Preview: SCSU Huskies Face Hockey East’s BU Terriers in Northeast Regional

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud MN – The NCAA bound St. Cloud State University Huskies circle back to play a team they faced twenty-one years ago in the NCAA East Regional. #2-seeded SCSU will face Hockey East’s Boston University Terriers, the #3 seed on Saturday, March 27th at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY.

This will be the Huskies 15th NCAA contest and 20th appearance in the NCAA tournament.

#7 SCSU Huskies (17-10-0)  vs #10 Boston University Terriers (10-4-1) 

TV: ESPNews
Live Stream: ESPNews/WatchESPN     Canadien TV Schedule
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud) KVSC 88.1 FM (St. Cloud)
Where: Times Union Center – Albany, NY
When: Sat., Mar. 27 (12:00 NOON CT)

Last Time Out

The Huskies were defeated by the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks by a 5-3 (EN) score on March 16 in the championship game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

The Huskies took control of the contest early and carried a 2-1 lead into the third period before being undone by some untimely penalties and momentum egged on by the highly partisan crowd. A three-goal outburst in a matter of two minutes including two power-play goals created a lead the Huskies were unable to overcome in the final 15 minutes of the period.

Zach Okabe, Seamus Donohue, and Sam Hentges netted goals for the Huskies while senior goaltender David Hrenak stopped 30 of 34 shots on goal in a losing cause. Story Here

The Terriers were upended in the Hockey East quarterfinals by UMass-Lowell by a score of 2-1 on March 14. The teams traded goals in the first period and skated to a scoreless second period.  The RiverHawks added the go-ahead goal 8:19 into period three and held on for the 2-1 win. The Terriers were outshot 29-17 in the contest.

Head to Head

The Huskies have faced Boston University only once in their thirty-three years as a Division I hockey program. The last meeting was on March 25, 2000, in the East Regional at the then-named Pepsi Center in Albany, NY. A three-goal first period was too much for the Huskies to overcome in a 5-3 loss. Goal scorers for the Huskies were Mike Pudlick, Ryan Malone and Lee Brooks. Scott Meyer turned aside 19 of 24 shots on goal as the Huskies outshot the Terriers by a 26 to 24 margin.

A Game Summary is Here   

David Farrance (Photo Courtesy BU Athletics)

Scouting the Boston University Terriers

Historically, one of college hockey’s elite programs, the Terriers are making their 37th appearance in the NCAA tournament. The team is led by 1999 Boston University Alum Albie O’Connell who is in his third year with the team. O’Connell was a four-year player for Terrier coaching legend Jack Parker and four-year assistant to David Quinn before taking over the program in 2018. O’Connell is the 12th coach in the 103-year history of the program.

O’Connell enters the tournament with a three-year record of 39-35-13 including a game-shortened 2020-21 season and his first NCAA tournament team.

Boston University features 13 NHL Draft choices on its roster.

Goaltending

Goaltending duties have been split primarily between first-year players Vinny Duplessis (4-1-0, 1.66 GAA, .939 SV%) and Drew Commesso (6-2-1, 2.68, .924 SV%).

At 21, Duplessis is one of the oldest freshmen in the country and was expected to be third on the depth chart. However, in this unusual season, Duplessis has made the most of his opportunities getting a 3-1 marquee win over rival Boston College and a shutout of Vermont. The body of work is only five games but the results are there for the first-year player. Confident and athletic Duplessis has certainly pushed Commesso for playing time.

Drew Commesso, the highly touted 18-year-old alum of the US National Team Development Program is a second-round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks. With a highly aggressive style, Commesso was recently named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team.

Forwards 

With key losses at forward, it was a rebuilding year upfront. With the loss of Patrick Harper, Trevor Zegras, and Patrick Curry the team lost 44 goals and 105 points from 2019-20. That’s was a big gap to fill and they’ve been relying on sophomore Jay O’Brien (8-8-16) a 1st round draft pick of Philadelphia in 2018, rookie Luke Tuch (6-4-10) and senior Logan Cockrill 5-4-9) for goal scoring. More was expected out of sophomore Robert Mastrosimone who has three goals and eight points in 14 games.

Tuch, another USNTDP alum has had a big impact and was the only unanimous choice to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. The brother of NHLer Alex Tuch, he’s a big body, 6’2″ 200 pound forward that can skate well and likes to play physical. He’s a second-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens.

Defense

Without a doubt, the team leader and top player is third-round Nashville Predators draft choice David Farrance. The 2021 Hobey Baker Top Ten Finalist was also named as a 2021 Hockey East First Team All-Star. His 1.60 points per game ranks first among defensemen nationally. Despite playing in only 10 games, he is tied for the team lead in points with 16. A skilled agile skater, he is an offensive defenseman and leads the transition game for the Terriers from the blue line.

Farrance missed a number of games which required sophomores Alex Vlasic, a Chicago Blackhawks draft choice and Case McCarthy, a New Jersey Devils draft choice to pick up the load. Both found time on the power play with Vlasic adding two goals on the man-advantage.

Statistics

Record 10-4-1
Pairwise Record 7-3-1   .640
Head-to-Head 0-0-0
Goals 50 / 3.33 (14th)
Goals Against 39 / 2.60 (17th)
Power Play 15.0%  (42nd)
Penalty Kill 83.6%  (17th)
Avg. Height / Weight 6′ 0.83″ / 185.0 lbs.

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud State University Notes

A comprehensive preview of the team is here

The Huskies exceeded preseason expectations and finished second in the league standings nine points behind North Dakota. They are ranked 7th 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 6 goals and 14 assists for 20 points and has three game-winning goals. Perbix is also tied for fourth in the country for points by a defenseman. Perbix was the runner-up in the voting for NCHC offensive defenseman of the year and was chosen as second-team NCHC  All-Conference.

Freshman sensation, Veeti Miettinen ( 10-13-23 +8) with one game-winning goal and five power-play goals leads the team in 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. He was chosen to the NCHC All-Rookie Team and second-team NCHC All-Conference. Also, on March 11th he was named NCHC Rookie of the Year.

Other key factors to the Huskies’ success on offense have been the play of the junior class of forwards Nolan WalkerMicah Miller, and Sam Hentges. These three have combined for 20% 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 20 goals and 13 assists including 3 game-winning goals and 6 power-play goals. Brodzinski has 96 career points and is only 4 points shy of the watermark 100 point club for his career at SCSU. Brodzinski also enters the tournament as the leader in career power-play goals with 21.  Senior transfer Jared Cockrell and senior Will Hammer have both been invaluable for their leadership and ability to log extensive crucial defensive minutes. This week Fitzgerald was named the recipient of the NCHC Sportsmanship Award.

Sophomore forwards Zach Okabe (6-14-20 +6) and Jami Kanilla (10-10-20 +8) 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 four in points on the team.

As a unit, the defense is +21 led by junior captain Spencer Meier and senior transfer Brendan Bushy at +7 and +4 respectively. . Senior transfer Seamus Donohue (1-7-8 +10) has been teamed with Nick Perbix and they’ve been a strong pairing.

Goaltending has been solid but not spectacular with David Hrenak logging 82% of the minutes and compiling a .906 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average placing him 5th in save percentage and goals-against average in the NCHC.  Jaxon Castor is 3-0-0 with a 1.75 GAA and .914 save percentage.

The Huskies have been a third-period team with a +10 differential vs +4 in period one and even in period two.

Special teams have been strong with the power play 3rd in the conference at 22.8% and the penalty kill first at 86.5%.

Team Statistics

Record 17-10-0
Pairwise Record 14-7-0 .630
Head-to-Head 0-0-0
Goals 86 / 3.19  (18th)
Goals Against 72 / 2.67 (19th)
Power Play 22.5%  (13th)
Penalty Kill 84.8%  (11th)
Avg. Height / Weight 6’0.26″ / 186.6 Ilbs.

David Hrenak (Photo Prout)

Game Prospectus and Coaches Comments

This game will be a challenge to both teams who have not faced each other for 21 years. There will be a lot of unfamiliarity despite the fact that both seem to play a similar style of hockey. The Terriers try to play a quick transition game at a high pace much like the Huskies with David Farrance leading the attack from the blue line much like Nick Perbix of the Huskies.

The Huskies will be facing a team with a boatload of talent with 13 NHL draft choices. The sample size of games for Boston University is small this year due to the delay in starting the conference season and COVID issues. They’ve had a short roster due to injuries and COVID and are finally seeing some consistency with their roster. However, the fact remains they are a skilled, quick team with outstanding goaltending and it’ll be a big challenge for the Huskies.

The Huskies best play disciplined hockey as the Terriers David Farrance is deadly on the power play. The power play numbers may be deceiving at 15% as Farrance was not in the lineup for five of those games.

David Hrenak will be tested and at this point in the season, it’ll be incumbent on him to be playing his best hockey of the season.

“When you think of Boston University, you think of one of the premier programs in the country,” said head coach Brett Larson. “They are loaded with NHL draft picks and high-end talent and are as talented as anyone in the country. They are very fast on the rush and skilled. For us, it is a big challenge but I do believe that we’ve played our best hockey against some of the best teams in the country. I think that challenge of facing a big program is going to bring out the best in our team.”

“Right now, it takes a two-game win streak to get to the dance.”

 

 

 

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