St. Cloud State moved one step closer to adding a conference playoff championship to their NCHC regular season title with a 3-1 victory over Colorado College in the first game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals. But with the Huskies’ eyes on a bigger prize in next weekend’s national tournament, they may have suffered a devastating blow after losing star center Ryan Poehling in the early stages of the game.
With their season on the line, needing two victories this weekend to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament, Colorado College struck first. On the power play, Westin Michaud took a pass from teammate Trey Bradley on a zone entry and beat St. Cloud State goalie David Hrenak to the short side.
But the top-ranked Huskies had an answer. Shortly after Colorado College’s Michaud was whistled for a penalty for playing a face-off with his hand, the Huskies scored on the ensuing power play with a shot by Hobey Baker finalist Patrick Newell. The Huskies would take the lead 24 seconds later when freshman Nolan Walker took a pass from Jon Lizotte in front of the net and scored.
The Huskies never looked back after taking the lead. Robby Jackson added a goal in the second period, and Jack Ahcan added a goal in the third.
Colorado College would get a late opportunity to get back in the game when a major penalty to SCSU’s Jon Lizotte gave the Tigers 1:25 of 5-on-3 power play, which the Tigers turned into a 6-on-3 by pulling goalie Alex Leclerc with over nine minutes left in the game. But they could only convert once on the extended man advantage when Bryan Yoon’s shot from the point beat a screened David Hrenak. But St. Cloud State’s Nick Poehling would cancel out the goal with one of his own in the closing moments.
St. Cloud State advances to tomorrow’s Frozen Faceoff championship to play the winner of the second semifinal between Minnesota Duluth and Denver. Colorado College will play in tomorrow afternoon’s consolation game.
Notes and Thoughts:
-The big story in this one was the injury to Ryan Poehling. Midway through the first period, Poehling appeared to catch an edge as he skated towards the net and slid into the back boards hard. It looked like the side of Poehling’s head made pretty direct contact with the boards and he was in a lot of pain and very woozy as he was helped off the ice. He did not return to the game. No word yet on his future status, but it would be very surprising if he plays tomorrow. That would be a huge, huge loss for St. Cloud State if he has to miss the NCAA Tournament.
-Colorado College needed to play a tight, low-scoring game if they had hope of pulling off the upset and continuing their season. They got a great start by taking an early 1-0 lead. But they were unable to hold it. It fell apart when Westin Michaud played an offensive zone penalty with his hand—an automatic penalty—and the Huskies scored on the ensuing power play and immediately after to take the lead. That’s the type of self-inflicted wound that is rare for Colorado College, and the type you can’t make against a talented team like St. Cloud State.
-The Tigers did have chances in the latter stages of the game, but too often it felt like they got way too cute with them, choosing to make an extra pass that inevitably bounced off the stick or was broken up. They’re not the type of team that play that way.
It’s also worth noting that St. Cloud State goalie David Hrenak was very solid in goal. I’ve had my concerns about Hrenak’s play this season, but he looked very sharp here heading into the NCAAs.
-Blake Lizotte was all over the ice for the Huskies in the offensive zone tonight. Before last season, Lizotte was my dark horse pick for NCHC rookie of the year, but he put up a respectable but unremarkable 27 points. His two points tonight though gives him 39 on the year, which puts him five points ahead of any other sophomore in the NCHC. He’s a legit, top-level scorer in this league.
-Attendance was sure to be a focus with this being the first Frozen Faceoff without North Dakota. My thoughts on the attendance: I’ve seen worse. There was a pretty good showing of St. Cloud State fans here, which made the lower bowl not feel empty.