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Huskies Split, Earn Share of Championship

03/11/2013 - 12:30 PM

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Huskies Split, Earn Share of Championship
Veterans Memorial Coliseum

The St. Cloud State University Men’s hockey team made program history this past weekend. Playing at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (formerly Dane County Coliseum) due to a scheduling conflict with the high school Boys Basketball tournament being held at the Kohl Center, the Huskies were able to split with Wisconsin earning a share of the MacNaughton Cup and the top seed in the WCHA playoffs.

Wisconsin got the scoring started with a power play goal from Joseph LaBate at the 14:34 mark of the first period. The goal came after SCSU had seven minutes of power play time, but were unable to convert, including on a 5-minute-major on Ryan Little for checking Ethan Prow from behind.

With a 1-0 lead entering the 2nd period, Wisconsin got themselves into more trouble with two penalties by Michael Mersch. Just as Mersch’s second penalty was about to expire, Jonny Brodzinski fired a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle, finding the back of the net over the glove of Wisconsin netminder Joel Rumpel, and tying the game up at 1. Just under three minutes later, the Badgers were able to take the lead again on a great give-and-go from freshman Nic Kerdilies to a streaking Tyler Barnes, who was able to glance the puck off of Ryan Faragher’s skate and into the net. The 2-1 lead held to the end of the 2nd, which put Wisconsin in highly favorable territory, having only lost once when entering the third with the lead.

The Huskies kept bringing it. With countless numbers of sloppy plays for SCSU in the first half of the game, the team buckled down and were able to control the puck much better and make better passes. One such pass was just over a minute into the third when Jimmy Murray got the puck on Brodzinski’s stick. The puck was rolling and Brodzinski fired it well wide of the net, right at Badger’s defender Frankie Simonelli. The puck deflected off his back and redirected into the net, tying the game at 2.

The rest of the game belonged to Faragher and Nick Jensen. The Badgers kept coming with the shots. Ryan Faragher did a tremendous job at stopping the initial shot, but often gave up large, and sometimes dangerous rebounds. One such case was a shot from the left side, which found a small opening between Faragher’s pads and drifted into the crease, heading into the net. But Jensen was there to fire the puck out of danger and keeping the game tied at two. Other cases saw the rebounds land on a stick of a Wisconsin skater, and the secondary shots missing the target. This continued until the puck ended on Jensen’s stick, and skated deep into the Wisconsin zone. Rumpel was in the process of hugging the left pipe with his pads, but a quick shot on net from Jensen was able to find its way through Rumpel and ever so slowly slid across the goal line, making it 3-2 Huskies with 3:35 left in the game.

After that it was a race against time. St. Cloud was able to hold on to the one goal lead when Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves pulled Rumpel with over a minute left in the game. With 55 seconds left, LeBlanc got the puck on his stick at center ice and fired toward the goal, going in and giving the Huskies a 4-2 lead in the final minute. "At that point the clock was our best friend,” said Drew LeBlanc after scoring his 12th goal of the season.

Sure enough, the clock was able to tick down to zero without interruption, giving SCSU share of the WCHA Championship for the first, and last time in program history, as well as the #1 overall seed in the WCHA playoffs.

The Huskies celebrate after Friday's win.

 

Saturday night saw the Badgers starting the scoring once again. This time it was Simonelli to get the first goal, just 43 seconds into the game. 24 seconds later, Andrew Prochno evened up the game at one with his 4th goal of the season, and assists from Brooks Bertsch and Cory Thorson. Later in the first, Michael Mersch would add his 21st of the season to make it 2-1in favor of Wisconsin, a lead that would hold the rest of the game. Mersch added an empty net goal with 1:13 left in the game making it 3-1. Prochno followed for his 5th goal of the season and second of the game. With Ryan Faragher pulled, the Badgers were able to hang on until the end for a 3-2 victory.

The win for Wisconsin ended up moving them up to fourth place in the WCHA standings, and guaranteeing them home-ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Huskies had already clinched home ice last weekend against Michigan Tech.

St. Cloud State finished the regular season with a record of 31-14-1 and 18-9-1 in WCHA play. This week the Huskies are ranked 8th in USCHO polls and are in a 12th in the PairWise rankings.

The #1 seed St. Cloud will be taking on #12 seed Alaska-Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs at the NHEC in a best of three series this weekend. The winner will advance to the Final Five tournament next week in St. Paul. KVSC will bring all the playoff action on 88.1 FM. This weekend’s coverage begins at 7 p.m. on Friday with a 7:37 drop of the puck. Saturday coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. and the puck will drop at 7:07. If needed Sunday’s game will also be broadcast at the same time as Saturday. Keep up with the action all week on our Twitter account.

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