Mar 23, 2024

St. Cloud State Men’s Hockey Season Ends, Losing to Denver 5-4

Brian Moos / Program Director

St. Cloud State needed to repeat as Frozen Faceoff Champions if they wanted to return to the NCAA Tournament. Heading into the weekend that was not an expected requirement. Before Friday, if St. Cloud State had beaten Denver in the Frozen Faceoff semifinal they would not have been into the field for sure, but a pretty good chance. That possibility was nullified when St. Lawrence upset Quinnipiac in the ECAC semifinals. St. Cloud State would need to beat Denver and win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff the next day to qualify.

St. Cloud State had previously never lost a Frozen Faceoff semifinal game, winning six contests during the tournament’s 10-year span. Denver had seen their fair share of struggles in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. The Pioneers hadn’t won a game under the coaching of David Carle heading into this year’s Frozen Faceoff. One of those losses being last year, as the number one seed and Penrose Cup champions, losing to in-state rival Colorado College, the eventual loser to St. Cloud State in the championship last year. For Denver, the matchup with St. Cloud State was a tournament-resume builder as they pursue a number one seed in the national tournament. For St. Cloud State, the NCHC semifinal round was do or die, their season hung in the balance.

First Period

Things would get started early for SCSU, not even two minutes into the game they would find their first goal. As Denver tried to clear a puck out of their own end, sophomore defensemen Cooper Wylie would keep play onside. As Wylie stepped up toward the near circle, he sent a shot toward Matt Davis’s glove and beat him for a early one to zero lead. Wylie, who had a quiet year offensively, found what hoped to be a critical breakthrough.

It would take nearly seven minutes for the game’s next goal, it would be an equalizer for Denver. The NCHC’s rookie and offensive-defensemen of the year, freshman Zeev Buium, would skate by senior Veeti Miettinen of SCSU and net his 10th career goal to even the score at one to one.

St. Cloud State would answer Denver’s equalizer quickly, with a goal coming from a unlikely source again. Junior winger Nick Portz would collect a faceoff win a snap the puck past Matt Davis for just his second goal of the season. Portz, who was on North Dakota last year when SCSU ended their season, scored on the NCHC’s biggest stage to give the Huskies their second lead, two to one.

The Pioneers would push the Huskies toward the end of the first period trying to find another equalizer. A board battle behind the net of Isak Posch would result in a scoring chance for Denver’s captain McKade Webster. Webster would jam the puck in for a score from behind the net off of Posch’s body, tying the game at two to two. That score would hold at the first intermission.

Second Period

The second period would start even with two goals a piece and after 20 minutes of both teams scoring two, the next 20 minutes result the same way. The Huskies would regain the lead early in the second period, Verner Miettinen found Adam Ingram off a rush and Ingram slotted it five-hole past Davis to make it three to two.

Continuing the trend of Denver equalizing the contest, the Pioneers would score again to make it three to three. Off a powerplay that resulted from a Kyler Kupka minor for hooking, freshman Miko Matikka would beat Posch from the near circle. It was Matikka’s sixth powerplay goal of the season and the 17th of his career.

Just under three minutes after Matikka’s goal, the Huskies would be given a powerplay opportunity. The Huskies sport one of the best man-advantage units in the country and they continued to roll in their lone powerplay of the night. An Anhorn shot from the point would result in a rebound lose for Kyler Kupka. Instead of Kupka firing a tight angle shot, he served a golden opportunity for freshman Barrett Hall to give the Huskies a four to three lead. Barrett Hall scored the first goal of the Huskies 2023-24 season, unfortunately his powerplay goal would be the last goal of the 23-24 season.

The Huskies would put themselves in dangerous territory about halfway through the period. Sophomore Cooper Wylie would hit a Pioneer from behind, giving Denver a five-minute major powerplay. With the Huskies leading four to three, it could be a dangerous five minutes. Denver would release 13 shots during the powerplay, pushing SCSU down by a goal. Posch would make six saves holding Denver scoreless on a golden opportunity.

Before the second period ended, Denver would equalize again from another Miko Matikka goal. It would be his 18th goal of the season and it came within the last two minutes of the second. Another four-goal period between the Huskies and Pioneers would send the game to a four-to-four tie for the second intermission.

Third Period & Overtime

The third would see plenty of scoring chances for the Pioneers, outshooting the Huskies 19-13, putting nine of those shots on net. No third period tally would be found for either side though.

To overtime the game went, the Huskies needing a victory to stay alive to make the NCAA tournament. Last season the Huskies played to role of season-enders against teams like Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota. This year, it would be Denver ending St. Cloud State’s year. Two freshman would connect for Denver’s game-winning goal. Forward Sam Harris would pick up a lose puck in neutral and spring Zeev Buium onside. Buium would carry the puck past the Husky defense and bury the golden goal past Isak Posch, giving the Pioneers the win, five to four.

Even with the high scoring tally, Isak Posch received praise from both coach David Carle and Brett Larson. The Pioneers would outshoot the Huskies 80 to 44, with 41 of those 80 on the net of Posch. The freshman goalie would save 36 shots, which is the most a Husky goalie has saved in Frozen Faceoff history. Coach Brett Larson said, “I thought especially during what I thought was the most important part of the game, when they got that five-minute major. That game could have really gotten downhill the other way if they had scored a few. When the game could’ve went the other way, he (Posch) didn’t let it.”

For St. Cloud State their season is now over. Even if there wasn’t an upset in the ECAC, the Huskies would have needed to beat Denver to stay alive for the NCAAs. St. Cloud State would come up short, losing in overtime to Denver, off of stellar performances from freshmen Zeev Buium and Miko Matikka. The Huskies’ final record in the 2023-24 season is 17 wins, 16 losses and five ties.

KVSC would like to thank everyone how followed our coverage of SCSU Men’s Hockey this year. Our family of networks will continue to cover SCSU sports as Baseball and Softball are underway for their 2024 seasons. Keep listening to Your Sound Alternative and see you in October for the start of the Huskies’ 2024-25 season.

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