St. Cloud, MN- There will be better days ahead for the University of St. Thomas Tommies hockey team. On Friday, October 2nd at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St.Cloud, they got a dose of one of college hockey’s most prolific scoring teams from last season yielding a dozen goals and getting a lesson in how difficult it might be to make the jump to Division I hockey.
For those who attended this game, they got to witness one of the most amazing comeback stories ever as Easton Brodzinski, who was a mere five months removed from a horrible fracture of the right femur not only returned to the lineup but was the star of the game scoring twice and adding an assist for a three-point night. He looked confident, at times begging for the puck and literally having his leg over the boards in period three anxious to get back on the ice to complete a hat trick.
“We were able to get the puck low and use movement early to draw some penalties and that’s what gave us some momentum,” said coach Brett Larson. “Fortunately, the power play scored a couple early and that settled us in. The more we could get the puck behind their defense and move our feet and try to force them to have to defend our speed that’s what gave us the jump early.”
The Tommies simply took too many penalties against a team as skilled as the Huskies who converted seven of ten opportunities for an obscene 70% success ratio. At times, the Tommies simply had no choice but to take an infraction as they attempted to contain the speedier and more skilled Huskies.
The Huskies scored twice on the power play in the first ten minutes of the game with goals by seniors Kevin Fitzgerald and Easton Brodzinski and added another even-strength goal with 37 seconds remaining by Jami Krannila to take a comfortable 3-0 lead. The goal by Brodzinski, his 56th career goal, had the Huskies faithful on their feet cheering not only for the goal but for the feel-good story. The Tommies were penalized four times in the period, were outshot 15 to 6 as a result, and headed to the locker room behind by three goals.
“It was emotional because it seemed like just the other day he (Brodzinski) was sitting on that table in the hallway in Albany and literally his leg was like hanging there,” said Larson. “So, to see him reach that 100 point mark in his first game back I don’t know if there’s been a better feeling on the bench.”
“There was definitely a lot of nerves today,” said Brodzinski. “Six months ago I didn’t know if I was playing today or Christmas. It’s definitely a big step in the right direction for me and I’m pretty excited to be back.”
The Tommies closed the gap to two scores 1:15 into the second period on a historic power-play goal by Colorado College transfer Christiano Versich which will go into the record books as the first goal in the Division I era for the Tommies.
But, the Huskies took over the contest with even-strength goals by Brodzinski, his 100th career point 4:43 into the period, and Nolan Walker three minutes later. Special teams for the Huskies excelled and they added power-play goals by Fitzgerald, his second of the game at 12:14, and Jami Krannila, also his second, slightly over a minute later. With Luke Jaycox in the penalty box, the Huskies struck again, short-handed, with a goal by Chase Brand, the first of two for him, and suddenly it was a 7-1 blow-out with one period to play.
After 36 minutes of play, and a 4-1 lead, David Hrenak was relieved by Joey Lamoreaux who finished out the contest stopping 18 of 19 shots. “David was cramping up and it gave us the opportunity to get Joey in there and Joey really battled,” said Larson. “St. Thomas made a good push in the third period and I thought Joey did a good job managing it.”
Special team’s play contributed to every score in the final period with Zach Okabe adding to the SCSU lead 1:55 into period three, again on the man advantage. Colorado College’s Cameron Recchi, the son of NHL great Mark Recchi scored his first collegiate goal on the power play two minutes later to cut the lead to 8-2. The Huskies added to the route with a power-play goal by Brendan Bushy at 8:13, another man-advantage goal by Chase Brand, his second of the game at 13:30, and another short-handed goal by Ondrej Trejbal at 16:57 in the 12-2 final. David Hrenak picked up the win, his 67th in his collegiate career stopping 12 of 13 shots on goal. It also allowed him to claim the career mark for wins as a Husky.
St. Thomas starter, Peter Thome played slightly over 32 minutes allowing 6 goals on 23 shots. He was replaced by Jacob Berger who allowed 6 goals on 16 shots.
The Tommies were penalized 10 times for 20 minutes while the Huskies took 7 penalties for 14 minutes. St. Cloud State dominated the faceoff circle winning 44 of 73 faceoffs for a faceoff win percentage of 60.3%. Nolan Walker was superb winning 19 of 20 faceoffs (90%) and freshman Mason Salquist won 10 of 14 for a winning percentage of 71.4%. The Huskies outshot the Tommies 39 to 32 for the contest.
The Huskies had 17 players hit the scoresheet and four players with multiple goals led by Kevin Fitzgerald (2-2-4), and five players with three points including Ondrej Trebjal (1-2-3), Jami Krannila (2-1-3), Zach Okabe (1-2-3), Easton Brodzinski (2-1-3) and Chase Brand (2-1-3). The twelve goals tied a school record for goals in a Division I game.
The teams complete the series at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday at 5:00 PM CT.
“Tomorrow presents a huge challenge,” said Larson. Rico (Blasi) will have them ready to go.”
Three Stars of the Game: #1 Brodzinski (SCSU), #2 Kevin Fitzgerald (SCSU), #3 Jami Krannila (SCSU)