Mar 11, 2024

Bulldogs Sweep Huskies, Makes Path to NCAA Tournament More Difficult

By Zac Chapman / Assistant Sports Director

The St. Cloud State Huskies are coming off a tough weekend to digest as the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs got the sweep this weekend.

The Bulldogs won 6-5 in OT Friday and 4-2 Saturday.

The losses moved St. Cloud State down to 16 in Pairwise, two spots below the cutoff line to finish the regular season.

Game One

Zach Sandy made his first collegiate start Friday night as he matched up against Dominic Basse. The fireworks did not take long to start Friday night. Just 5 minutes into the first period, Grant Ahcan passed the puck to Mason Salquist in the slot and Salquist put the puck high blocker side to give the Huskies the early 1-0 lead.

Zach Sandy. Photo Credit: Bill Prout (CenterIceView)

The struggle to not give up a goal directly after continued for the Huskies Friday night. Two minutes later, the Bulldogs tied the game up after Braden Fischer won an offensive zone faceoff that allowed Kyle Bettens to quickly fire one past Dominic Basse.

Later on in the first period, Bulldogs freshman forward Anthony Menghini took the first penalty of the game by charging Grant Ahcan into the boards. The impact messed up Grant Ahcan’s right shoulder and he was taken out of the lineup for the rest of the night. Minnesota-Duluth’s Jack Smith was also notably missing from the bench late into the first period and would never return to the game as well.

With just over a minute remaining in the period, Braden Fischer got called for slashing, giving the Huskies their second power-play of the evening. With 39 seconds remaining, Veeti Miettinen found some space in the near circle and shot a quick wrist shot underneath the glove of Sandy to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead. Fischer scored with 18 seconds left in the first period, however, St. Cloud State challenged the play for goaltender interference and the goal was wiped off the scoreboard giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Out of the gate, Minnesota-Duluth put the pedal to the metal and tied the game up 48 seconds into the period after Ben Steeves put one high blocker on Basse. The next goal would not come for almost another eight minutes when Tyson Gross entered the offense zone and shot a low wrist shot that squeaked by Sandy. With a 3-2 lead, the Huskies would go back onto the power-play and score again as Veeti quickly found Gross down low. Gross then quickly played the puck to Kyler Kupka who fired a quick one time shot past the glove of Sandy to give the Huskies their first multi-goal lead of the evening. Late into the second period, Kupka delivered a big hit to Menghini that was reviewed for a major. However, the penalty remained a minor and Minnesota-Duluth would not go and score on the man advantage.

Heading into the third period, the Huskies continued to lead by two. However, a sluggish start to the period saw Minnesota Wild draft pick Aaron Pionk move into the slot and put a shot past Basse high blocker once more to cut the lead in half. After another five minutes of action, Veeti would notch his second goal of the game after his brother, Verner Miettinen, threw a puck off the near boards that took a bounce towards the net for Veeti to tap in.

With a 5-3 lead, and less than half the period remaining, the Huskies were far from safe. The rest of the period the Huskies looked like they were playing to protect the lead, and all offensive rhythm went by the wayside. With six minutes left, a shot from Matthew Perkins was saved by Basse, however, the rebound found the stick of Owen Gallatin in the slot and he put it past the senior net-minor to cut the lead in half once again. The Duluth showcase continued as Graduate Captain Luke Loheit tied the game at five a piece with under three minutes to go. The Huskies rallied to try and get the game winner in regulation, but their efforts fell short and the game headed to overtime.

“We had a two goal lead with six minutes left. We have to find a way to win that hockey game. Period,” said Huskies Head Coach Brett Larson.

Overtime began with possession going to St. Cloud State. The Huskies put four shots on goal in the overtime period, but Sandy remained tall in net and kept them off the board. Minnesota-Duluth would only need two shots to get the job done. The Verner took an interference penalty with 22 seconds remaining in overtime. The power-play for Duluth, which was the sixth best in the country and the best in the NCHC heading into Friday’s contest, was a non-factor the whole game. However, with the clock winding down, Quinn Olson threw a cross ice pass on the 4 on 3 power-play over to Steeves who put a one-time shot past a sliding Basse to call game. Steeves picked up his 13 power-play goal, which now has him tied at second in the country for most power-play goals in the country.

Game Two

The Huskies came out looking much more sharp than they did the night prior. Both teams turned to different goaltenders as the Bulldogs looked towards fifth-year Matthew Thiessen while the Huskies played true freshman Isak Posch. While they did have a scare within the first five minutes, the Huskies started to find their game as the first period went back and forth. No goals were scored after the first period and the shots were practically even with St. Cloud State out-shooting the Bulldogs 13-12.

The scoring began in the second period as Connor McMenamin tipped a puck past Posch to give UMD a 1-0 lead almost nine minutes in. Orginially, the ruling was a no goal as the refs deemed that the tip was played with a high stick. The Bulldogs used their challenge and the ruling was overturned.

The last two minutes of the second turned into chaos as three goals were scored within the span of 90 seconds. With two minutes left to go, Gallatin received a feed from Olson on the back door for an easy tip in goal, giving Minnesota-Duluth their first multi-goal lead of the series, whichdidn’t last more than 50 seconds.

Thirty-seconds after UMD’s latest goal, junior defense Luke Bast took a tripping penalty, giving the Huskies their first power-play of the evening with a minute and a half remaining in the period. After going 2-3 the night prior, St. Cloud State continued the success on the man advantage. Dylan Anhorn walked into the zone and waited patiently for Tyson Gross to get into the slot, setting him up for a one-time shot that found it’s way past Thiessen. 32 second later, the Huskies would tie the game as St. Cloud State had a 2-on-1 with Veeti getting the puck past a fully laid out Gallatin to hit Okabe on the back door for a tip in goal. After being down for most of the period, the Huskies headed to the locker room tied up at 2.

Zach Okabe celebrating goal with Veeti Miettinen and Jack Peart. Photo Credit: Bill Prout (CenterIceView)

Heading into the third period, the Huskies had 35 shots on goal compared to the Bulldogs 23. As the midway point of the third period approached, Gross took a cross-checking penalty, sending Minnesota-Duluth to their first and only power-play of the evening. With under 40 seconds remaining on St. Cloud State’s penalty kill, Aiden Dubinsky received a feed from Steeves and put a one time shot past Posch to give the Bulldogs back the lead. The goal would end up being the winning one as St. Cloud State struggled to get past Thiessen the rest of the night, despite out-shooting Minnesota-Duluth 19-4 in the third.

With the game winding down, the scoring didn’t end as Lowheit fired a shot from back in his own zone to score an empty net goal with a tenth of a second remaining, giving the Bulldogs a 4-2 win over the Huskies and completing the sweep. The Huskies outshot the Bulldogs 54-27 in game two.

“Totally different feeling from last night. I was mad last night because we needed to get some goaltending and play a little better. We should have won it 6-1. I don’t know if I could have asked much more from the guys tonight. They played hard and played well,” said Larson.

Top Performers

Veeti Miettinen had two goals and two assists over the weekend. Tyson Gross had two goals and an assist and Dylan Anhorn had an assist each night as well.

Multiple players for Minnesota-Duluth had a multi-point weekend. Ben Steeves had two goals and two assists, Aaron Pionk had a goal and three assists, Luke Loheit and Owen Gallatin both had two goals and an assist, Connor McMenamin had a goal and two assists, Quinn Olson had three assists, Aiden Dubinsky had a goal and an assist and Braden Fischer had a pair of assists.

Matthew Thiessen was the stellar goaltender of the weekend, making 52 saves Saturday night.

Next Up

The Huskies will be at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center next weekend for the NCHC quarterfinals as they clinched the number three seed for the conference tournament. However, St. Cloud State is currently out of NCAA Tournament picture. They must win the best of three series against Western Michigan to keep their season alive. Puck drop will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday. If necessary, puck drop will be 6 p.m. Sunday. All games will be broadcasted live on 88.1 FM KVSC with Zac Chapman, Brian Moos and Alexander Fern on the call. The pregame show with Gavin Nelson will start a half an hour before each game.

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