In each of the past three weekends, St. Cloud State has won on Friday night, and then only scored a single goal in each of the following Saturday games, losing all three.
It looked like the Huskies were headed towards a similar fate for the fourth consecutive Saturday, until St. Cloud State freshman Jake Wahlin broke a 1-1 tie with 2:37 remaining in the third period to help lift St. Cloud State to a 3-1 victory over Miami and a very important sweep of their NCHC series against the RedHawks.
The first 40 minutes of tonight’s game followed the same script as last night’s battle. After a scoreless first period, Miami opened the scoring with a goal by Josh Melnick. But the RedHawks were whistled for a penalty 19 seconds after the goal, and St. Cloud State capitalized on the man advantage with a goal by captain Jimmy Schuldt.
St. Cloud State pressured heavily to start the third period once again, but tonight, could not find the go-ahead goal. This time, the game-winner came late when Nick Poehling carried the puck down the right wing into the Miami zone, stopped, and fired a hard cross-ice pass that Wahlin redirected past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin.
Jacob Benson sealed the sweep with an empty-net goal with just under a minute remaining the ice the win.
The win puts St. Cloud State into fourth place in the NCHC heading into their bye week next weekend. They sit two points ahead of fifth-place North Dakota, who will make up their two games in hand next weekend. The loss keeps Miami in seventh place in the league heading into a veritable gauntlet in the final three weekends with series against Denver, Minnesota Duluth, and North Dakota.
Notes and Thoughts
-There was a little bit of controversy early in this one—and there probably would have been a whole lot more if the result didn’t go the way it did—thanks to a controversial no-goal call against St. Cloud State’s Daniel Tedesco. Tedesco fired a puck from behind the goal at Ryan Larkin, who was tucked on the left post. When Larkin got up, the puck was across the line, and the overhead view sure made it look like the puck went straight in off the shot.
Ehhhhhhh. I don’t know if it’s 100% conclusive, but I’d put the percentage somewhere in the 90th percentile. I’m glad that call ended up not having more of an effect on the outcome of the game.
-The ice was definitely tilted in St. Cloud State’s favor all night. The Huskies outshot Miami 36-20. I’m sure some Miami folks would point to the 7-2 power play disparity in favor of the Huskies as part of the reason for that, but I think the penalties were a function of SCSU controlling the play and not the other way around. The Huskies had a lot of possession in the Miami zone, and that drew a lot of penalties. I think the officials would have liked to even up those penalty totals a little more, but never really had a chance.
-St. Cloud State only scored on one of their seven power play attempts, but otherwise did very little with their man advantages, including on a minute of 5-on-3 advantage. A lot of that was a function of Miami being extremely aggressive pressuring the puck on the power play and making it extremely difficult for the Huskies to get set up on the power play.
Of course the down side to that is that the one time the Huskies were able to get the puck off the wall, they were able to move it around quickly and set up Jimmy Schuldt for a wide open shot that he buried in the second period.
-For all of St. Cloud State’s zone time at 5-on-5, they weren’t able to generate much offense out of that. Miami played man-to-man defense against the St. Cloud State cycle all weekend rather than switching off defenders like most teams do. Combine that with good shot-blocking in front of their own net, and a good night from Ryan Larkin and Miami looked really good defensively.
-The one area St. Cloud State was able to be effective was in their transition. They were generating good chances off their rush all night, but were never quite able to get a stick on the puck to handle a tough pass until Wahlin buried his goal late.
-I can’t stress enough how important this sweep was for St. Cloud State. Coming into the weekend, it looked like they needed to win five out of six to have a good shot at an at-large. Now, winning three of their last four doesn’t look so daunting.
It’s also huge to earning home ice in the NCHC playoffs. They’re one point back of Western Michigan for third, and two ahead of North Dakota at fifth. Both of those teams have two games in hand, but they play each other next weekend, so they’ll have to split six points somehow. That means the Huskies are guaranteed to come out of next weekend in decent position against at least one of them for the last home ice spot.
-I also can’t stress enough how much the sweep hurts Miami. This weekend ends pretty much any hope of an at-large bid, and makes it incredibly difficult for them to dig their way out of a trip to either Denver or Minnesota Duluth in the playoffs. They’re basically relegated to the spoiler role in the final weeks of the season since they’ll play both Minnesota Duluth and Denver as they battle for the Penrose Cup.
5:46 Josh Melnick from Carson Meyer and Gordie Green 1-0 Miami
Melnick took a pass in the high slot from Meyer and took a high wrist shot that beat Smith.
7:09 Jimmy Schuldt from Niklas Nevalainen and Mikey Eyssimont (power play) 1-1 tie
St. Cloud State won the puck along the right wall and back to Nevalainen at the right point. He slid the puck over to Schuldt at the left point. Schuldt had time and space to skate the puck into the mid-circle and fired a half-slap shot into the upper corner of the net.
17:23 Jake Wahlin from Nick Poehling and Niklas Nevalainen 2-1 St. Cloud State
Poehling skated hard down the right wing and stopped at the top of the right circle, then fired a hard cross-ice pass to a streaking Wahlin and Wahlin deflected the puck into the goal.
19:04 Jacob Benson from Robby Jackson and Judd Peterson (empty net) 3-1 St. Cloud State
Jackson passed the puck to Benson in the neutral zone. Benson faked around the last Miami defender and scored the easy empty-net goal.