by Blake Theisen / Sports Director
Another overtime game for the Huskies and the Bulldogs. Another loss for the Huskies.
The St. Cloud State (SCSU) men’s hockey team entered Saturday night’s game with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs needing a win to extend their NCHC Postseason. After being dumped the night prior, there was a good sense that St. Cloud could bounce back and force a winner take all game 3 on Sunday night.
For a moment, that sense looked like a sure fire lock. In fact, it was more than just a moment. The Huskies dominated the first period of play on Saturday night.
Nick Perbix opened the scoring for SCSU just 5:09 into the game. He fished out a loose puck in the slot and whipped a wrist shot behind UMD goaltender Ryan Fanti. Perbix played an incredible game for the Huskies.
“Great weekend. He stepped up,” said SCSU head coach Brett Larson. “I thought it was his best weekend of the year. He just took over the game at times and played with no fear. He was a bright spot all weekend long.”
St. Cloud hammered Fanti with pressure and gave the Bulldogs everything they could handle, outshooting them 20-5 in the first period. The pressure was relentless and was part of an absolutely dominant first period. But, the Perbix goal was the only time they’d score on those 20 first period shots.
“All we asked for was a response because last night they took it to us,” Brett Larson said about his teams strong start. “Our guys responded and played really hard and, to be honest, 5-on-5 I liked our game the whole night. We played really hard tonight, played the right way.”
The Huskies continued to play “the right way” early into the second period too. Junior centerman Jami Kranilla added to the Huskies lead with a second period goal (1:38) off the rush. Duluth started to balance the ice a bit, but the 2-0 lead held going into the 3rd period.
The Bulldogs outshot the Huskies 13-1 in the 3rd period and the drew two crucial powerplays. Noah Cates got Duluth on the board to start the 3rd period (0:58) with a power play goal.
“They get that third goal on kind of a seeing eye shot. We’ve got a stick almost right up on the top and it kind of flutters through and goes in. That’s the game sometimes,” said Brett Larson, who’s team went 0-for-5 on the power play Saturday. “You’ve gotta live with that on both sides of it.”
Easton Brodzinski took another penalty to give UMD another power play minutes after they cut into the SCSU lead. Dominic James tipped in a Blake Biondi shot to tie the game at 2-2 (3:30 of the 3rd period).
“We played really nervous,” said Brett Larson who felt his team played not to lose. “You have to learn how to play in games like that. We played tight. We played tentative. We played extremely nervous.”
Perbix continued his superb weekend with his 2nd goal of the night to put St. Cloud ahead 3-2 just 11 seconds after James tied it. It was the only shot on goal the Huskies had in the 3rd period.
But the Huskies tentative and conservative play came to haunt them once more. Tanner Laderoute tipped in a Matt Anderson shot from the point tying the game once more for UMD with just under 3 minutes to go in the game.
“It was a great start. We couldn’t have drawn it up any better, but the game’s 60 minutes,” Perbix said as the Huskies surrendered both a 2 goal and 1 goal lead in the 3rd period. “We’ve got to find a way to keep that energy, focus, or emotion. They’re gonna have good pushes. They’re a good team. We just need to try to minimize those and keep that energy we came out with.”
For the 4th time in 6 meetings this season, the Huskies and the Bulldogs went to overtime. St. Cloud got a power play early in the extra period and came so close to forcing a game 3 on Sunday.
“That one hit the cross bar and was kind of rolling on the cross bar and rolled down and Micah (Miller) almost hit on the way down,” Larson said of his nation leading power play group that failed to deliver on Saturday. “They did everything but score. It’s just one of those games. We had a lot of really good looks. Fitzgerald had a little tip on an earlier one and we had some good looks. Pucks just didn’t go for us, so that being said you gotta finish one. You gotta bury one. You gotta try to extend that lead to three against that team.”
But the Huskies didn’t bury one – Duluth did. Their captain and lone Olympian Noah Cates did. Off a 2-on-2 rush, Cates took a high wrist shot that would have missed the net wide, but it deflected off St. Cloud’s Spencer Meier and past Jaxon Castor to win the game and end the series.
“There’s a reality check a little bit,” Larson said trying to put a positive spin on the loss. “As a coach, you’re always trying to look at the positive side. We talked to the guys about that as long as we get another shot, and it looks like we will and hopefully we do, sometimes things happen for a reason.”