Last season, an ECAC team came into St. Cloud for a non-conference series. On Friday night, they scored two early goals, and after a second period pushback by St. Cloud, they iced the game in the third period for a 4-1 win. That team, the Dutchmen of Union College, ended up winning the national title.
While it's way too soon to place Colgate in that same category as Union, their 3-1 win over the Huskies followed an eerily similar script. The Raiders dominated the first period and jumped out to a 2-0 lead after twenty minutes thanks to goals by Joe Wilson and Evan Peterson. The Huskies came roaring back with a strong period, and a power play goal by Joey Benik put the game within reach heading into the third period. But Kyle Baun's third period goal all but put the game out of reach.
The Raiders were stout on defense all night, giving St. Cloud very little to work with offensively. They were fast, physical, and on a night when seemingly every other highly-ranked team looked over-rated, they looked every bit deserving of their high national ranking.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow evening for game two of their series.
Shots on goal: St. Cloud 34 Colgate 23
Corsi(even strength shot attempts): St. Cloud 50 Colgate 43 (53% to 47%)
Scoring zone shot attempts: St. Cloud 24 Colgate: 18
-This didn't feel like an October hockey game. It wasn't always picture-perfect hockey, but the effort and intensity was definitely there. While I'm sure there are some areas St. Cloud would like to tighten up going forward, I don't think there's any reason to panic. This was a good hockey game between two good teams.
-Another banner was raised to the rafters at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center tonight, honoring St. Cloud State's NCHC regular season championship last year. In a bit of an interesting--and very smart twist--the Huskies skated out on the ice about 10 minutes before game time for the banner raising ceremony, then retreated back to their locker room for a few minutes before re-emerging for their normal pre-game routine. It often feels like teams come out a bit flat when they have to stand out on the ice for a long ceremony, and it knocks them out of their normal routine. Of course, judging by St. Cloud's first period, it didn't help all that much.
-The big story of the game was Colgate freshman Evan Peterson scoring the game-winning goal on his former Lakeville North high school teammate Charlie Lindgren. Peterson was a player that drew very little attention coming out of high school, but found his place in an Ontario junior league and developed into a very nice player. Again, like Union last year, this Colgate team is deep with players that were overlooked as younger players, but have matured into very solid, dependable hockey players.
-Colgate had a fantastic start. The puck seemed glued to the wall behind St. Cloud's net for the first five minutes of the game. That type of grinding play in the Husky zone ended up leading to Peterson's game-winning goal.
When St. Cloud did get the puck in Colgate's end, the Raiders did a fantastic job of breaking the puck. St. Cloud pressured along the walls on their forecheck, and Colgate's defense did an excellent job at picking up the center and hitting him for a quick breakout pass. St. Cloud adjusted their forecheck for the second period and was much more effective at keeping the puck in their end.
-Defensive breakdowns were the big culprit for St. Cloud on both first period goals, with their third defensive pairing on the ice for both of them. That's an area of concern for the Huskies going forward, though it should at least be mitigated some when Mika Ilvonen joins the team after his NCAA suspension.
-Another similarity to the St. Cloud/Union game last year was the way Colgate played a near-perfect third period. They sat back in the third period and made it very difficult for St. Cloud to move the puck through the neutral zone. When the Huskies were able to move the puck into the Colgate end, they rarely did so with numbers, and weren't able to generate much more than weak shots from the perimeter.
-As much as they were held quiet tonight, there was a lot I liked about St. Cloud's line-up. Kalle Kossila didn't show up on the scoresheet, but he was dangerous all night. He could be in for a breakout year if he plays like that consistently. St. Cloud's third line finished the night a -1, but were consistently the most dangerous line for the Huskies, led by Joe Rehkamp's tremendous speed. Depth at forward will be an asset for this team.
Among the newcomers, freshman Patrick Russell saw time on the first power play. He's got a big frame that St. Cloud is going to use in front of the net on the power play. He got better as the game went on, almost tying the game at two apiece early in the third period, then using his strength to get off a nice shot in traffic on the power play later in the third period.
-In goal, I don't think Charlie Lindgren had his best game, which is a little concerning. He only gave up three goals, and he didn't have much shot on the first two, but got saved by a goal post in the second period on a saveable shot, and then gave up the back-breaking third goal on a shot he probably should stop.
Colgate's Charlie Finn, meanwhile was impressive. He's a small guy, but plays big, challenging shooters well.
-It was great to be back covering college hockey for another season, and this was a fun way to start off the season. I'm hoping to see as good a game against tomorrow night.
9:26-- Joe Wilson from Mike Borkowski and Jake Kulevich 1-0 Colgate
On a transition rush, St. Cloud's defense collapsed too low as Borkowski slowed down at the top of the cirlces. Borkowski made a pass to Wilson, who was all alone on the weak side, and simply had to redirect the puck into the open net.
11:44-- Evan Peterson from Daniel Gentzler and Andrew Black 2-0 Colgate
Colgate's Black forced a turnover behind the St. Cloud net. He knocked the puck over to Gentzler, who made a quick pass to Peterson in front of the net. Peterson fired a quick shot that beat Lindgren for the goal.
3:57-- Joey Benik from Jonny Brodzinski and Patrick Russell (power play) 2-1 Colgate
Brodzinski picked up the puck in the right corner, then circled around the Colgate net and found Benik in the slot. Benik wrister the puck over Finn.
7:59-- Kyle Baun from John Lidgett and Ryan Johnston 3-1 Colgate
Baun spun with the puck in the right circle and fired a hard wrist shot that deflected off Lindgren's blocker and into the net.