By: Joey Erickson
Sunday’s in the State of Hockey are usually reserved for Skol chants and cheering on the Minnesota Vikings. Today, college hockey is on the table in the state’s capitol. The newly created Division 1 program St. Thomas hosts their first home game against last year’s national runner-up St. Cloud State at the Xcel Energy Center.
The first 10 minutes of the opening period was another feeling out process for both sides as we saw a day before at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Majority of the chances were in favor of St. Cloud early on, but the North Dakota transfer, Peter Thome in net for the Tommies, steered away some tough shots early on. The turning point in the period came just over halfway through when Christiano Versich was taken to the box for hooking Nick Perbix behind the Huskies net. We got to see St. Cloud State’s power play unit for the first time in Game 2 after a night of going an astounding 7-10 on the man advantage. No surprise, the Husky power play would strike again. This time Junior Zach Okabe potted his second of the year after a nice pass from below the goal line by Jami Krannila. Spencer Meir also picked up an assist and the Huskies led 1-0. St. Cloud kept the offensive pressure on the rest of the period, but was unable to solve Thome once again. St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak was the more inactive of the two as St. Thomas struggled to get anything going in the attacking zone. He stopped all three shots his way while St. Cloud put up 15 on the other end of the rink.
After 20 minutes, St. Thomas needed a spark and that chance came early on when Freshman Jack Peart took a penalty for St. Cloud. The Tommies were able to find some footing in the offensive zone for the first time with St. Cloud being down a man, but the penalty kill units would not allow much of anything in front of Hrenak and he made the saves when they needed him too. St. Thomas was able to use some of that positive play to keep the pedal down in the Husky zone and force Peart to take another infraction, this time for cross-checking. This go around, it was St. Cloud State that had the better of offensive chances on the Tommie power play. A couple of odd man rushes led to great opportunities for Husky forwards Kevin Fitzgerald and Micah Miller that were denied by Thome. After the penalty kill, St. Cloud jumped back on the saddle and began to dominate possession and pace of play. They’re relentless pressure created a turnover behind the Tommies goal line and the mistake ended up in the back of their net. 15:40 into the frame, Grand Rapids native Micah Miller went down from the top of the slot after a feed from Fitzgerald to give the Huskies a 2-0 advantage. St. Cloud took that advantage into the locker room and would look to complete the sweep in the final 20.
Rubber continued to pepper the St. Thomas netminder to open up the 3rd period. Another power play for St. Cloud helped the Husky effort except nothing found the net and with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd, St. Cloud State held a 2-0 lead. Desperation started to set in for the Tommies as they hoped for something to draw them closer to the Huskies in the final minutes. A few rushes for St. Thomas led to some chaos in front of Hrenak but nothing developed into a really great scoring chance. St. Clouds discipline and experience in closing out games caught up to St. Thomas. The game would not end without fireworks however. A stoppage in play with 19.5 seconds saw a scuffle between a group of Huskies and Tommies in the corner which was much to the liking of the fans in attendance. St. Cloud State finished the sweep with a 2-0 shutout of St. Thomas. Huskies improve to 2-0 after opening weekend.
St. Cloud State will travel for the first time this season next week as they face off with fellow Frozen Four attendee Minnesota State on Oct. 8 and 9. Game can be heard on 88.1 FM KVSC, Blake Theisen and Jake Bedell will be on the call.