A pair of goals 1:11 apart early in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and helped St. Cloud State to a 4-2 victory over Miami on Friday night at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
After a scoreless first period, Gordie Green cashed in on his own rebound during the game’s first power play to give Miami a 1-0 lead.
Late in the second period, St. Cloud State received 30 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time. Though the two-man advantage yielded no shots for the Huskies, they were able to capitalize on the carryover 5-on-4 advantage when Ryan Poehling tipped in a shot by Dennis Cholowski to even the game.
With critical league points on the line, St. Cloud State came out strong to start the third period and were rewarded for their effort. Mikey Eyssimont put the Huskies ahead with a nice wrist shot goal past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, and Robby Jackson followed that up shortly after with a tip-in for his 10th goal of the year for some much-needed insurance.
Miami would make it interesting when Kiefer Sherwood buried a power play extra attacker goal past Jeff Smith with 32 seconds remaining, but Jimmy Schuldt iced the game with a rink-long empty-net goal to seal the victory.
The win temporarily moves St. Cloud State into fifth place in the NCHC, passing Omaha, who lost tonight. Miami, meanwhile, remains in seventh place in the league, now trailing the Huskies by four points, albeit still with two games in hand.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night to conclude their series.
Notes and Thoughts
-This was a very important win for St. Cloud State. They’re still clinging to hopes of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and came into this weekend likely needing to win five out of their last six to have a decent shot of doing so. With a road trip to Denver still on the schedule, that made tonight as close to a must-win as you can get.
For about 35 minutes though, this one had the feel of the type of game the Huskies have let slip away throughout the season. The Huskies controlled play in the first half of the game, but let some golden opportunities slip by. Jon Lizotte missed a tip-in on a wide open net in the first period, Will Borgen missed a one-timer on a wide open net during a delayed penalty in the second.
And when Miami had back-to-back penalties called on them late in the second period—thanks to an egregious and dumb penalty behind the play by Louie Belpedio—St. Cloud State’s power play looked dreadful. They gave up a short-handed breakaway—don’t underestimate the great save by Jeff Smith on that; that’s a game-changer, and could end up being a season-changer—and couldn’t generate a shot with 30 seconds of two-man advantage.
But they got bailed out by a really nice tip-in by Ryan Poehling to tie the game, and really change the tenor of the game heading into the final period.
-Then, in the decisive third period, St. Cloud State came out of the locker room and played maybe their best five minutes of hockey of the whole season. They got the two goals, and just missed on two other golden opportunities. They were really aggressive and asserted themselves physically, which led to a couple penalties, but when you’re playing hard the way they were, those penalties are a lot easier to kill.
The bottom line is they came up big in a really big moment for them. Of course, the Huskies have won on Friday night each of the past four weekends, only to come up short on each of the four Saturdays. It will be interesting to see if they can match this effort tomorrow night.
-As for Miami, a loss here mostly kills whatever dim hopes they had at an at-large bid. Technically they could still run the table with a win tomorrow night, then sweeping Denver, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that they don’t.
The big key for Miami at this point is getting out of seventh place in the league and avoiding a trip to either Minnesota Duluth or Denver in the first round. Not that Western Michigan or North Dakota would be much more palatable, but their odds would certainly be better. Winning tomorrow and keeping St. Cloud State within reach in the standings is absolutely crucial if they hope to do that.
-Ryan Poehling is an interesting player to watch. Since he’s eligible for the Draft this summer, he’s being watched very closely every night by myself, and about a dozen or so scouts here every night. Poehling very rarely makes a high-end skill play with the puck, but he’s very good at getting in the right spot and getting tips and deflections of the puck. I’ll have to go back and check, but at least four of his seven goals have come on plays like that.
-Miami’s Kiefer Sherwood isn’t a player that gets talked about a lot, but two points tonight now gives him 30 points in 27 games this season, which is top-40 points per game nationally. Sherwood isn’t big, and his skating might hold him back at the next level, but I’ve always loved his quick hands and strong stick that gives him a really effective shot.
4:04 Gordie Green from Louie Belpedio and Kiefer Sherwood (power play) 1-0 Miami
Belpedio’s shot from the top of the point made it through traffic and Green was alone in front of the net to cash in on the rebound. Smith made a good save to stop the first shot, but Green was able to lift the second attempt over him.
17:01 Ryan Poehling from Dennis Cholowski and Robby Jackson (power play) 1-1 tie
Cholowski took a knee-high wrist shot from right point that Poehling tipped in front of the net and directed under the pads of Larkin for the goal.
2:35 Mikey Eyssimont from Patrick Newell and Ryan Poehling 2-1 St. Cloud State
Eyssimont took a pass on the left wing from Newell and toe-dragged the puck towards the middle of the ice into the slot and fired a wrist shot past Larkin.
3:46 Robby Jackson from Jon Lizotte and Niklas Nevalainen 3-1 St. Cloud State
Lizotte took a shot from the point that a screened Larkin never saw. Jackson tipped the puck and redirected it into the net.
19:28 Kiefer Sherwood from Louie Belpedio and Anthony Louis (power play extra attacker) 3-2 St. Cloud State
Miami worked the puck around the perimeter on their power play to Sherwood at the left circle and he one-timed a slap shot that beat Smith high.
19:47 Jimmy Schuldt unassisted (empty net) 4-2 St. Cloud State
After icing the puck shooting for the empty net, St. Cloud State won the puck in their own zone and Schuldt tried a long shot again that hit the net.