ST. CLOUD – Huskies head coach Brett Larson could not have asked for a better start to his tenure.
#2 St. Cloud State has not missed a beat this season in the new coaching regime, and they’re going into the holiday break on a ten-game unbeaten streak after defeating Omaha 7-1 on Saturday night at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
While there may be pressure on Larson after Bob Motzko left some big shoes to fill, he’s embracing every bit of it. The job is certainly more enjoyable when you go unbeaten in 15 of your first 16 games.
“It’s a good pressure. It’s an exciting pressure,” Larson said. “The pressure I just feel is to make sure I’m doing everything I can every day to keep ahead in the right direction.”
What’s been the key to success so far?
“We’ve got a really good group. The leadership’s good, the freshmen are getting better – I think we’re just playing a good solid team game right now,” he said.
Neither team took great care of the puck early on, but it was Omaha making the critical mistake just over one minute in as a horrendous D-zone turnover was picked up by Blake Lizotte, who scored from the slot with nobody near him. It was mostly back-and-forth in the first period after that with the Huskies killing off two penalties.
The Mavericks finally cracked the scoreboard for the first time in the series in the second period as Tyler Weiss connected with Zach Jordan on a brilliant pass on a 2-on-1, and Jordan buried it. Weiss got his first collegiate point on the play.
But SCSU answered right back in a hurry as Robby Jackson gave his team the lead back with a snipe from the left circle. Jack Ahcan added to the lead with a seeing-eye wrister from the slot as a power play expired, and Easton Brodzinski later joined the fun as he showed tremendous hustle leaving two Omaha skaters in his dust, followed his own shot and buried a long rebound to make it a 4-1 lead. The Mavericks never threatened again.
“The shift after a goal either way is huge. We focus on it a lot, and our response was really big,” Larson said. “For us to respond that way and gain the momentum back right away, I think was the turning point in the game.”
Patrick Newell, Blake Lizotte and Kevin Fitzgerald each had third-period goals to cap the game’s and weekend’s scoring. David Hrenak made 20 saves for St. Cloud State and Evan Weninger had 30 for Omaha.
The Mavericks dropped to 4-10-2 on the season with their third straight loss, and they are now 2-5-1 in the NCHC. The Huskies are 13-1-2 overall and 6-0-2 in conference play.
SCSU goal at 1:19: Blake Lizotte (5). Unassisted.
UNO goal at 5:03: Zach Jordan (5). Assisted by Tyler Weiss (1, first collegiate point) and Evan Weninger (1).
SCSU goal at 5:38: Robby Jackson (6). Assisted by Ryan Poehling (14) and Spencer Meier (5).
SCSU goal at 11:16: Jack Ahcan (2). Assisted by Nick Perbix (7) and Nick Poehling (4).
SCSU goal at 16:58: Easton Brodzinski (8). Assisted by Nick Poehling (5) and Perbix (8).
SCSU power-play goal at 2:33: Patrick Newell (10). Assisted by Sam Hetges (3) and Nolan Walker (11).
SCSU goal at 12:31: Blake Lizotte (6). Assisted by Newell (10) and Jimmy Schuldt (10).
SCSU goal at 16:11: Kevin Fitzgerald (7). Unassisted.
Power plays: UNO 0-3, SCSU 1-3.
Shots on goal: UNO 21, SCSU 37.