By Alexander Fern / @AlexInTheBooth
The 6th Ranked St. Cloud State University Men’s Hockey team left early on Tuesday to escape the incoming storm, and prepare for a massive NCHC tilt against the #14 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
It was a bit of a weird week for SCSU who is coming off of a weekend in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where they captured 3 NCHC points before heading back to St. Cloud Saturday Night.
The Huskies returned back to St. Cloud and like most people, knew about the incoming storm that was projected to cause massive infrastructure impacts as well as hazardous travel conditions. So they made a plan, very much similar to a certain broadcaster. The team left Tuesday afternoon to attempt to beat the storm, and did so successfully, arriving in Omaha Nebraska around 9 P.M.
This trip reminded a few people in tune with the Husky fandom of a certain trip to Omaha in 2019…
Since the Huskies have made it to Omaha relatively early, they now have time to see the sights of the American heartland, and have more time to prepare for what is the biggest series of the season.
LAST TIME OUT
As was mentioned earlier, the Huskies are coming off of a weekend where they didn’t play their best hockey. With a 4-3 OTL Friday against UND and a 2-2 tie (SCSU Won in SO) Saturday. Yet they still managed to snag 3 points at the toughest place to play in College hockey.
Omaha has been an enigma this year. Most people chose them to finish 7th or 8th in the conference, yet as of now they sit at 3rd place with 38 points, one point behind WMU and 2 points ahead of SCSU. They’ve been very average in most categories as they have only a +18 Goal Differential, but as of late, they’ve been carried and motivated by some very strong goaltending.
Freshman Simon Latkoczy has burst onto the NCHC scene and has become one of the best goalies in the country.
Latkoczy is 9-2-1 with a 1.77 Goals Allowed Average and a .935 save percentage. The .935 SV% is first in the NCAA. And he is only a Freshman. The Huskies will see him this weekend, although there is a chance that Jake Kucharski starts one of the two games for the Mavericks.
HOME ICE WITHIN REACH
In the NCHC, the top four teams in the conference get home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Huskies sit in 4th place in the NCHC with 36 points, just behind them is UMD with 26. The Huskies need just 3 points (A regulation win or an OTL + OTW) on the weekend to clinch the final home ice spot in the NCHC playoffs, and bring playoff hockey back to the Herb.
Although there are a bunch of intangibles when it comes to who SCSU would be playing if they clinch home ice, we will talk about that another time.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
SCSU has not won a game since January 21st against Denver, they are 0-3-3 since that game.
Which means that Brett Larson, who has been at 99 career wins for over a month now, is still looking for number 100. Although he’d tell you that he doesn’t care about that number, it would definitely be something for him to hang his hat on.
When scoring first this season, SCSU is 15-2-1. When being scored on first, the Huskies are 3-7-2.
St. Cloud State needs to come out of the gates firing. They put up just 13 Shots-On-Goal last game against UND, and have only scored 9 goals in their last 4 games which is 2.25 GPG which in comparison is one goal lower than their season average of 3.33.
SCSU averages 2.23 Goals-Allowed-Per-Game which also means that their last 3 series, they are outscoring their season given up average by .02 GPG. That is not a great number.
SCSU has picked up the pace when it comes to the Power-Play as of late as well.
The Huskies went 4/7 against a top ranked PK at UND last weekend and have 31 PPG on the year which is good for 7th nationally. However, the PK has still struggled to figure some things out.
SCSU bolsters a 57th nationally ranked PK with the percentage of 75.4. The PK went 3/7 on the weekend against UND, allowing 4 PPG.
To sum up what needs to happen for SCSU to get a sweep, the entirety of Special-Teams needs to be on point with a very good Omaha PP to worry about. The SCSU PP will have some things to be happy about too with Omaha ranked at 33rd nationally in the PK unit with a 79.6% PK.
SCSU also needs to score even-strength. They have one even-strength goal their last 4 games, and 2 in their last 6. Look for that to be a point of emphasis.
Don’t be surprised if SCSU splits or sweeps, but I would be a bit shocked if SCSU gets outplayed both nights.
WHERE TO TUNE IN
Both games this weekend will return to 88.1 FM KVSC with Alexander Fern on Play-by-Play and Brian Moos on Color. Gavin Nelson will be back in studio for pre/post-game and intermission coverage for both games this weekend.
Puck drop is at 7:00 CST on both Friday and Saturday.