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St. Cloud State Earns a Split with 6-1 Win Over North Dakota

Matt Christians

North Dakota and St. Cloud State had split each of the 13 prior seasons played between the two in St. Cloud. After losing on Friday night, St. Cloud State held their end of the bargain to continue that streak with an impressive 6-1 win over North Dakota to split the weekend series and leave the two teams tied atop the NCHC standings, as they were when they came into the weekend.

Freshman Patrick Newell broke open a tight, defensive first period when he his pass attempt deflected off a North Dakota defender and into the net. The Huskies would break the game open in the second period with a pretty goal by Daniel Tedesco at 5:40 and another deflection goal by David Morley at 8:46.

It appeared the tide of the game might turn when the Huskies barely missed numerous opportunities to tack on a fourth goal, and then North Dakota's Troy Stecher scored at 14:21 of the period to cut the lead to 3-1. But whatever momentum the Fighting Hawks were starting to build was killed when North Dakota's Trevor Olson took a five minute major penalty and Niklas Nevalainen scored on the ensuing power play late in the period to ice the game.

Senior captain Ethan Prow and Grand Forks native Jacob Benson would add a third period goals to bring the game to its' final margin.

Both teams are now 5-1-0 in NCHC conference play and sit in a tie for first place in the league standings. North Dakota travels to Michigan State next weekend, while St. Cloud State will prepare for another rivalry series against Minnesota next weekend.

Notes and Thoughts

-Amidst a shaky performance for St. Cloud State last night, I singled out Patrick Newell as having a very good game in my game recap. Tonight, he was rewarded by being bumped up to St. Cloud State's top line, and he took advantage by being electric again tonight. He was rewarded with a first period goal that was a bit of a lucky bounce, but lucky bounces usually go to players that put themselves in good position. Newell showed up on the scoresheet again on St. Cloud State's third goal too. He's a high-energy player and very effective when he's flying around.

-A very tough night for North Dakota all around. They're still the most talented team I've seen this year(having not seen Quinnipiac, Harvard, Boston College, mind you). But they're not without flaws.The Fighting Hawks are very much a one line team right now. Last night, that was fine with the first line generating three big goals. But it's impossible for one line to carry a team every night, and North Dakota is getting nothing from their bottom three lines right now, which means there are going to be nights like this. Whenever North Dakota's top line was on the bench, the puck was in their own end of the rink, and when that line had a rough second period, everything imploded for the Fighting Hawks.

-For as much as St. Cloud State dominated the second period, it still felt like we were headed towards a fantastic finish. St. Cloud State had about ten golden opportunities to stick the knife in by going up 4-0 when Cam Johnson came into the game for North Dakota, and couldn't quite convert.  Then, on the other end, North Dakota got a goal to cut the lead to 3-1 and it felt like not putting the game away when they had the chance may come back to bite the Huskies.

But all that changed when Trevor Olson took a very unnecessary penalty on a late, high hit for a five minute major. I'm not sure the referees got a good look at the hit because it was behind the play, thus Olson only receiving five minutes for interference and not being ejected. But it might be something that gets a closer look by the league. Regardless, it was a killer for North Dakota. The Huskies finally got that fourth goal--North Dakota pressing and trying to create some offense on the PK rather than just icing the puck caused a turnover and a goal--and the loss of game time proved too much.

Even when St. Cloud State shrunk back into a shell in the third period, North Dakota couldn't sustain consistent pressure because they were really only effective when the top line was on the ice. Charlie Lindgren was also very good when he needed to be, making some big saves and stopping North Dakota from gaining much momentum.

-The unlikely career of Starting Goalie Matt Hrynkiw may have ended tonight. He was pulled after the third goal and replaced by Cam Johnson. Hrynkiw gave up two goals off tips and a highlight reel goal on the second goal, so it's tough to place too much blame on him. But this was a night that North Dakota needed an exceptional performance out of their goalie to carry them through a bad night, and Hrynkiw likely just doesn't have that ability.

-It was a sellout crowd of 5487 tonight, which was 437 more people than last night. It was a raucous, engaged crowd that made for a very fun atmosphere. Last weekend, I called the Minnesota-Minnesota State crowd an "NCAA Tourament atmosphere" in the most pejorative sense. Tonight felt like an old WCHA game, which I mean as a high compliment. Obviously North Dakota travels better than many and this is a close trip for them, but having fans of the opposing team in the building always makes the atmosphere better.

-Grand Forks native Jacob Benson scored his first collegiate goal against his hometown team. It was the sixth goal with under a minute left, so maybe not the storybook goal he dreamed of, but his goal did earn free wings from Buffalo Wild Wings for the crowd, which is heroic enough.

Fancy Stats

Shots on Goal: SCSU: 3-11-7     UND: 8-5-16

Even strength shot attempts: SCSU: 9-15-5     UND: 15-13-19

Prime scoring area attempts: SCSU: 3-11-5   UND: 2-2-17

What do the numbers tell us?

Obviously the third period pretties up North Dakota's numbers a little bit with St. Cloud State playing very conservative to protect a big lead. If you focus on the first two periods, you can where St. Cloud State dominated the second period. Perhaps not in terms of 5-on-5 possession, but look at the difference in prime scoring area attempts. North Dakota loves to fire a lot of pucks from the perimeter. When they're playing well, they're getting lots of deflections and rebounds like they did last night. When they're not, you see them with two prime scoring area attempts like they did in the first two periods.

Final Scoring

First Period

14:11 Patrick Newell from Robby Jackson and Niklas Nevalainen 1-0 St. Cloud State

Newell skated the puck into the zone down the left wing. He tried to flip a pass to a streaking Joey Benik down the middle of the ice, but the pass deflected off a North Dakota defender and on net, where it beat Hrynkiw to the short side.

Second Period

5:40 Daniel Tedesco from Nathan Widman and Patrick Russell 2-0 St. Cloud State

Tedesco capped off a beautiful passing play on a 3-on-2 when he deked around Hrynkiw as he crossed the net and slid a backhand into the goal.

8:46 David Morley from Patrick Newell and Jon Lizotte 3-0 St. Cloud State

Lizotte took a low shot/pass from the right point that Newell deflected  from the hash marks. Morley got deflected that deflection past Hrynkiw and into the net.

14:21 Troy Stecher from Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz 3-1 St. Cloud State

Boeser brought the puck into the zone and stopped at the top of the left circle. He held the puck and found Stecher trailing the play. Boeser's pass hit Stecher in the high slot and Stecher fired a low wrist shot past Charlie Lindgren.

18:35 Niklas Nevalainen from Blake Winiecki and Jimmy Schuldt (power play) 4-1 St. Cloud State

During some extended Husky pressure during a major penalty, Winiecki made a pass from behind the net to Nevalainen in the slot and his low shot snuck through Cam Johnson's legs for the goal.

Third Period

16:15 Ethan Prow from Joey Benik and Kalle Kossila (power play) 5-1 St. Cloud State

On the power play, Ethan Prow took a slap shot from the top of the point that found its' way through traffic and past Johnson.

19:05 Jacob Benson from Jon Lizotte and Jimmy Murray 6-1 St. Cloud State

Lizotte took a waist-high shot from the point that Benson deflected right in front of Johnson for the goal.