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SCSU splits with Minnesota

02/11/2013 - 12:15 PM

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The St. Cloud State University Huskies and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers skated to a weekend split from the National Hockey and Event Center in what was the final regular season meeting between the two teams in conference play.

The Gophers, ranked number one in both major college hockey polls, took the first game of the series by a final score of 4-2 in front of 5,648 fans packed to the rafters. Minnesota opened up the scoring at the 8:45 mark of the first with the fourteenth goal of the season from Nick Bjugstad with assists from Kyle Rau and Nate Condon. Six Minutes later, SCSU freshman Joey Benik found a loose puck in the slot and fired it home for his first collegiate goal, and to tie the game up at one. The gophers got back on the board with the only goal of the second period on a goal from the Finnish Erik Haula, his 12th goal of the season, giving the Gophers a 2-1 lead.

With the Huskies trailing by one to start the third, the Gophers’ Seth Helgeson took a hooking penalty at 3:21 mark to put SCSU on the powerplay. After a blocked shot from Nick Jensen, the puck landed on Kalle Kossila’s stick he quickly directed the puck to Drew LeBlanc at the top of the right faceoff circle. LeBlanc fired a wrist shot that banked off the pipe and in which tie the game up at two with 16:02 left to play in the third. At the 8:47 mark, Seth Ambroz and Taylor Johnson were sent to the box for roughing, which started a chain of events to favor the Gophers. With 1:20 left in the 4 on 4, Nate Schmidt was skating with Haula on a 2 on 1 odd-man-rush. Schmidt faked a shot, passed across the slot to Haula who deked to his forehand and pushed the puck past SCSU goaltender Ryan Faragher to take a 3-2 lead. Less than a minute late, still 4 on 4, Schmidt took a pass at the top of the faceoff circle and blasted a slap shot past Faragher to make it 4-2. The Huskies would get a few more chances, including a breakaway for freshman Jimmy Murray, but Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox was able to stop them all to hang on to the two-goal lead for the victory.

Although the Huskies were in no danger of falling out of first place in the WCHA Saturday night, SCSU needed a win to keep a three-point cushion on the University of North Dakota (who swept Nebraska-Omaha) in the standings.

After a scoreless first period, the game proved to be an exciting one. Numerous chances developed for both teams, and both goaltenders were able to stop them all. The Huskies got on the scoreboard first in the second period at the 2:39 mark. Faragher passed a loose puck to Garret Milan who skated all the way into the Minnesota zone, put a shot on net where the rebound popped into the air. Joey Holka was there to glove the rebound to his stick and chopped the puck over Wilcox’s glove to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead on his third goal of the season. Then, with 2:18 left in the period, Kevin Gravel hit a long pass to Nic Dowd who floated a pass to Murray and then went back to Dowd who snuck the puck past Wilcox to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Nick Jensen and LeBlanc took two penalties less than a second apart, which gave Minnesota a full two minutes of 5 on 3 power play time. After a flurry of shots, including miraculous saves from Faragher, who got some help from Gravel, Schmidt was able to one-time a shot to put Minnesota on the board heading into the third period.

In the third, Jensen got a pass to Jonny Brodzinski who took the puck to the Minnesota blue line, blasted a slap shot on net, and with some help from Minnesota’s Jake Parenteau who was screening Wilcox on the shot, was able to score his 14th goal of the season to give SCSU a 3-1 lead. But the Huskies weren’t done yet. Three minutes later, LeBlanc took advantage of a defensive line change to go all the way and score on a breakaway to make it 4-1, and the announced crowd of 6,140 exploded. But Minnesota wasn’t done. With Taylor Johnson in the box and the Gophers on a power play, Bjugstad was fed the puck in the left faceoff circle. The puck was wobbling, and Bjugstad waited patiently for the puck to lie flat before firing a slap shot past both a blocking Gravel and Faragher to make it 4-2. The Gophers got within one goal after Mark Alt fired a shot wide of the net and Nate Condon was able to redirect the bounce off the back-wall and in to the net. The Gophers would continue putting pressure on the SCSU defense, but to no avail as the Huskies hung on and won 4-3 to split the series.

With the split, the Huskies were able to hold on to their five-point lead over Minnesota, and a three-point cushion for the WCHA lead. SCSU is off this weekend before heading to Colorado Springs to take on Colorado College at World Arena Feb. 22-23. And since both St. Cloud and second place North Dakota have a bye week, SCSU is guaranteed to remain in first place until they hit the ice again. The Huskies remained in 8th place in the USCHO poll this week. Until the next puck drop, you can keep updated by following us on Twitter.

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