Jan 17, 2023

St. Cloud State Settles for Split Against CC, Looks Forward to Top NCHC Showdown against #3 Denver

By Alexander Fern / @AlexInTheBooth

The St. Cloud State Huskies settled for a series split with Colorado College over this past weekend with a 4-2 loss on Friday, and a 4-0 win on Saturday.


Friday got off to a great start for the Huskies. They dominated the first period doubling up CC in total shots on goal. The Huskies were able to break the ice about halfway through the first when former Tiger Grant Cruikshank deflected a puck sent in from the point by Dylan Anhorn and it found its way through the pads of Kaidan Mbereko.

After that period, everything went downhill for the Huskies. Surrendering 2 PowerPlay goals early in the 2nd period including one on the 5v3 by Hunter McKown that gave the Tigers the lead.

The Tigers never looked back as they held the Huskies at bay and took a 3-1 lead early in the third on an odd man rush. After that they added an empty netter and took the 4-2 victory. Joe Molenaar was able to get a garbage time goal as well for SCSU.

“Give a lot of credit to CC, they have a really good hockey team.” Is what head coach Brett Larson said after the game on Friday. “I felt the first period might have been the best period we played all year.”


A jersey retirement adds a new atmosphere into the game of hockey. Matt Cullen is the embodiment of what a Husky should be and he was immortalized for it. So you wonder if the Huskies wanted to win it for him.

The Huskies came out a little bit angry and were content with throwing some hits early in the first period. But the game was very evenly played up until with about 7 minutes left in the period.

With an all new line chart and all new depth, the Huskies broke through after a set play off of a face-off allowed Joe Molenaar to fire a puck toward Kaidan Mbereko and cause havoc in front. Zach Okabe was there to clean up the trash and put the Huskies up by a goal going into the intermission.

The 2nd period was as slow as molasses In the Minnesota winter. There really isn’t much to talk about in that period at all so it’s time to move on to the third period.

The third and final frame was more of the same for the first half, but when that 2nd half of the period started, Kyler Kupka had something to say about boring hockey. Grant Cruikshank intercepted a pass near the CC goal line and found Kyler Kupka wide open in the slot, and Kupka wired it five-hole on Mbereko for a 2-0 lead.

Less than 3 minutes later, Grant Cruikshank scored again on his former team when he roofed a puck short side on Mbereko and let out a ton of emotion as he celebrated.

“It’s always nice to score against these guys (Colorado College) since I have a lot of friends on this team. But this being the last time I play them is bitter-sweet.” Cruikshank said.

A minute after the goal, CC had an opportunity to seize some momentum when they had an opportunity right on the doorstep but CC transfer Dominic Basse made a desperation save ranging to his right to keep the game 3-0.

“Well it was a weird play that I saw develop,” Basse said. “I saw the puck in front of me and I just laid down on my side and fortunately, they shot it right in my glove.”

Jami Krannila made the game 4-0 when he unleashed a wicked wrist shot from 160 feet out from his own hash marks and one hopped it into the CC net. Marking the 2nd time that SCSU has scored a 160 footer this year against CC. The first of course being by Brendan Bushy in Colorado Springs.

SCSU left some huge points on the board not being able to get the sweep, leaving them 6 points behind the first place NCHC team, whom the Huskies play this weekend.

Credit: Jamie Schwaberow (Clarkson Creative Photography)


These two teams have played each other twice this season already. The first on November 4th being an OT win in Denver with the winner being scored by Veeti Miettinen. Denver would be a little upset at that and score 2 goals in the first 3 minutes on the Saturday game en route to a 3-2 win.

The Pioneers last played at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center pre-COVID on February 28/29th of 2020 resulting in a split. So Pioneer Head Coach David Carle has not been the opposing head coach at the Herb in his career yet.

Denver was in action last week against Miami (OH) and outscored the RedHawks 14-0 on the weekend. Magnus Chrona was issued NCHC Goalie of the week, Tristan Broz received forward of the week, and Sean Behrens was awarded defenseman of the week this past week as well.

The top line of Massimo Rizzo, Carter Mazur, and Casey Dornbach has accounted for more than half of their teams total scoring as well. They are the most dangerous line in college hockey.


So many times this season we have seen St. Cloud State find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. One of those games was against the Pioneers in Denver earlier this season. But what does SCSU need to focus on to earn some massive conference points?


We have seen SCSU get outworked in the dot in a lot of their losses this season. On Friday against CC the Huskies were outworked 33-25 in the dot and lost 4-2. Whereas the Huskies won the most face-offs on Saturday and earned the win. Face-offs have been paramount for the Huskies this season and they get a little bit of a treat as well.

Denver is 33rd in the country in face-off win percentage with 49.5% which means that the puck on the dot will be ripe for the picking this weekend. SCSU is 18th in the NCAA with a 52% draw rate.


This has been a very big issue for the Huskies this season, take a look at this stat;

In six losses this season, SCSU is 3-for-24 on the power play with two of those losses being 1/7 efforts on the man advantage.

Opponents power plays during those losses are 12-28. Which means that in 6 losses the season, the huskies are 57.1% on the penalty kill in those losses.

What does that mean? It means that if SCSU can stay out of the box this weekend, they will have a very good chance to win. If not, look out.


Magnus Chrona has been “the guy” at Denver for the past 4 seasons and that isn’t likely to change until he leaves. Chrona posts a stat line of 15-5-0 this year with a 2.07 GAA (which is good for 12th in the country) and a .918 SV%

When SCSU saw Denver earlier this year, Chrona seemed off. His rebound control was iffy and he let in a couple of glove side goals. If SCSU can pepper Chrona with some tough shots, the Huskies will add to their chances.

On the flip-side for SCSU, Castor and Basse will most-likely tandem again this weekend.

Castor played game one against CC this past weekend and allowed 3 goals, one of which he would probably want back. But Castor has been rock solid this season with a record of 8-4-0 and a 2.01 GAA which is 8th in the country, and a .923 SV% good for 13th in the country.

Basse has been elite this season when a clean game has been played in front of him. Take out that game against Miami where he allowed 3 PPG, and he might be the front-runner for the Richter Award. Basse this season is 8-2-0 record wise, with a 1.61 GAA and a .937 SV% both of which are good for 2nd in the country.

In Denver, Castor and Basse cycled, and both played phenomenal. We have yet to see one of them really pull out in front of the other, we saw a glimpse of brilliance with Castor against the Gophers, but Basse has also looked very solid in his games this season as well.


Expect a dogfight. This could legitimately be the best series of the season in college hockey. It’s the battle of #3 and #4 in the country. These two teams have mutual respect for each other, and play really good against each other.

The Huskies will be hungry, as will the Pioneers. If the Huskies split this series, the Penrose may be out of reach. But if SCSU sweeps, we have a tie for first in the NCHC with 5 weeks to go in the season.

SCSU needs to find a way to match the line of Rizzo, Mazur, Dornbach somehow.

The Huskies shuffled their lines a bunch on Saturday against CC and it worked. If SCSU can go toe to toe with that first line, they should be able to win some points on the weekend.

Kyler Kupka missed the series in Denver in November because of his emergency appendectomy. So having him for this series will be a big boost for the Huskies. In his absence, Freshman Adam Ingram took his spot and played well. But that was Kupka’s spot when he came back. Expect him to be hungry this weekend.

Expect Castor Friday, Basse Saturday. It worked in Denver, and it should work in St. Cloud. It will be a very fun series at the Herb.

One thing of note…

After this series against Denver, the Huskies don’t play anyone for the rest of the season that (as of now) is top 20 in the Pairwise rankings. And those are all conference games. So the Huskies have a prime opportunity to steal some points, and possibly steal the Penrose from the defending National Champions.


The Huskies will be without Chase Brand for a while with what Coach Brett Larson is calling a week-to-week lower body injury that he suffered on Friday against CC. If you remember, the Huskies were very upset when a dirty hit on Chase Brand by Carter Mazur went uncalled and even was upheld after a challenge by Larson. So there might be a little bit of bad blood. But as the game goes on, we will see.


All SCSU Men’s Hockey games this season (unless notified otherwise) will be carried on 88.1 FM KVSC. This weekend Alexander Fern will have Play-by-Play duties on Friday while Brian Moos will be the analyst. On Saturday they will flip flop with Brian Moos on Play-by-Play and Alexander Fern on Color. Max Steigauf will be in studio for pregame, postgame, and intermission reports.

You can also tune in on FOX 9+ with Jim Rich, Geno Parrish, Brooke Purowitz, and Ryan McNamara on the call. You can also purchase tickets at SCSUTickets.com.

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