St. Cloud, MN – The SCSU Huskies make their first major road trip of the 2021-22 season as they head west to Colorado Springs, CO to take on the CC Tigers at brand new Robson Arena. These will be the first conference games of the season against a team going through another rebuild under a new coaching staff and in a new building.
If you place credibility in polls, the Huskies remain ranked #1 in both major college hockey polls and several other miscellaneous subjective polls despite not having played since a sweep of Wisconsin on home ice on October 22/23. In the (too early to place a whole lot of credence) in the Pairwise, the Huskies are positioned #1 as well as a result of some high-quality early wins and overall record. But, even the KRACH ranking which is probably the best system to objectively rank teams is unable to do a ranking currently due to the early season results.
Obviously, the Huskies’ focus is on Colorado College and getting off to a successful start in the league schedule. Selected to win the NCHC conference in 2021-22, the Huskies simply cannot take any series for granted in a league that routinely yields few sweeps on the road.
“We are looking forward to getting league play going this year and trying to get off to the best start we can,” said assistant captain Seamus Donohue in the team’s weekly press conference.”I personally have never been to Colorado Springs to play and it will be fun going into the new building (Ed Robson Arena). We know they are going to come out hard and they will be excited to play and so are we.”
#1 SCSU Huskies (6-2-0) vs CC Tigers (2-4-2)
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Fri)
Live Broadcast Stream: NCHC.tv (Fri/Sat)
Radio/Stream: KNSI 1450 AM/99.3 FM (St. Cloud)
Where: Ed Robson Arena | Colorado Springs, CO (Fri/Sat)
When: 8:37 PM CT (Fri) 7:07 PM CT (Sat)
Last Time Out
The Huskies did not play last weekend. Their last series was on October 22/23 vs the Wisconsin Badgers resulting in a 4-1/5-1 sweep.
On Friday, the SCSU power play was nearly unstoppable converting three times as the Huskies rolled over the visiting Wisconsin Badgers by a 5-1 score. Five different players scored and eleven others logged at least a point in the lopsided win. For the game, SCSU outshot UW 33-24 with Hrenak stopping 23 of 24 shots on goal. The Huskies had three players with a multi-point game including Krannila (1-1-2), Donohue (0-2-2), and Perbix (0-2-2).
In the series finale, with three regulars out of the lineup including goaltender David Hrenak, backup Jaxon Castor stopped 31 of 32 shots on goal and the offense backed him up with two more power-play goals in a 4-1 win and sweep of the Wisconsin Badgers. Jaxon Castor earned his first win of the season turning aside 31 of 32 shots on goal. Nolan Walker (1-1-2) and Kevin Fitzgerald (1-1-2) both had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
The Tigers had a home and home series with local rival, Air Force Academy with each team earning a win on their home ice. In a closely contested game on Friday, AFA edged the Tigers in overtime 5-4. CC had three different scorers and was led by freshman Stanley Cooley with three assists. Dominic Basse stopped 30 of 35 shots in the loss.
The Saturday rematch was an altogether different story with the Tigers blowing out the Falcons 8-1. The Tigers raced out to a 5-0 lead after two periods with three power-play goals. In all, the Tigers converted six times on the man-advantage in the route. Thirteen players hit the scoresheet and eight different players scored in the game. The Tigers were led by Matthew Gleason with a goal and two assists and Dominic Basse turned aside 16 of 17 shots.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series between these two squads 56-52-9. The Huskies are 4-0-1 in the last five, 6-2-2 in the last ten, and 15-3-2 in the last twenty games. As of late, these teams have seen a number of their games go to overtime. Three of the last five games and five of the last ten games have gone to overtime. The Huskies have not lost in Colorado Springs since a 4-3 loss on February 22, 2013.
The teams last met in the Frozen Faceoff in Grand Forks on March 12, 2021, with SCSU edging the Tigers 2-1 despite outshooting an under-manned (due to COVID protocol) Tigers 44-7 and not allowing a single shot on goal in the third period.
Colorado College Tigers Notes
There’s a lot of excitement in Colorado Springs these days with the completion of Ed Robson Arena, the new on-campus home of Colorado College hockey. The next step is the re-build of the hockey program that has finished in the cellar of the NCHC four times since the 2013-14 season and has never finished higher than tied for fifth place. Step one was replacing seven-year head coach Mike Haviland with former Michigan and Providence assistant Kris Mayotte.
In addition to a change in the coaching staff, the Tigers saw the departure of a number of key players from last year’s team. This included the pro-signing of top scorer Josiah Slavin and the transfer of team captain Grant Cruikshank to the University of Minnesota and second-leading scorer Ben Copeland to Penn State. Another regular, Troy Conzo transferred to Sacred Heart.
Once again, sophomore Dominic Basse and junior Matt Vernon will battle for the starting position in goal. At times, Basse was quite impressive yet neither goaltender had numbers under 3.00 GAA and or at least a .90 SV%. Unless these goaltenders get strong support for those playing in front of them, it could be a long season in goal.
Basse has started all eight games thus far and rightfully so with a 2-4-2 record and solid numbers with a 2.24 GAA and .913 SV%.
With little offense returning, there will be some growing pains as they rely on a number of returning youngsters including Hunter McKown, Jackson Jutting, Patrick Cozzi, and Logan Will to generate some goal scoring. Beyond that, they are hoping they can squeeze some offense out of transfers Danny Weight (Boston University) and Noah Prokop (Omaha) and newcomers Tommy Middleton, Brett Chorske, and Stanley Cooley.
Currently, Matthew Gleason and Logan Will lead in points with seven. If anything, the team is seeing some balanced scoring with 13 players with at least a goal. However, if you exclude the 8-1 blowout of Air Force, they are averaging about two goals a game and have scored one or fewer goals in four of their seven games.
There is quality on the blue line with captain Bryan Yoon, one of the league’s best, Hugo Blixt, who adds a physical element, Jack Millar, Connor Mayer, and Chase Foley. First-year player, Nate Schweitzer has appeared in all seven games.
|Pairwise Record||2-3-2 (0-1) .431|
|Goals||23 / 2.88|
|Goals Against||18 / 2.25|
|Avg. Height / Weight||5′ 11.54″ / 179.0 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||21y 10m|
St. Cloud State University Huskies 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 3-1-0 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 continues to be a strength with veterans David Hrenak, Jaxon Castor, and Joey Lamoreaux all returning. Hrenak returns for his fifth season and his career includes 122 games, 2.38 GAA, .910 SV%, and 12 shutouts. He’s been outstanding so far with a 1.37 GAA and .943 SV%.
Backups Castor and Lamoreaux could be starters on many other teams but only saw action in seven games last season. Both have seen one game thus far with Lamoreaux carrying a 2.52 GAA and .947 SV% and Castor 1.00 GAA and .969 SV%.
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 Miettinen, Jami 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 Molenaar, Thomas Rocco, Jack 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.
Four players, Fitgerald, Krannila, Walker, and Brodzinski have netted four goals with Fitzgerald and Krannila leading the squad in points with eight. In all 21 players have at least a point.
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 senior, was a Michigan Tech transfer, meshed well with Perbix, and logged a ton of minutes. Luke Jaycox, Brendan Bushy, Ondrej 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.
The defensive unit is currently plus 15 with Brendan Bushy leading the group at +4.
|Pairwise Record||6-1-0 (0-1) .806|
|Goals||31 / 3.88|
|Goals Against||11 / 1.38|
|Avg. Height / Weight||5′ 11.93″ / 183.0 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||22y 8m|
The Huskies will be favored in this series but you only need to know that the Tigers defeated Boston College 5-3 on the road and destroyed Air Force 8-1 in their last game to know there are some capabilities with this team that contains a good mix of upper-class leadership and youngsters.
“CC looks energized, they are playing hard and playing in a low zone collapse defense and defending well and obviously they have some big wins,” said head coach Brett Larson in his weekly press conference. “That was a big win (8-1 over Air Force) and a big win over Boston College on the road and they play Northeastern to a 1-0 (loss) game on the road. They’re a team that’s energized, defending hard and they are coming after you. ”
“It’s going to be the league opener in their rink and we know the environment is going to be crazy and we know they will be coming hard. We have to manage our emotions and play hard and not reckless,” noted Larson.
Goaltender, Dominic Basse has been superb through eight games, and for whatever reason, the Tigers have taken the Huskies to overtime in five of the last ten games.
It’s a new on-campus environment at Robson Arena and you can be sure it’ll be close to a sell-out for this series. It’s been close to a decade since the Huskies last lost a game in the ‘Springs but that was in a different venue, different size rink, and different environment.
The Huskies are currently 8th in offense nationally but that’s a bit deceiving as they scored 12 against St. Thomas in their first game and with that game removed would place the team middle of the pack nationally. Also, half of their goals have been on the man-advantage.
“We still feel like we are not quite there with our offensive zone play'” said Larson. “And, that’s not just the forwards, it’s all five guys. We need to hang onto the puck more and create more offensive zone time. We’re a puck possession team that doesn’t give it away or force things and has the ability to protect (the puck) and make other team’s top players defend. The best way to play defense is to have it in the other end. I’d rather defend 200 feet away from our net.”
On defense, things couldn’t be better much better ranked second nationally allowing only 1.38 goals per game. Hrenak and company have really been on top of their game. Additionally, the team has not allowed a power-play goal in 17 consecutive opponent opportunities.
The Tigers best not turn this into a special teams contest as SCSU has a clear advantage with a power-play churning at close to 49% currently.
Injury Update – 11/5/2021
The Huskies had a few injuries in the series with Wisconsin and it’s still a wait-and-see for a few players. “The break came at a good time,” said Brett Larson. “We had some guys pretty beat up after the Wisconsin series so sometimes breaks come at a good time. Our guys needed a mental and physical break to re-set and heal up.
Minnesota Wild draft choices defenseman Jack Peart and forward Sam Hentges did not make the trip to Colorado Springs. As a result, the Huskies will once again be relying on their extensive depth to replace those two key players. Both were injured in the first game of the Wisconsin series.
David Hrenak will be back in the lineup after missing a start in the Saturday rematch with the Badgers. “It was a pretty minor injury,” admitted Larson. “We were planning on going with Jaxon (Castor) that night anyway.”