By: Joey Erickson
It felt like Christmas morning Friday night at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, but instead of presents under the tree we had hockey back on the olympic sheet. St. Cloud State hosted the Lindenwood Lions in their regular season opener with hopes of continuing the momentum they started a season ago.
Off the hop, St. Cloud State came out with speed and controlled the place of play in the early parts of period one. The Huskies were the first penalized team of the game, but a penalty kill that was top 10 in the country last year had no problem stifling the Lions power play unit. SCSU would be rewarded with a power play of their own and Sophomore Nicole Ness would beat Lions goaltender Natalie Ferenc with a wrist shot to give her squad a 1-0 lead. That goal seemed to spark the Huskies in the first, each line picked up where the other left off and it was only a matter of time before they struck again. Under three minutes later, Taylor Lind and Jennina Nylund had a 2-on-1, Lind waited for the defender to commit before sliding it across to Nylund who had a wide open net to double the Huskies lead (2-0). Later in the period, the top line for SCSU would strike again, Emma Gentry wanted in on the action and gave the Huskies a 3-0 advantage after period one. The top line consisting of Gentry, Nylund, and Lind combined for 7 points.
The 2nd saw the same amount of offensive pressure from St. Cloud State, but this time Natalie Ferenc between the pipes was up for the task. Her glove must have been a magnet with how many pucks ended up in the trapper during the middle frame. With Ferenc holding strong, it gave her teammates time to find a rhythm and groove against a younger and energized defensive core for St. Cloud. Morgan Neitzke was the first Lion to beat Emma Polusny on the night to cut into the Huskies lead (2-1). Lindenwood would get another opportunity on the power play with 5 minutes left in the period after Taytum Geier was taken off for holding. Lindenwood was able to set up and get the looks they wanted this time, the look was Valerie Caldwell all alone right in front of the net. She beat Polusny and just like that it’s a 3-2 Hockey game heading to the 3rd. Before that power play goal, Lindenwood was 0-11 on the man advantage to start the season.
With a 3-2 lead, would the Huskies play to not lose or play to win? That question would be answered rather quickly. St. Cloud State was dominating play and having sustained offensive zone time against the Lions and 5:51 into the 3rd, Emma Gentry went five hole on Ferenc after Lind’s career high 3rd assist to give SCSU a 4-2 lead. With an insurance goal on the board, St. Cloud was opportunistic on their chances without giving Lindenwood any grade A chances on the other end of the rink. The 5th year Senior Polusny had another gritty performance in net. One of the programs best goalies in history finished with 30 saves and a win to open up her 2021-22 regular season. More importantly, St. Cloud State grabbed a 4-2 victory over the Lions and a chance to go for the opening weekend sweep this afternoon.
Puck drop is at 2:00 and can be heard on 97.5 Radio X or 975radiox.com.