Preview: After a Decade the Badgers Return to Face St. Cloud State

UW vs SCSU November 2011 (Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN – It’s been a decade since the University of Wisconsin last faced the Huskies in St. Cloud. A lot has changed in those ten years since I took that grainy feature photo of the teams in a scuffle. Consider the following to place things in perspective:

  • SCSU Assistant Coach Nick Oliver was a freshman forward for the Huskies
  • Both teams were competing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association
  • Jonny Brodzinski had not donned the No. 22 jersey yet being worn then by David Eddy
  • Nic Dowd and Nick Jensen (SCSU) and Justin Schultz (UW) are currently in the NHL
  • The Herb Brooks National Hockey Center was called the National Hockey and Event Center
  • Since that season, the Huskies are 223-134-29 with 7 NCAA appearances
  • Since that season, the Badgers are 159-171-37 with 3 NCAA appearances
  • SCSU Head Coach Brett Larson was the GM/Head Coach of the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL
  • SCSU Associate Head Coach Dave Shyiak was the Head Coach at the Unversity of Alaska -Anchorage

The teams re-kindle their WCHA rivalry in a two-game non-conference series this weekend in St. Cloud.

#3 SCSU Huskies (4-2-0)  vs  UW Badgers (2-2-0) 

TV: Fox 9+ (Fri/Sat)
Live Broadcast Stream: NCHC.tv (Fri/Sat)
Radio/Stream: KNSI 1450 AM/99.3 FM (St. Cloud) KVSC 88.1 FM (St. Cloud)
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center (Fri/Sat)
When: 7:37 PM CT (Fri) 6:07 PM CT (Sat)

2021-22 CenterIceView Road Trip Guide

Nolan Walker (Photo Prout)

Last Time Out

The Huskies had a heated non-conference home and home series with #4 ranked the University of Minnesota ending in a split with each team winning on their opponent’s home ice.

On Friday, in a very tight contest, the Huskies received key goals by Jami Krannila in period one and Mason Salquist in period three to edge the Gophers by a 2-1 score. The Huskies were outshot 23-19 with senior David Hrenak putting forth an outstanding game in goal despite being outshot 10-2 in the final period.

In the Saturday rematch, in a back and forth game, SCSU sent the game to overtime on a power-play goal by Nolan Walker at 15:51 of period three. Unfortunately for the Huskies, a controversial non-call on a hook to Nick Perbix created a sequence of events leading to a Gopher goal just 36 seconds into the extra session and a 4-3 win.

The Badgers hosted Army at the Kohl Center earning a sweep of the Thursday/Friday series by scores of 4-1 and 1-0. On Thursday, the Badgers outshot Army 43-22 yet found the game tied 1-1 entering period three. A power-play goal by Jack Gorniak early in the period was followed by two empty-net goals with less than one minute in regulation to preserve the win.

In the Friday rematch, it was again a closely contested affair and scoreless entering the final period. The difference in the game was a short-handed goal by Tarek Baker with three minutes remaining in the game to earn the sweep.

SCSU vs UW March 2013 (Courtesy UW Athletics)

Head to Head 

Since their first meeting on December 13, 1988, the Huskies hold a 33-49-9 record vs the Badgers. However, in the last 20 meetings, the Huskies have a 13-7-1 advantage. They are 6-3-1 in the last ten and 3-2-0 in the last five.

The last meeting was on neutral ice at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in the semi-finals of the WCHA conference tournament. The Badgers prevailed by a 4-1 score.

 

The last regular-season contests were on March 8-9, 2013 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI (previously known as the Dane County Coliseum). The Huskies defeated the Badgers by a 4-2 score to capture

the McNaughton Cup and fell in the series finale 3-2.

 

The last meeting in St. Cloud was on November 4-5, 2011 with the Huskies routing the Badgers 7-2 on Friday and the teams settling for a 3-3 overtime tie in the Saturday rematch.

Roman Ahcan

University of Wisconsin Notes

It seems hard to believe but former Badger and NHLer Tony Granato is in his 6th season since taking over from Mike Eaves in 2016-17. Buoyed by a 20 win 2020-21 season, his all-time record is 84-84-13. Otherwise, it’s been a bumpy road for Granato with an unimpressive 64-74-12 record and three sub .500 seasons heading into last season.

However, they did advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years in 2020-21 but were summarily dispatched by a 6-3 score to Bemidji State University in the semi-final of the East Regional.

Following the season, the program suffered major departures with the most prominent being sophomore forwards Cole Caufield (Montreal) and  Dylan Holloway (Edmonton) signing NHL deals. Other eligible departures included Linus Weissbach (Buffalo) and assistant captain Ty Pelton-Byce who signed an AHL deal with Manitoba. Others that decided not to return were forward, Jason Dhoogie and goaltender, Robbie Beydoun.

They’ve had a so-so start to the season getting swept on their home ice by a combined score of 10-3 by Michigan Tech October 8-9 and winning two close games with Army.

Goaltending

With the departure of Robbie Beydoun, who appeared in 21 games last season, they added University of Minnesota transfer Jared Moe to compete for the starting position with sophomore Cameron Rowe who logged 16 games in 2020-21 and posted credible .933 SV% and 2.05 GAA  stats. He’s appeared in three of the four games thus far and has had his struggles allowing seven goals on 44 shots ( 3.22 GAA / .863 SV%). Moe, a Winnipeg Jets draft choice, who had appeared in 19 games the two previous seasons with the Gophers has faired better splitting time with Rowe including some mop-up duty earning a shutout vs Army but allowing 4 goals on 21 shots vs Michigan Tech.

Forwards

Big voids in the offense were created with the departures of their top four scorers Caufield, Holloway, Weissbach, and Pelton-Byce who combined for 54% of the goal-scoring and 50% of the total points. It’s simply too much of a crater to fill as they enter the 2021-22 season.

Thus far, the team has scored just 4 even-strength goals in four games but the hope is veterans like Roman Ahcan, Jack Gorniak, Owen Lindmark, Tarek Baker, Ryder Donovan, and Dominic Mersch can step forward and provide some offense. The addition of Max Johnson, a fifth-year transfer from Bowling Green who had a career 48 goals and 121 points was hoping to be a quick one-year fix. However, he has just one assist in two games.

So far, freshman Caden Brown is tied for the team lead in scoring with 1 goal and 1 assist and it’s a wait and see to determine if Zach Urdahl (USHL), Brayden Morrison (AJHL), and Liam Malmquist (BCHL) can have an impact. All were solid but not prolific scorers at the junior hockey level.

Defense

On the blue line, the Badgers return a full arsenal of players from last year’s squad with the exception of Ty Emberson, their top-scoring defenseman from 2020-21.

On paper, it’s an impressive group with four NHL draft choices in seniors Josh Ess (Chicago), Tyler Imamoto (Florida), and freshman Carson Ceulemans (Columbus), and Daniel Laatsch (Pittsburgh). Senior Jesper Peltonen played in 30 games last season and Anthony Keher and Mike Vorlicky 24 games so it’s an experienced group. As a unit thus far, they are -3 in plus-minus.

However, both Imamoto and Verlicky are likely to both be out due to injures this weekend.

With the apparent lack of scoring punch upfront, it’ll place even more pressure on the Wisconsin defenders.

Todd Milewski | Wisconsin State Journal: This Badgers freshman’s start to the season made Tony Granato say ‘Holy cow’

 

Team Statistics

Record 2-2-0
Pairwise Record 2-2-0 (0-0)   .500
Head-to-Head 0-0-0
Goals 8 / 2.00
Goals Against 11 / 2.75
Power Play 9.1%
Penalty Kill 70.0%
Avg. Height / Weight 6′ 0.39″ / 192.7 lbs.
Avg. Age 21y 5m

David Hrenak (Photo Prout)

St. Cloud State University Notes 

The 2020-21 national runner-up Huskies have the luxury of minimal departures from last season. They did see the departure of blue-collar players Will Hammer and Jared Cockrell (both of whom would have been 26 this season) who were part of a highly successful checking line and provided respite for the top three lines. Otherwise, the entire team is back sans defenseman, Tyler Anderson who logged 15 games and is pursuing medical school at the University of Manitoba. Team additions outweigh the departures and that’s what gives a great deal of optimism for the 2021-22 season.

 

With a demanding 2021-22 schedule, the Huskies have been up to the task going 3-1 on the road including road wins over top four teams the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Their two losses have been by a goal including one in overtime on a controversial play.

Goaltending

Goaltending continues to be a strength with veterans David HrenakJaxon Castor, and Joey Lamoreaux all returning. Hrenak returns for his fifth season and his career includes 121 games, 2.39 GAA, .910 SV%, and 12 shutouts. He’s been outstanding so far with a 1.43 GAA and .94 SV%.

Backups Castor and Lamoreaux could be starters on many other teams but only saw action in seven games last season.

Forwards

At forward, the team returns a whole lot of experience with six seniors and five juniors. They return the top eight goal scorers and point producers including linemates Veeti MiettinenJami Krannila, and Zach Okabe who produced a combined 28 goals and 69 points.

Also returning is senior Nolan Walker who had a breakout year on offense with 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points. Easton Brodzinski finished the season as the team’s top goal-scorer with 13 goals but sustained a fractured femur in the Boston College semi-final finishing his season. However, he made a triumphant return to the ice vs St Thomas in the opening weekend scoring two goals and while becoming a member of the 100 career point club.

Fifth-year senior forward Kevin Fitzgerald decided to return and he’s a key component of the offense and special teams and currently is tied for the team scoring lead with Jami Krannila.

Seniors Micah Miller and Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and juniors Chase Brand and Kyler Kupka are others that will be key contributors and are expected to bury the puck more this season. Joe MolenaarThomas RoccoJack Johnston, and newcomers Mason Salquist, Robert Morris transfer Aiden Spellacy and Ryan Rosborough will be vying for ice time as well.

Salquist has been extremely effective thus far with 2 goals including a game-winner and an assist for 3 points in four games.

Defense

The defense is deep and talented and led by senior captain Spencer Meier and NCHC preseason all-league team pick and senior Nick Perbix. Perbix had a breakout season in 2020-21 posting 7 goals and 16 assists and was plus-eight. Seamus Donohue, a fifth-year seniorwas a Michigan Tech transfer, meshed well with Perbix, and logged a ton of minutes. Luke JaycoxBrendan BushyOndrej Trejbil, and Brady Ziemer are all experienced veterans that bolster the strength of a defensive unit that finished the season +41 last year.

Newcomers include two-year USHL veteran Josh Luedtke and Minnesota Wild draft choice Jack Peart who has been paired with Nick Perbix. Both have been impressive, are puck movers, and will change the dynamics and personality of this defense. Peart has a goal and 3 assists for 4 points in 6 games.

Team Statistics

Record 4-2-0
Pairwise Record 4-1-0 (0-1)   .742
Head-to-Head 0-0-0
Goals 22 / 3.67
Goals Against 9 / 1.50
Power Play 43.5%
Penalty Kill 84.2%
Avg. Height / Weight 5′ 11.93″ / 183.0 lbs.
Avg. Age 22y 8m

(Photo Prout)

Game Prospectus

This will be a significant road test for the Badgers who have been anything but impressive thus far this season. The lack of scoring punch will again be tested by an SCSU defense that yields little space in front of Hrenak in the scoring zone and by Hrenak who is currently putting up some of the top goaltending numbers in college hockey.

The Badgers will have to do better than the goal per game average on even strength they’ve produced in four games.

On the other hand, the Badgers defense will have their hands full with one of the speediest teams in college hockey. Things are compounded with veteran defenders Tyler Imamoto and Mike Verlicky most likely out of the lineup this weekend. Scoring depth runs through all four lines for the Huskies and the units are very interchangeable. An additional advantage will be the last line change as the home team to create matchups they desire.

Special teams are on the opposite ends of the spectrum with the Huskies thriving on the power play at  43 percent (skewed by the St. Thomas series) while the Badgers success is at 9 percent.

The Huskies are still looking for more offense scoring just eight goals in the last four games. However, keep in mind that their last four games were against two of the top goaltenders in college hockey in Dryden McKay and Jack LaFontaine.

Finally, keep an eye on 5’9″ 180 pound Roman Ahcan, the brother of Husky great Jack Ahcan. He’s feisty and entertaining to watch and one of the peskiest players in college hockey. I’ll be surprised if Ahcan and the Huskies 5’9″ 175 pound Mason Salquist don’t cross paths once or twice this weekend. They are both the same type of player.

After a disappointing loss to the Gophers in overtime in front of a capacity home crowd, the Huskies will be anxious to get back on the winning track.

 

 

 

 

 

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