benefit of two power plays, the Huskies outshot the Bulldogs 18-6 in the period.
The teams spent the bulk of the third period dueling for puck possession and a much better period by the Bulldogs outshooting the Huskies 9-5. Towards the latter part of the period, the Huskies had difficulty clearing the defensive zone requiring an extended shift by the Walker, Brodzinski, and Miller line who had to tap into the tank to hold off the Bulldog’s pressure in the defensive zone.
The Bulldogs ultimately pulled Franti for the extra attacker with 1:41 remaining but the Huskies persevered despite intense pressure holding on for the 3-2 win to advance to the Frozen Faceoff championship game on Tuesday.
In an excellent outing by David Hrenak, he turned aside 24 of 26 shots on goal to earn his 14th win of the season. Counterpart, Ryan Fanti of UMD stopped 31 of 34 shots to see his record fall to 10-7-2.
SCSU outshot the Bulldogs 34-26 for the game but were outdueled 38-24 innthe faceoff circle for the game. SCSU was 1 for 5 on the power play while the Bulldogs converted 1 of 4.
Jami Krannila (1-1-2) had the lone multi-point game for the Huskies.
The #2 seed Huskies will face the #1 seed University of North Dakota in the Frozen Faceoff Championship on Tuesday at 7:35 PM CT.