St. Cloud, MN- Twenty-one years ago, the fledgling St. Cloud State University Huskies were preparing to play the Boston University Terriers in the biggest game of the Huskies’ short existence in Division I hockey. They’d be facing a true blue blood of collegiate hockey at the then-named Pepsi Center in Albany, NY on March 25, 2000, in the NCAA East Regional.
The Huskies earlier had a taste of post-season play as an independent during the 1998-99 season being invited to play Lake Superior State University, then quite a hockey power, in a best of three series at the higher seeds home ice in the playoff format that existed at that time.
It wasn’t until eleven years later when the Huskies were firmly established in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association that they earned the right to play Boston University in Albany. At the time, the Terriers were making their 25th appearance in the tournament and their 10th appearance in the previous 11 seasons.
This was a typically strong Boston University team who had posted a 24-9-7 record and won the Hockey East regular-season title. It was not loaded with NHLers but did feature the number one pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Rick Dipietro and Freddy Meyer who eventually logged 281 games in the NHL. However, as a collegiate team, they featured a fairly high-powered offense with seven players in double-digit goal-scoring including Carl Corazinni with 22 goals, Tommi Degerman with 19, and Chris Heron with 18. Dipietro was in his first and final year with the Terriers after being drafted #1 and joined the New York Islanders for the 2000-01 season.
The Huskies, on the other hand, entered the NCAA tournament with a comparable 23-13-3 record finishing third in the WCHA behind Wisconsin and North Dakota. It was the best season in school history despite having only four seniors. It was a roller-coaster season losing seven of their first eleven games but gained traction after a 4-3 overtime loss to Wisconsin on November 19th. They rebounded to shutout the eventual conference champion Badgers by a 4-0 score the next night and went on to lose only once in the next 13 games. They stumbled down the stretch with a 7-5-1 record but the earlier season results were enough to place them as the #6 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Huskies were beginning to see the rewards of some outstanding recruiting with their top three goal scorers sophomore forwards Mark Hartigan (22), Tyler Arnason (19), and Nate DiCasmirro (19). Juniors Brandon Sampair (18) and Keith Anderson (12) rounded out an offense that certainly rivaled anything Boston University could offer. On defense, sophomores Mike Pudlick (8 goals, 23 assists) and Duvie Westcott (18 points) led the unit in offense. The team also included future stars Ryan Malone, Joe Motzko, and Jon Cullen who were first-year players. Finally, backstopping the team was junior Scott Meyer who logged 30 games and posted a solid .920 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average.
The team was young but confident entering the East Regional facing a team that expected to be in post-season play every season. At the time, senior defenseman, Geno Parrish told the St. Cloud Times “I can’t speak for (the Terriers) but I know our guys were excited to be here. We’re all hockey players. You grow up playing in tournaments and that’s what you look forward to – things like playing stick hockey in hotel hallways. We couldn’t do that here but doesn’t change that everybody gets excited to play in the NCAA tournament.”
With an announced crowd of 8,300, the atmosphere was great for the first and only meeting to date for these teams. However, it began with a thud for the Huskies with the Terriers scoring a mere 2:30 into the game and adding two more before the period expired for a 3-0 lead.
I was there and I remember it like it was yesterday. Top defenseman, Mike Pudlick dropped to a knee to block a bouncing puck but it evaded him, and leading goal scorer Corazinni capitalized sliding a puck under Scott Meyer for a 1-0 lead. Seven minutes later, a shot by John Sabo was saved by Meyer but Jack Baker sent a puck off defenseman, Derek Eastman’s face mask for a two-goal lead. But, it didn’t end there. A power-play goal off some nifty stick-handling by Jay Pandolpho at 15:39 increased the lead to 3-0 by periods end.
The Huskies shook off the unfortunate first period and a goal off a slap-shot by Pudlick beat Dipietro and closed the gap to 3-1. But, BU added another slightly over a minute later with Baker adding his second of the game burying a rebound off a Corazinni shot for an insurmountable 4-1 advantage. Freshman, Ryan Malone beat Dipietro with a shot from the right circle on the power play to get the Huskies within reach at 4-2.
The teams traded goals in period three with Chris Heron at 14:10 and Lee Brooks for the Huskies on a shot from the blue line at 18:34 in the 5-3 final.
“Despite the first period, I thought overall we played pretty well against a team that was very experienced in the NCAA tournament, recalled coach Craig Dahl. “It was our first real appearance in (a neutral site) NCAA tournament and we did really well against an experienced team. We were beginning to get some high-level talent and it was paying off for us in the years to follow.”
It was a disappointing loss for sure but it began a string of thirteen NCAA appearances over the next 20 seasons. It also led to years of success with SCSU piling up 445 wins vs the BU Terriers 424 wins during that same span of years.
For the Huskies, on Saturday, they will be circling back two decades later to face an unfamiliar team they’ve only played once in their thirty-three-year history at the Division I level.
But, for sure, that one contest is an interesting slice of SCSU hockey history and embarked St. Cloud State University hockey on many years of success since.
East Regional – March 25, 2000
(3) Boston University vs. (6) St. Cloud State
|March 25||Boston University||5 – 3||St. Cloud State||Pepsi Arena|
|Carl Corazzini – 02:35
(Sabo, Corazzini) Jack Baker – 09:19
(Collins, Gillis) Mike Pandolfo – PP – 15:39
|First Period||No Scoring|
|(Corazzini) Jack Baker – GW – 13:39||Second Period||12:22 – Mike Pudlick (Walsh)
18:26 – PP – Ryan Malone (Motzko, Anderson)
|(Gillis, Degerman) Chris Heron – 14:10||Third Period||18:34 – Lee Brooks (Westcott)|
|Rick DiPietro ( 23 saves / 26 shots )||Goalie Stats||Scott Meyer ( 19 saves / 24 shots )|