By Alexander Fern / @AlexInTheBooth
The 3rd ranked St. Cloud State Huskies Men’s Hockey team is in action again this weekend when the Colorado College Tigers come into the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center for the first time in nearly a year.
LAST TIME OUT
The Huskies are coming off of a very good showing against what most consider the top team in the country in the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Huskies were able to win game one on Saturday with a crowd of over 6,000 people at the Herb by a final score of 3-0 with the Game-Winning-Goal being scored by Senior Assistant Captain and Robert Morris transfer Aidan Spellacy.
On Sunday there was also a “Sell-Out” at 3M Arena at Mariucci for the Huskies to play in. And the game was more of the same as there was no scoring for a long time.
The stalemate was broken when Matthew Knies scored a Power-Play Goal early in the third period to give the Gophers their first goal and first lead of the weekend.
About 5 minutes later the Huskies were able to tie the game when Chase Brand scored a goal when he fired a puck across the ice toward Mason Salquist that deflected off of a Gopher Defenseman’s stick.
The game ended up going into Overtime and there were chances for both sides until less than a minute remained in the game.
Logan Cooley stole a puck from Josh Luedtke and was able to navigate his way around Jaxon Castor to score the OT winner and give the Gophers the win.
WHAT WE LEARNED
The Huskies are one of the best hockey teams in the country. I personally don’t think that anybody in the country can say with confidence that the St. Cloud State Huskies would not be able to make a run to Tampa in March.
We also learned that it might be Jaxon Castor’s job to lose going forward this season. Castor allowed 2 goals in both games combined for a .96 GAA and a .962 save percentage over the weekend.
The Huskies did not score a single Power-Play goal this weekend and that is not due to a shortage of opportunities. The Huskies will need to begin to anchor down on special teams if they want to continue to keep pace with the top dogs in the NCHC.
The Fourth line of Aidan Spellacy, Joe Molenaar, and Ryan Rosborough looks as good as ever. The Line scored the Huskies only non-empty net goal of Saturday’s game when Molenaar found Spellacy on a rush in the 2nd period. This will be a very important line for SCSU going forward just to keep opponents on their toes no matter what line Coach Larson sends out.
PREVIEWING COLORADO COLLEGE
These two teams played each other earlier this season in November with the Huskies coming out on top with a 3-1 victory on Friday and a 5-0 complete win on Saturday.
Zach Okabe netted 3 goals on that weekend including a 2 goal performance on Saturday. Former Tiger Goaltender Dominic Basse got a shutout in his homecoming on Saturday and made 33 saves.
Colorado College is an enigma when it comes to this season. CC is one of the youngest teams in the Conference and in the country with an average age of 21 years and 10 months. Yet they still sit in third place in the NCHC and are only 3 points behind SCSU.
What has helped the Tigers? The Freshman have started off very good this season. Forward Noah Laba and Goaltender Kaidan Mbereko have been two of the best players in the country this season and it showed at the World Juniors when both players captured the bronze medal for team USA along with Husky Defenseman Jack Peart nearly 2 weeks ago.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This series is going to be very hard to gauge for Husky fans. There have been multiple instances this season where after an emotionally taxing series, the Huskies usually lose one game the next series. EX- Sweep MSU-Mankato, loss to BSU. Play Denver well on the road, loss to WMU. Sweep North Dakota, lose to Miami on the road.
The Huskies have to make sure that they do not come out flat in either of these games. This is CC’s best conference start in 10 years, so they will be very hungry. And if SCSU comes out flat, there is a chance CC could be second in the NCHC come Sunday morning.
One player that needs to get going for the Huskies is Junior Forward Veeti Miettinen. Something just hasn’t been clicking with him for a while. He had a goal against Miami on the Friday game, but that was on a breakaway. Hopefully he is able to turn it around because the Huskies are going to need him for a potential tournament run.
I think the biggest question rests on the shoulders of Brett Larson. Who will be between the pipes for the Huskies this weekend? Jaxon Castor got both games last week against Minnesota and played lights out. But you have to give Dominic Basse a chance to prove himself in my opinion.
I would expect Dominic Basse to get the start on Friday, and if he plays well, Larson will let him have the Saturday game as well. I would be surprised if we saw Jaxon Castor on Friday.
I think this will be a hard fought series. I think St. Cloud State is a top 3 team in the country, but these games can sometimes be a bit of a trap.
My thoughts are St. Cloud State plays very well this weekend, but CC comes out on Friday and is very hungry. A game that is down to the wire and might go to OT. But I do think the Huskies get the win on Friday in a nail-biter.
Saturday will be a tad bit different. I think just like in November, SCSU gets on the Power-Play early and are able to capitalize. I don’t think they look back from there and win game 2 by multiple goals.
If the sweep happens, the next weekend against Denver will be the biggest of the season for SCSU, but we will get to that next week!
HOW TO TUNE IN
Friday’s game will take action at 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s game will be a bit different with the jersey retirement of Matt Cullen. Puck drop is slated for 6:00 after pregame festivities honoring Cullen. KVSC will also be honoring Cullen during our first intermission report on Saturday.
Alexander Fern will be on the play-by-play job this weekend and Brian Moos will be the Analyst, with Max Steigauf back in studio. Pregame begins 20 minutes before puck drop.