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NCHC Frozen Faceoff: Eyssimont Clutch Again with MVP Effort

Matt Christians

St. Cloud State freshman Mikey Eyssimont may still be a rookie, but he's quickly earning a reputation as a big game player for the Huskies. In January, Eyssimont took home MVP honors as he led the Huskies to their first ever North Star College Cup. On Saturday, he turned in two goals, including the game-winner, to lead the Huskies to their first ever NCHC Frozen Faceoff title and take home MVP honors for the tournament in a 3-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth.

Duluth came into tonight's game unsure of whether they would need a win to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and played like a team with their life on the line in the first period. They outshot the Huskies 11-5 in the first frame, and took a 1-0 lead when Carson Soucy tapped home a backdoor pass from Willie Raskob at the 13:03 mark.

But Eyssimont and the Huskies bounced back in the second period. Eyssimont buried a nice feed from Ethan Prow to knot the score at 8:59 of the second. Then Eyssimont struck again in the final minute of the period when he battled for a loose puck in front of the net, and scored a highlight reel from his knees off a back boards rebound.

From that point on, the Huskies controlled the game, adding an insurance goal from Patrick Russell at 5:09 of the third period. Charlie Lindgren stopped nine shots in the third, giving him 33 total saves for the game to secure the victory.

The win was St. Cloud State's first ever at the Frozen Faceoff, and secured them the number two overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a likely spot close to home in the St. Paul regional next weekend. The loss, which snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Bulldogs proved not to be fatal, as Minnesota's loss in the Big Ten championship was enough for them to sneak into the last at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Notes and Thoughts:

-One of the most endlessly fascinating and frustrating things about the game of hockey is the way such minor decisions can have such a huge impact on the game. Duluth absolutely controlled the first 28 minutes of this game. It was very reminiscent of the way they handled St. Cloud State in St. Cloud in late February. But one sequence completely flipped the game.

St. Cloud State had their best shift of the game, creating two scoring opportunities and forcing Minnesota Duluth to ice the puck with about 11:30 left in the second period. It wasn't a no-brainer decisions, but it wouldn't have been unprecedented for Minnesota Duluth to take their timeout there and regroup with some fresh legs on the ice.

On the ensuing play, St. Cloud State was able to establish their cycle and as Ethan Prow skated the puck from the point down the boards, an SCSU teammate set a definite pick on the UMD defender, allowing Prow the time and space to find Eyssimont for the Huskies first goal. It was the type of offensive zone interference most would characterize as a soft call if the official makes it, but was something you'd call 100 times out of 100 if you knew it would lead to the puck ending up in the back of the net.

-Eyssimont's second goal was a beauty. Everyone knew Eyssimont could score at the youth level. He led the T1EHL U16 in scoring when he committed to the Huskies. But there were definitely some questions about if he could translate that success to the college level at his size. On his second goal, he outbattles 6'6" 230 lbs. defenseman Brendan Kotyk for position in front of the net, and then makes a tremendous play his knees to put the puck in the net. I'd say those questions are being answered.

Another underrated facet of that play is the extremely heavy shot of Jimmy Schuldt creating that ricochet off the back boards to the front of the net for Eyssimont to put it back in.

-I was super impressed with Duluth's 'KFC' line of Tony Cameranesi centering Karson Kuhlman and Austin Farley. There might not be two faster players in all of college hockey than Cameranesi and Kuhlman and that presents a match-up problem any team. Providence has a great defense, but I could see that line giving them fits.

-One has to wonder if word of Michigan's win made it back to the UMD bench. Michigan didn't ice the game until right before the start of the third period, and generally, coaches try to keep that type of info from their players. But the Bulldogs did not look like a team whose season was on the line in the third period, which it wasn't. It's remarkable that they earned an at-large bid after three losses in a week to Bemidji State and a pair vs. North Dakota dropped them to 11-14-5 on the year. Going from mid-20s in the Pairwise with a month left in the season to an at-large bid is an outlier that will be talked about for years to come when it comes to that sort of thing.

Fancy Stats

Shots on Goal: SCSU: 5-8-5-18 UMD: 11-14-9-34

Even strength shot attempts: SCSU: 16-14-9-39-39.8%    UMD: 21-22-16-59-60.2%

Prime scoring area attempts: SCSU: 6-11-5-22  UMD: 6-10-7-23

What do the numbers tell us?

The Bulldogs controlled possession in this one, but couldn't make it count on the scoreboard. For the second straight night, St. Cloud State really packed it in in the third period, and while it was ugly, it worked.

Final Scoring

First Period

13:03 Carson Soucy from Willie Raskob and Tony Cameranesi 1-0 Minnesota Duluth

With Minnesota Duluth buzzing in the St. Cloud State zone, Raskob took the puck at the right point and fired a slap shot to a wide open Carson Soucy on the backdoor after Soucy had circled down from the point on the cycle.

Second Period

8:59 Mikey Eyssimont from Ethan Prow and Patrick Russell 1-1 tie

Prow brought the puck deep down the left boards on the cycle and broke free thanks to a pick set by a teammate. That gave him the opportunity to fire a puck across the crease to Eyssimont, who banged home the goal.

19:24 Mikey Eyssimont from Jimmy Schuldt and Kalle Kossila 2-1 St. Cloud State

Schuldt fired a slap shot from the left point that ricocheted off the back boards and in front of the net on the opposite side. Eyssimont fought his way into position, and from his knees, backhanded the puck into the net.

Third Period

5:09 Patrick Russell from Kalle Kossila and Jon Lizotte 3-1 St. Cloud State

Russell took a pass from Kossila on a 3-on-2 in the Duluth zone. He tried to make a behind-the-back to his left wing, but a UMD defender deflected the pass and it went over Kaskisuo for the goal.