St. Cloud, MN – As much as things went right for the Huskies things went wrong for the University of North Dakota as SCSU piled on the goals in an 8-1 win at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on Friday (December 3). This was the largest margin of victory over the Fighting Hawks since a 9-2 win on January 20, 1995, at the then National Hockey Center.
However, this is not the largest margin of victory in the 137 game series between the squads as UND defeated the Huskies 10-2 on March 2, 1991, at the “old” Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, ND.
It was a career night for fifth-year senior Easton Brodzinski with a hat trick and four points for his third multi-goal game this season. The three goals gave him 64 for his career, tying him with his brother Jonny Brodzinski who scored as many in three seasons from 2012 to 2015. Brodzinski now has 111 career points for the Huskies placing him 27th on the SCSU career points list.
“My teammates deserve all the credit,” said Brodzinski in the post-game press conference. “They worked their butts off and they had a lot of plays they could have capitalized on too. It was just a couple of lucky bounces for me and three goals. It’s pretty special. There’s a lot of guys that deserve to be in the same spot I’m in.”
“We came out with our heads up and we were making plays. We were able to get behind them and body them,” said Brodzinski.
“It was a really good response for Easton. He was out of the lineup the last game and came back and played hard and obviously, that’s what he does,” said coach Brett Larson. “He has the ability to finish those plays and that’s what makes him such a special player in his career.”
The Huskies only outshot the Fighting Hawks 32-28 but scored on 25% of their shots and were 50%, three for six on the power play. One of the goals was a lacrosse-style goal by junior forward Jami Krannila at 1:43 of the third period that had the nearby student section, the “Dog Pound” go crazy. He surprised UND goaltender, Jacob Hellsten tossing it past him for the Huskies’ 6th goal of the game.
“I saw I had room and figured I would try it, ” said Krannila. “I didn’t believe it was going to go in and I didn’t see it go in until some of the guys celebrated. Every now and then I practice it but just for fun. I can’t believe it happened.”
It was another rough start against the Huskies for former SCSU goaltender Zach Driscoll who started his collegiate career with the Huskies in 2016 but after one season transferred to Bemidji State University and played for three seasons from 2018-21. He subsequently transferred to North Dakota for a fifth year as a result of the COVID waiver.
He entered this weekend’s series with a .83 save percentage against his former team and saw a repeat of his first meeting against the Huskies while with Bemidji on November 17, 2018. On that occasion, the Huskies scored four goals on Driscoll on 14 shots and he was pulled after 27 minutes. On this night, the Huskies scored on three of their first five shots and Driscoll was yanked with 9:01 remaining in period one.
” I liked our jump coming right out of the gate,” said head coach Brett Larson in the post-game press conference. “It was like they were a bunch of pent-up dogs for two weeks with a bad taste in our mouth (after being swept by Western Michigan) and couldn’t wait to play. Obviously, that helped us get out to a really good start. I thought our forecheck was good and we were able to pressure their defense and create turnovers. We were able to create some turnovers off back pressure which is something we focused on all week.”
“They were making a push and scored a goal and were making it tough (in the second period) and I thought the Brodzinski goal off a two on one with Veeti (Miettinen) was the difference in the game. That got us back feeling some mojo again,” said Larson.
“North Dakota is going to come out hard tomorrow there is no doubt about it, commented Larson. “They are a good hockey team, they are well-coached and you know they will come out with everything they have tomorrow night. It’s a huge game for us going into the Christmas break. It’s a heavyweight battle for sure.”
It took little more than eighteen seconds for the Huskies to victimize former Husky Zach Driscoll in the first period. Junior forward Kyler Kupka (Perbix, Fitzgerald) who was a huge scorer in junior hockey netted his first goal of the season on a nice give and go with Nick Perbix. Kupka fed Perbix and Kupka got behind the UND defense and retrieved a return pass from Perbix placing a forehand backhand move past Driscoll for an early 1-0 lead.
The amped-up Huskies added another just 4:38 later on Kevin Fitzgerald’s (Miller, Trejbal) seventh goal of the season. Micah Miller lost the handle on the puck charging the net but the puck ended up on a trailing Fitzgerald’s stick and he made no mistake beating Driscoll clean with a quick wrist shot for a 2-0 advantage.
Still, the Huskies weren’t done in the period as Brodzinski (Peart, Perbix) scored his first goal of the game at 10:59 on the power play. Jack Peart was controlling the puck low in the UND zone and from the left dot found Brodzinski at the top of the right circle and he wristed a low shot past Driscoll for a 3-0 lead.
That spelled the end of the game for Driscoll who only faced five shots but allowed three goals. He was replaced with freshman Jakob Hellsten for the remainder of the game.
SCSU outshot North Dakota 10 to 7 in the period.
Desperate to get back into the game, the Fighting Hawks stepped things up and were able to close the SCSU advantage to two goals on a goal by Connor Ford, one of a number of transfers brought in by UND this season. Jackson Kunz placed a shot on goal which Hrenak stopped but the rebound was backhanded by Ford for his second goal of the season.
However, the Huskies took away any of the momentum North Dakota gained just 2:43 later with Brodzinski’s (Miettinen, Perbix) second goal of the game and 63rd of his career. Off a two-on-one, Miettinen slid a nice feed to Brodzinski who lifted the puck over a sprawling Hellsten for a crucial 4-1 lead.
Following the goal, Brodzinski was speared by UND defenseman Chris Jandric and he was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct and it was punitive as the Huskies added another power-play goal by Zach Okabe (Perbix, Peart) at 19:25 to up the lead to 5-1. Perbix fed Okabe from the right circle and Okabe beat Hellsten from the left circle for the Huskies’ second power-play goal of the game.
Despite a period with 10 shots on goal by each team, the Huskies outscored the Fighting Hawks by a 2-1 margin and carried an insurmountable 5-1 lead into period three.
Leading by four goals, the Huskies piled on three more in the final period. First, it was the crazy lacrosse style goal by Jami Krannila (Meier, Okabe) just 1:43 into the period. Krannila gained control of the puck behind the UND goal and with time and room lifted the puck on his blade and backhanded it lacrosse style over a surprised Hellsten for a 6-1 SCSU lead.
Less than two minutes later, Easton Brodzinski (Fitzgerald) was at it again completing his hat trick with his third goal of the game at 3:28. Brodzinski retrieved a pass from Fitzgerald and charged into the UND zone and fired a shot from the top of the right circle that beat Hellsten five-hole for a 7-1 lead.
Nolan Walker (Peart, Brodzinski) netted the Huskies’ final goal of the contest on the power play at 9:46 with his 6th goal of the season. Brodzinski found Peart in the left circle and Hellsten made a save on his shot but Walker buried the rebound for the Huskies’ 8th goal in the 8-1 final.
SCSU edged North Dakota 12 to 11 in shots on goal in period three.
With the win, the Huskies move into a tie with Western Michigan for second place in the NCHC with 12 points, three points behind North Dakota.
SCSU outshot North Dakota 32 to 28 for the game. David Hrenak stopped 27 of 28 shots to earn his 9th win of the season and see his record improve to 9-4-0.
In a rough outing for Zach Driscoll, he stopped on 2 of 5 shots before being pulled in period one. His record falls to 10-6-0. His replacement, freshman Jakob Hellsten also had a tough outing making 22 saves on 27 shots.
The Huskies had five players with a multi-point game including Easton Brodzinski (3-1-4), Nick Perbix (0-4-4), Kevin Fitzgerald (1-2-3), Jack Peart (0-3-3), and Zach Okabe (1-1-2).
The Huskies won the battle in the faceoff circle winning 32 of 61 faceoffs (52.55).
SCSU was 3 for 6 on the power play while UND was 0 for 2.
SCSU attempted 54 shots and blocked 8 shots in the game.
Stars of the Game: #1 Easton Brodzinski (SCSU), #2 Nick Perbix (SCSU), #3 Kevin Fitzgerald (SCSU)