By Alexander Fern / @AlexInTheBooth
The 4th ranked St. Cloud State Huskies travelled west towards the Rocky Mountains to face off against the 2nd ranked Denver Pioneers over the weekend and earned a hard fought sweep.
Friday got off to a great start as Jami Krannila put home a rebound with some bodies in front and put the Huskies up 1-0 four minutes into the first period.
The Pioneers would answer back about 13 minutes later when defenseman Mike Benning put a silky move on to get past Krannila and bury a goal top shelf on Jaxon Castor to knot the game at one a piece going into the intermission. then the Pioneers scored the lone goal of the 2nd when Captain Justin Lee put one through the wickets of Castor and made the score 2-1 going into the final frame.
The third period was such a back and forth tilt between teams as Grant Cruikshank would score from the high slot to tie the game at two about halfway through the period.
Denver would score with about two minutes left in the game to reclaim the lead 3-2 as Massimo Rizzo deflected a puck in front and Castor would have no chance to save it.
St. Cloud would find a way to come back though, as Spencer Meier would fire a shot that was blocked by Justin Lee and left Lee immovable on the ground. Zach Okabe would then grab the vacant puck and fire it glove side on Denver goalie Magnus Chrona and tie the game at 3 a piece.
“We try to get bodies to the front of the net, and hope that it deflects off of bodies and gets us an opportunity, and that is what happened.” Coach Brett Larson said.
St. Cloud would start out the OT period on a penalty kill as Coach Larson challenged a hit that Denver forward Carter Mazur made late in the third period that rendered Chase Brand out of play for a few seconds. Larson thought the play would’ve been a major penalty given to Denver, but instead it put St. Cloud on the PK against one of the top PowerPlay units in the country.
The Huskies would kill off the penalty and then Grant Cruikshank would leave a drop pass for Veeti Miettinen and the man they call “Mittens” would send Huskies fans home happy, when he buried a shot low glove side on Chrona to give the Huskies the 4-3 win.
“We kept fighting, and I am really happy with how the guys believed that they could get it done.” Brett Larson said. “This is a growth win for us, to get a win like this on the road is massive.”
The second game of the weekend started off very poorly for the Huskies, as Denver would score twice in the first three minutes of the game to go up 2-0 with goals from Casey Dornbach and Jack Devine. St. Cloud would not record a shot until 11 minutes into the first period.
“We were just disappointed with our start, and I was not very happy with them after the first period.” Coach Larson said.
The second went a little more even as both teams jockeyed for position until Denver took a penalty and allowed SCSU to score a Power Play goal from the stick of Jami Krannila who has goals in his last two games.
Krannila would then hit Denver defenseman Sean Behrens into the boards hard and would receive a controversial 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the hit. So St. Cloud would be without the center of their top line.
The third period was also extremely even, but Kyle Mayhew potted one for Denver to take the lead 2-1 on the Power Play.
Grant Cruikshank would continue his scorching start to the year with his 2nd goal of the series and 8th of the season to cut the lead to 3-2. But in the end, St. Cloud’s final push just was not enough to sweep the defending National Champions.
“I told the guys after the game that I am still really proud of them, and although we are disappointed with a loss, Denver is a really good team and we can still be proud of the results this weekend.” Larson said.
Both Jaxon Castor and Dominic Basse played well again over the weekend. Both allowed three goals each, but they were both very solid. Castor made 24 saves on Friday on 27 shots and Basse made 32 saves on 35 shots.
“I thought they both played very well.” Larson said. “I feel like they both push each other to be the best of themselves on the ice and I feel like we have two very good goaltenders.”
As usual, both goalies are expected to get action this weekend with Castor Friday, and Basse Saturday.
The Huskies are back in action this weekend when they take on the Western Michigan Broncos Friday and Saturday.
SCSU holds a lead all-time of 19-12-5 against the Broncos and SCSU went 1-2-1 last season against them. St. Cloud has won 5 of the last 7 games in St. Cloud and is 11-5-1 all-time against the Broncos at the HBNHC.
The Broncos sit 7-4-0 on the year and come off of a sweep of Miami (OH). Captain Jason Polin had 6 goals last weekend as well. The Broncos have played teams like Michigan, and Notre Dame very close so far this season and this matchup between the 15th ranked Broncos and 1st place Huskies (according to Pairwise) will be a very good contest between two very good programs.
HOW TO TUNE IN
This weekends games can be found on 88.1 FM KVSC or streaming online at KVSC website with Brian Moos and Alexander Fern on the call. Or for viewing pleasure the games will be on FOX 9+ with Jim Rich and Geno Parrish providing the coverage. Puck drop on is scheduled for 7:37 CT on Friday, and 6:07 on Saturday.