After not much of a first game between Minnesota and Robert Morris, St. Cloud and Notre Dame made sure that every one of the reported 9232 got their (large amount of) money's worth for their ticket. This was just a fun, fun hockey game, with a great ending. St. Cloud escaped with a 4-3 overtime victory, and an opportunity to face Minnesota with a bid to the Frozen Four on the line.
-We'll start at the end. What a beauty of a shot by St. Cloud senior captain and Hobey Baker finalist Nic Dowd. There's video of it here. Dowd has been everything St. Cloud could possibly ask for in a hockey player over the course of career, and this may go down as one of his defining moments. It couldn't happen to a more deserving player.
-How the heck did this game even end up in overtime? St. Cloud went through the season with a higher-than-average shooting percentage, and tonight, they took that to the extreme. Through regulation, they scored three goals on just 12 shots on goal. After putting six on goal in the first, they had just four in the second period, and two in the third period. Their first shot on goal of the third period came with 3:37 left in the third period.
-That said, this game serves as a good example of how shot attempts at even strength is a better measure of possession than shots on goal. The Huskies were outshot 36-12 through regulation, but when looking at Corsi, Notre Dame only out-attempted St. Cloud at even strength 42-28 through regulation, suggesting possession was a much more reasonable 60-40 in favor of Notre Dame, rather than 75-25 like the shots on goal would indicate.
-St. Cloud also caught a huge break late in the second period on Jonny Brodzinski's power play goal. The Huskies had been completely outplayed in the second period, including being outshot 18-2 and had given up a goal in the frame to tie the game at two. But St. Cloud got a late power play, and Jonny Brodzinski's seeing-eye shot beat a screened Steven Summerhays. Despite being outshot 18-4 in the period, St. Cloud escaped the period with each side scoring a goal each, and still in the lead.
-If there was a concern for St. Cloud coming into the tournament, it was in goal with Ryan Faragher after he struggled through much of the second half of the season, including in St. Cloud's playoff loss to Miami. After the first goal he gave up to Bryan Rust, which was a little soft, it looked like more of the same from him. Instead, Faragher rebounded to steal this game for St. Cloud, despite getting dominated in the shots on goal department.
He finished the evening with 39 saves. None bigger than a stop of a Vince Hinostroza breakaway in overtime that you can see in the picture above.
-As much as St. Cloud struggled to generate consistent offense, they did a complete 180-degree turn in the overtime. It took the Huskies about nine minutes of overtime play to match the 12 shots on goal they produced in the entire sixty minutes of regulation. Nic Dowd's game-winning goal was the 16th shot of the overtime. Notre Dame had a few quality chances, but the ice was definitely tilted in St. Cloud's favor in the extra frame.
- A big key for Notre Dame coming into the game was moving the puck through the neutral zone after St. Cloud completely stifled them them last season in the NCAA Midwest regional. The Irish did a much better job with that, trying to be more patient in moving the puck up the ice methodically, and had some success. It really took some of the wide open up-and-down action out of the game though.
The Irish also switched things up on their penalty kill to match up with St. Cloud. They allowed St. Cloud's forward on the right goal line to have the puck pretty much uncontested, knowing he had little angle to shoot at and not much chance to score, while effectively guarding any passing angles/backdoor opportunities. The Huskies have had pretty good success with that type of power play over the years, and I'll be interested to see if more teams try that against them.
-Notre Dame's defense was also incredibly aggressive tonight, especially in the overtime. It's a tough way for their college careers' to end, but Notre Dame senior defensemen Stephen Johns and Kevin Lind both went out with exceptional games. Both guys came to college as lumbering defensive defensemen, and tonight, they showed that they're capable of so much more. Both have bright futures ahead of them.
-St. Cloud gets their rematch with Minnesota after the Gophers beat them in the first round of the North Star College Cup. It was apparent at the time that that loss really stung St. Cloud pretty deeply. They'll get a shot at redemption tomorrow night. The quick turnaround between this game and tomorrow's championship game should play to the Huskies' advantage, rather than having a full week to think about the game like they did at the North Star.