It was the kind of night where St. Cloud did everything right, except for the things that mattered most. Minnesota was a perfect two-for-two on the power play and Adam Wilcox made a career-high 38 saves to defeat St. Cloud 4-1 and advance to the North Star College Cup championship tomorrow evening against Minnesota-Duluth.
Minnesota got the scoring started in the first period, when just seven seconds into their first man advantage of the evening, Hudson Fasching won a battle in the corner and fed Travis Boyd, who backhanded the puck past goalie Ryan Faragher.
Jonny Brodzinski evened the score for St. Cloud at 11:22 of the second period and gave St. Cloud some momentum, but Minnesota bounced back with a goal by Nate Condon just over three minutes later to take the lead, and Fasching added another power play goal at 18:14 of the second period to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
Minnesota protected that lead beautifully in the third period, yielding 13 shots, but blocking seven others, and not allowing Grade-A scoring chances. Seth Ambroz added an empty-net goal with 29 seconds remaining to seal Minnesota's spot in tomorrow's championship game.
Minnesota improved their record to 18-2-3 on the season, while St. Cloud drops to 12-5-4. St. Cloud will face-off against Minnesota State in tomorrow's consolation game at 4pm, with the title game between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth to follow.
8:58 Travis Boyd from Hudson Fasching (power play) 1-0 Minnesota
Fasching won a battle against two St. Cloud defensemen in the corner and fed the puck out to Boyd, who chipped a backhand past Faragher.
11:22 Jonny Brodzinski from Kalle Kossila 1-1 tie
Brodzinski gained position in front of the Minnesota net, and got three good whacks at the puck before he was able to finally push it past Wilcox for the goal.
14:24 Nate Condon from Mike Reilly and Sam Warning 2-1 Minnesota
Condon held the puck at the left point, skating around a St. Cloud shot blocker, and fired a wrist shot that snuck through Faragher for the goal.
18:14 Hudson Fasching from Travis Boyd and Mike Reilly (power play) 3-1 Minnesota
Boyd took a shot on net, and Fasching out-muscled a St. Cloud defender in front to bang home the rebound.
19:31 Seth Ambroz unassisted (empty net) 4-1 Minnesota
Ambroz won a race for the puck after a Minnesota clear, and scored an easy goal into the open net.
-On a night when the other three goalies in the tournament all seemed to have below-average games, Adam Wilcox had a career-best 38 saves and was a difference maker for Minnesota. He didn't have to make a lot of great saves, but he certainly didn't give up any soft ones, which was all it really took to be the best goalie at the X on Friday evening.
-After the game, St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko said he was really happy with how his team played. He said Adam Wilcox was outstanding while Minnesota scored three goals on their first 15 shots, and they got crushed on special teams. Of course, goal tending and special teams are arguably two of the most important areas of the game, and are starting to become a concern for the Huskies in the second half of the season.
Motzko was particularly displeased with Minnesota's first power play goal, where two Husky defensemen got caught in the corner--a mistake he said they made last week against Western Michigan as well--leaving Travis Boyd wide open to give Minnesota the lead.
-Ryan Faragher did not have a good two periods of play either, before being relieved by back-up Charlie Lindgren for the third period. He gave up three goals, and easily could have given up a fourth after a strange play where he made a save, but almost took himself, and the puck, into his own net. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Charlie Lindgren get the start in tomorrow's consolation game.
-Minnesota head coach Don Lucia felt his team played pretty well after spending about three quarters of the first period stuck in their own zone. Travis Boyd and Adam Wilcox both reiterated that the Huskies got off to a slow start, but got stronger as the game went on.
-Minnesota's second goal was the dagger tonight. The Huskies had just tied the game and were pressuring Minnesota. Nate Condon fired a harmless looking wrist shot from the top of the circles and Faragher was unable to stop it. After the game, Husky captain Kevin Gravel talked about how difficult it is to to give up a goal immediately after scoring one. Add in that it was one Faragher would definitely like to have back, and that St. Cloud gave up another goal shortly after, and it was too much for St. Cloud to overcome.
-The third goal for Minnesota was another huge pivot point. St. Cloud had one of their better scoring chances of the game earlier on that penalty kill, with Nic Dowd leading a 3-on-1 rush off a blocked shot. Dowd received a return pass from a teammate, but the puck jumped on him, and he failed to get a shot on goal. Minnesota came back down the ice and scored on Fasching's rebound goal, turning what could have been a 2-2 game into a 3-1 game. With the way Minnesota played defense tonight, a two-goal lead was going to be way too much for St. Cloud to overcome.
-I was really impressed with the way Minnesota was able to lock things down on defense. The Brodzinski goal and the aforementioned 3-on-1 were the only real high quality scoring chances I can remember St. Cloud having all night, despite St. Cloud spending a lot of time in the Minnesota zone. The Gophers were extremely conservative in the third period, and other than a few shots in traffic late, they managed to make a two-goal lead feel like a ten-goal lead.
-Motzko had high praise for Jonny Brodzinski, who had an excellent game for St. Cloud. You could tell he had a little extra jump tonight, playing against his younger brother. After his goal, the normally subdued Brodzinski had a pretty emphatic celebration. Lucia was even more effusive in his praise of the elder Brodzinski's play " He's a good player. He's so strong physically, he has a heavy stick. He can shoot it a ton so wrong guy to have that many shots on goal."