St. Cloud, MN – The intensity of the league battles continue to build as the #2 ranked SCSU Huskies travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan to face 13th ranked Western Michigan University. The Broncos, reeling after being swept by Denver last weekend would like nothing better than to get back on track against a team they’ve defeated 6 of the last 8 meetings.
The Huskies (2-0-1-1, 9 points) are currently chasing the University of North Dakota (4-0-0-0, 12 points) in the league standings while Western Michigan (1-3-0-0, 3 points) is suddenly in 6th place with a surprising 1-3-0 record. Every week is crucial for points and this is another series that will prop up either team’s Pairwise.
#2 SCSU Huskies (3-1-0/9-3-0) vs #13 WMU Broncos (1-3-0/6-4-0)
Last Time Out
The Huskies completed a split last weekend with then #11 ranked Omaha with a 5-1 win on Friday ad a frustrating 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday. On Friday, the Huskies had their way with the Mavericks scoring twice in period one and never relinquishing the lead. Veeti Miettinen and Easton Brodzinski each netted two goals as the Huskies outshot Omaha 43-19.
In the rematch, the Huskies again badly outshot the Mavericks 45-29 yet had to push the game to overtime via a late shorthanded goal by Kevin Fitzgerald. Despite controlling possession in the three on three overtime, the Mavericks were able to spring the nation’s leading goal scorer, Taylor Ward free and he beat David Hrenak one on one for the OT win.
The Broncos were on the road at Denver and dropped both games to the Pioneers. On Friday, despite taking a first period 2-1 lead, the Pioneers scored three times in period two to take an insurmountable lead in the eventual 5-3 win. Denver outshot the Broncos 41-22 in the contest.
In the rematch, it was a repeat of the Friday game as WMU carried a 2-1 lead into period two. However, the Pioneers scored four unanswered goals in period two in the 5-2 win and sweep. Once again, they were outshot 32-27 in the game.
Head to Head
SCSU leads the all-time series 20-10-4 going back to December 29, 2011. The teams have participated in seven overtime contests with three of them ending in a 5-5 draw. The series between the teams were knotted at 3-3-2 until January 24, 2015. After that, SCSU has carried a 15-7-2 record against the Broncos.
SCSU is 1-4-0 in the last five, 4-6-0 in the last ten, and 11-7-2 in the last twenty. SCSU is 7-4-3 all-time against the Broncos at Lawson Arena. SCSU had never lost at Lawson Arena until January 24, 2020. Since then, they have lost four straight.
The teams last met in St. Cloud on February 5-6, 2021 with SCSU winning the Friday game by a 5-1 score and WMU rallying to tie the game with an extra attacker with 18 seconds remaining and then winning in overtime on Saturday.
Western Michigan University Notes
Were it not for a horrendous start to the season losing 8 of their first 12 games the Broncos could have been a contender for a top-four finish in 2020-21. The Broncos won eight of their last thirteen games including a five-game win streak that was ultimately ended by the UMD Bulldogs in a 5-4 overtime loss in the quarterfinals of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
The biggest change for the team was the resignation of Andy Murray, the only head coach the team has known in the NCHC era. Taking over the reins is assistant Pat Ferschweiler, a native of Rochester, MN who is a former player and captain of the Broncos and an assistant at WMU for the past two seasons.
This is another team with the sum of the additions being greater than the departures. Several 2020-21 seniors including Kale Bennett, Brett Van Os, and Lucas Samuelsson have not returned for a fifth year as has goaltender Austin Cain who transferred for the fifth year at Providence College. Newcomers include three defensemen and four forwards.
At forward, the Broncos return their top seven goal scorers including Drew Worrad, Ethen Frank, Paul Wasche, Josh Passolt, Cole Gallant, Jason Polin, and Ty Glover. These players accounted for 50 of the team’s 70 goals and 125 of the team’s 212 total points. Players brought in late in the season from the junior hockey ranks included Jacob Bauer and Tim Wasche who gained valuable experience without wasting a year of eligibility. Newcomers Dylan Wendt (45 points) and Max Sasson (50 points) were top producers in the USHL and should compete for ice time.
The team is flush with forwards that can bury the puck and are currently led by Drew Worrad (4-12-16) and one of the NCHC’s speediest players, Ethen Frank (8-6-14). Others that can put up points are Jason Polin, Josh Passolt, Cole Gallant, and Paul Wasche, one of the league’s top faceoff specialists.
Defense is led by Ronnie Attard, a preseason all-league choice. A future NHLer, Attard finished second on the squad in points with 8 goals and 14 assists including 3 power-play goals. Attard is joined by another offensive defenseman in Michael Joyaux who produced 4 goals and 10 assists last season. They are backed up by a group of sizable defensemen including Aidan Fulp, Scooter Brickey, and Daniel Hilsendger. Newcomer Xan Gurney is a 6’2″ 192-pound defender that will battle for ice time.
Attard (4-6-10) and Joyaux (2-8-10) are currently both in the top-five in points on the team.
Goaltending should be back to form with the return of Brandon Bussi from injury. He was injured in the first game of the Pod last season and did eventually return to play in three games. In 2019-20 Bussi played in 34 games posting a .910 GAA and 2.65 SV%. He’ll be pushed by Alex Aslandis who appeared in 13 games last season and by Freshman, Ross Hawryluk who was another late addition last season but did not see the ice.
Bussi has logged every minute of the first 10 games and has posted a 3.01 GAA and .896 SV% not necessarily numbers that carry the team to success this season.
|Pairwise Record||5-3-0 (1-1) .600|
|Goals||32 / 3.20|
|Goals Against||30 / 3.00|
|Avg. Height / Weight||6′ 1.53″ / 196.3 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||22y 3m|
St. Cloud State University Notes
The 2020-21 national runner-up Huskies have the luxury of minimal departures from last season. 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 7-1-0 on the road including road wins over top four teams the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Their three losses have been by a goal including two in three on three overtime.
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 126 games, 2.36 GAA, .911 SV%, and 12 shutouts. He’s been outstanding so far with a 1.50 GAA and .939 SV% and one shutout.
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 in 2020-21.
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 leads the team in points with 16 and has 4 power-play goals. Jami Krannila is second in scoring with 11 points and has three game-winning goals. Micah Miller has 2 short-handed goals and is +7 and playing his best hockey ever as a Husky.
Senior and Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges (currently injured) 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.
In all 22 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 missed two games with an injury but has 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in 8 games. Luedtke has 5 points in 8 games as well.
The defensive unit is currently plus 31 with Ondrej Trejbal leading the group with a plus 4.
|Pairwise Record||8-1-0 (1-2) .787|
|Goals||45 / 3.75|
|Goals Against||18 / 1.50|
|Avg. Height / Weight||5′ 11.93″ / 183.0 lbs.|
|Avg. Age||22y 8m|
Other than the Minnesota State-Mankato series, this could perhaps be the Huskies biggest challenge thus far this season. The Huskies are trying to buck the trend of losing at Lawson Arena and the Broncos will be hungry for wins after getting swept by Denver on the road last weekend. The Broncos will have the confidence knowing that they’ve won 6 of the last 8 games between the squads and four straight at Lawson.
” Western is the same team we saw last year,” said head coach Brett Larson in his weekly press conference. “They have a deep, older group that plays hard, they never stop coming and they don’t waver from their game plan. There’s not a lot of highs or lows in their game. They defend well and there are not a lot of holes in their game. They don’t give you much.”
“I thought one of the best games we played all last year was the Saturday game at Western that we lost (3-1 EN). The first night (Friday) they out-competed us and outplayed us in every aspect of the game.”
“We’ll have to simplify things (at Lawson Arena) with a tighter space where we have to get some tips and rebounds,” said Larson.
Defenseman Ondrej Trejbal commented, “They have some good and fast forwards. They play simple (north/south) hockey. We have to be careful as a defensive corps that nobody is behind us because their forwards can fly”.
The Broncos have a number of players who have a history of success against SCSU including Paul Wasche (3-7-10), Ronnie Attard (3-4-7), Michael Joyaux (5-5-10), Ethen Frank (3-3-6), and Josh Passolt (5-5-10).
They are scoring over three goals a game and despite the power play being shy of 20%, they have two defenseman in Attard and Joyaux that can really shoot the puck and they add another dimension to the man advantage.
Lawson Arena is always highly charged with the WMU student section, the “Lawson Lunatics”. However, they’ll be heading out on Thanksgiving break on Friday which may tone things down a bit.
Injury Update: The only player currently out is Sam Hentges and he’s week to week. Odds are he may not be available for this series.