By Alexander Fern / @AlexInTheBooth
The St. Cloud State Huskies came out of the biggest series of the season with a huge sweep over the Denver Pioneers and are now seated with a share of first place in the NCHC, and are ranked first in the country by the USCHO.
The Huskies came out on Friday and were hungry.
It was a very evenly played period until the Huskies got a Power-Play opportunity with about 14 minutes left in the period. The Huskies Power-Play hadn’t been scoring lately but that hasn’t been to a lack of trying.
“I know the media thought our Power-Play was bad for a couple of games, but we had a lot of chances, and I feel that when you get one, they start coming in bunches.”
The Huskies were finally able to get a Power-Play goal when Senior Captain Spencer Meier found Zach Okabe in front of the net for a beautiful tip-in goal.
About 5 minutes later, Denver was able to tie it up on a Carter King PPG and that is where the score would stand at the end of one.
The second period started off on a sour note for SCSU as Jack Devine had a beautiful tip in front and beat Dominic Basse above his left shoulder to give DU the 2-1 lead.
Four minutes later, Jami Krannila had a tip-in of his own and tied the game up at two. And three minutes after that, freshman Jack Rogers had a greasy goal when he cleaned up the garbage in front of Magnus Chrona to give the Huskies the two goal lead.
The Huskies would then shoot themselves in the foot when they committed two penalties in 30 seconds that allowed a very good Denver Power-Play to get a chance to seize momentum.
But the Huskies dug deep, and killed off the 5v3 and then the roof got blown off of the Brooks Center when Grant Cruikshank found Krannila again along the near side who rifled a puck past Magnus Chrona and the Huskies took a 4-2 lead.
Denver’s Brett Edwards responded less than a minute later, beating Basse glove side and making it 4-3.
After the intermission the Huskies controlled play until the final buzzer, scoring 3 unanswered, including Mason Salquist’s first goal of the season.
“Besides the first period where I think we came out flat, I think that was one of our better 40 minute efforts.” Coach Brett Larson said. “I expect tomorrow to be tighter. Denver is a great team.”
And tighter it was. With the Huskies pulling out a 2-0 win with Jack Rogers and Zach Okabe both notching their second goals of the weekend to give the Huskies the lead. Jaxon Castor had another shutout as the goalie contest continues to intensify.
But that isn’t the biggest news of Saturday.
About 30 minutes before puck drop, the Huskies learned that defenseman Dylan Anhorn would not be able to suit up.
“”(Associate athletic trainer) Bryan DeMaine came running into my office and said, ‘It’s serious. You’ve got to come out,'” Brett Larson said. “We had been doing our off-ice warmup, which we do before every game. Something happened where Dylan was warming up quickly and something turned wrong in his leg.”
There was little known about the injury until Monday, when it was revealed that the injury will require season ending surgery.
The Huskies will be not only missing one of their leaders in the locker-room, they will also be missing a player who is very important to the Huskies in terms of on-ice product.
Anhorn leads the Huskies in time on ice (21 minutes, 19 seconds) and blocked shots (30), is fourth on the team in plus/minus (plus-15) and is second in the nation in both assists (20) and points (25) by a defenseman.
The Huskies stepped up in the absence of Anhorn, putting on a defensive clinic and holding one of the highest shooting teams in the country, to only 19 shots on Saturday. The Huskies blocked 12 shots as well.
Coach Larson says he loved his teams response following the injury.
“Our team’s reaction to that — this happened right before the game. They could have been in shock. I had to get Brady Ziemer off his couch and get the Doritos out of his mouth to get over to the rink to get his gear on. Other than that, the team responded really well. It was next man up. Not only next man up, but I think everyone felt they needed to bring a little more. And I think the fans could tell that our compete level for 60 minutes was as good as it’s ever been.”
One good thing to emerge out of this incident is that SCSU twitter personalities such as the infamous “GOHUSKIESWOOOOO” will be donating a bag of Doritos to the Huskies Food Pantry for every Brady “Doritos” Ziemer point for the rest of the season.
In total, the Huskies got the sweep, but lose a key piece in their race for a championship.
BATTLE OF THE DOGS
The Huskies take the sweep against Denver, and move onto another conference foe in the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday.
The Bulldogs come into this weekend 1-3 in their last 4. And just secured a series split against North Dakota at the Ralph last weekend.
The Bulldogs are in the midst of a disappointing season so far. In a year in which they were selected to finish near the top of the conference, they are 10-13-1 overall and 5-9-0 in the NCHC.
The Bulldogs have fallen victim to an issue that the Huskies experienced toward the end of last season, they can’t score.
UMD is averaging 2.3 goals-per-game this season and allowing 2.9 conversely. The Huskies are scoring 3.5 goals, and allowing only 1.9. Both of which are top 10 in the country.
The leading scorer for UMD is Freshman Ben Steeves, and he only has 16 points (12-4-16) in 24 games. Whereas SCSU’s leading scorer Jami Krannila has 29 points (13-16-29) in 24 GP.
UMD has also been running a goalie tandem as well.
Zach Stejskal and Matt Thiessen have both played 12 games this season. Ztejskal is 5-7-0 this season with a 2.28 GAA and a .914 SV%. Thiessen is 5-6-1 with a 3.07 GAA and a .894 SV%.
The Huskies have been rolling out Dom Basse and Jaxon Castor this year and those two are both some of the top goalies in the NCAA. Duluth has been trying to capture that essence as well, but it just has not been working as well for UMD.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Huskies and Bulldogs always play each other very close.
The last time these teams met, UMD knocked the Huskies out of the NCHC playoffs last march. So the Huskies might be looking for revenge.
But now according to the media polls, the Huskies are ranked 1st in the country for the first time this season. This marks the 24th time since 2013-14 that the Huskies have been ranked first.
Once again, the Huskies are coming off of a very emotional weekend against Denver, where they got a sweep, but also lost one of their top defenseman. The Huskies have dropped games after having an emotional weekend. The latest was against CC two weeks ago after splitting with Minnesota. It is imperative that the Huskies don’t play down to their opponent.
Expect Basse and Castor to both play this weekend.
Expect the same forward lines as last week.
Expect to see some shuffling on the defensive side of the puck.
One thing of note is that for the rest of the season, SCSU does not play a team within the top 22 of the pairwise (as of now) for the rest of the season.
The Huskies have a (dare I say) less difficult rest of the season than other teams, and with the Huskies now being tied for the lead in the conference, the time is now for a push towards the Penrose.
HOW TO TUNE IN
This weekends games against UMD will be broadcasted live on 88.1 FM KVSC with Brian Moos on Play-by-Play and Alexander Fern as Analyst. Pregame, intermission, and post game will be hosted by Gavin Nelson on Friday, and then back to Max “The Academic Weapon” Steigauf on Saturday.
Puck drop is slated for 7:00 on Friday and Saturday, which means that pregame will begin at 6:30 on both nights.