Bemidji State was a wonderful story, winning the tournament in their first appearance at the North Star College Cup last year, then upsetting Minnesota last night to stay undefeated in the tournament. But their plucky narrative was no match for the juggernaut St. Cloud State Huskies, who handed the Beavers their first loss in the tournament, to take the third annual North Star College Cup championship by a score of 5-2.
The Huskies set the tone early when Joey Benik collected his own rebound on a shot off the glass for a goal to put the Huskies ahead 1-0 just 1:20 into the game. Benik added a second goal later in the period to extend the lead.
The Huskies would score twice in the second period to take a commanding and comfortable 4-0 lead after 40 minutes of play. The Beavers would break the shutout midway through the third period, but Mikey Eyssimont tacked on an empty-netter to quash any hopes of a further comeback. Phillip Marinaccio tacked on a late power play goal to bring the game to its' final score.
St. Cloud State joined Minnesota and Bemidji State as the third different champion of the North Star Cup in three years.
Notes and Thoughts:
-There's not much to say about this one, except a really, really good team beat an okay team. The numbers may be lopsided, but don't even begin to tell the story of how much St. Cloud State dominated this game. It took minutes for Bemidji State to get their first shot attempt, while St. Cloud State built an early lead, and never looked the least bit threatened. It felt like the Huskies took their foot off the gas a little bit once they got up 2-0 but still had more than enough offensive firepower to control the game and add to their lead.
The Huskies made this look academic, and once again, looked like maybe the best team in the nation.
-If there was anything resembling a turning point in this game, it came in the second period with Bemidji State trailing 2-0. They had their best scoring chance of the game when the Fitzgerald triplets teamed up a rush that resulted in a Myles Fitzgerald puck deflecting off Lindgren and going off the post. Later that shift, the Huskies forced a turnover in the neutral zone and added to their lead to make it 3-0 and definitively put the game out of reach.
-This year's iteration of the Beavers isn't like last year's team, which upset last year's #1 team in Minnesota State to win this tournament. Last year's Bemidji State team was capable of playing a shutdown defensive style. This year's team....not so much. And St. Cloud State is a team that can really make the opposition pay for small defensive miscues, like a backchecker picking up the wrong forward on Benik's second goal.
It also didn't help that Bemidji State was coming off the late game yesterday, and it was a tough, late win where they really had to burn a lot of their top guys to get the win. It just didn't seem like they had as much in the tank tonight.
-Everybody looked good for St. Cloud State tonight. I struggle to think of the last time I saw any team regularly move the puck the way they do in the offensive zone. But in particular, the second line of Benik-Morley-Newell was flying all night and created a lot of chances early, including the two goals in the first period that made this game a lot less interesting than it could have been.
-Sad moment in the game's final minute when Robby Jackson took a knee-to-knee hit from Bemidji State's Dan Billett and limped off the ice. Billett got a five-minute major and should see a suspension for the hit, if only because it was a cheap hit at a time when the game was already over.
-Announced attendance was just over 10,000, but that was clearly a tickets sold number. The crowd never felt more than a few thousand for either game, which is a huge disappointment. This could be a great tournament. Next week, I'll try to diagnose why it isn't.
Shots on goal: SCSU: 5-10- BSU: 3-4-
Even strength shot attempts: SCSU: 14-14- BSU: 10-6-
Prime scoring area attempts: SCSU: 6-7- BSU: 3-1-
What do the numbers tell us?
Not bothering with the third period, which mucks up the numbers due to score effects. Bemidji State had 27 shot attempts in the third period after just 16 in the first two periods. But like I said above, this tells part of the story of how much St. Cloud State dominated the meaningful part of this game, but doesn't even give the full picture of how lopsided this was.
1:20 Joey Benik from David Morley and Patrick Newell 1-0 St. Cloud State
Benik took a shot off the glass and rebound deflected back in front of the crease right to Benik who tapped it into the open net.
12:57 Joey Benik from Patrick Newell and Ethan Prow 2-0 St. Cloud State
Newell took the puck deep down the left wing on a 3-on-2 and dropped the puck to an open Joey Benik who fired a wrist shot that beat Bitzer for the goal.
5:23 Patrick Russell from Mikey Eyssimont and Kalle Kossila 3-0 St. Cloud State
Kalle Kossila forced a turnover in the neutral zone with a nice open ice hit. Eyssimont picked up the puck and entered the offensive zone up the middle of the ice. He slid a pass to Russell on the left wing, who fired a wrist shot that beat Bitzer
14:18 Kalle Kossila from Patrick Russell and Niklas Nevalainen 4-0 St. Cloud State
The Huskies got a clean 3-on-2 break into the BSU zone. Russell carried the puck in on the right wing and flipped a drop pass to Kossila, who walked right down the slot and buried a wrist shot past Bitzer.
9:04 Kyle Bauman from Markus Gerbrandt 4-1 St. Cloud State
Gerbrandt won a puck behind the net and fed it out to Bauman in front of the net, who slid a shot along the ice under Lindgren.
16:31 Mikey Eyssimont unassisted (empty net) 5-1 St. Cloud State
Eyssimont scored an empty-netter from center ice.
18:31 Phillip Marinaccio from Kyle Bauman and Brendan Harms (power play) 5-2 St. Cloud State
Marinaccio picked up a rebound on a wrist shot from the left point and steered it into the goal.