ST. CLOUD – It was (almost) as ideal as #4 St. Cloud State and new head coach Brett Larson could have hoped for in Friday night’s home opener.
Four different Huskies lit the lamp to lead SCSU to a 4-1 victory over the Northern Michigan Wildcats at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, and it very well could have been a bigger victory had the flow of the game not been disrupted by a flurry of penalties near the end of the second period. Still, they did what they had to do when they were shorthanded.
“Maybe we think it just might be a little bit of just trying to hard, to be honest,” Larson said. “Our guys are just playing really, really hard hockey right now. I think we’re just taking a few penalties that are basically just ‘trying-too-hard’ penalties, almost.
“[The penalty kill was] good. Penalty kill is mostly heart and willing to sacrifice, and guys did that. They laid down in front of pucks, they did whatever it took.”
One of those penalties was a five-minute major and a game misconduct called on defenseman Jack Ahcan for contact to the head, and the ensuing power play led to a goal by Wildcats forward Griffin Loughran late in the second period. Larson and the coaching staff did not agree with the call.
“We reviewed it. We’ll see what happens,” Larson said.
St. Cloud, playing in its official home debut this season and first of new head coach Brett Larson, got the scoring started on a beautiful offensive zone setup, ending in a Jon Lizotte shot from the point being deflected in off the stick of Jake Wahlin.
The Huskies, thanks in large part to tremendous pressure directly in front of NMU goaltender Atte Tolvanen (29 saves), wasted no time in putting up a pair of rebound goals in the second period to extend their lead to 3-0, and they were able to hold the Wildcats without a shot on goaltender David Hrenak (20 saves) for the first 11 minutes of the period.
“All four of our lines can play below the circles, so if we get the puck below the circles, we’re a good team,” Blake Lizotte said.
Just when it seemed like the game was about to get completely out of hand, the penalties started coming late in the second period and the Huskies saw their lead shrink to two.
NMU was unable to get anything going after the long power play expired, and freshman forward Sam Hentges finally finished it off with his first collegiate goal with nine minutes left. Overall, SCSU was happy with the result-and happy to be playing back at home in front of their usual raucous fanbase.
“I thought tonight the guys really sacrificed for each other and played hard,” Larson said.
St. Cloud State will go for the sweep of Northern Michigan at 6:07 on Saturday night.
SCSU goal at 8:38: Jake Wahlin (1). Assisted by Jon Lizotte (1) and Nolan Walker (2).
SCSU goal at 2:25: Easton Brodzinski (1). Assisted by Jack Ahcan (6) and Robby Jackson (1).
SCSU power-play goal at 8:05: Ryan Poehling (1). Assisted by Brodzinski (1) and Blake Lizotte (2).
NMU power-play goal at 19:49: Griffin Loughran (1). Assisted by Ryan Black (1) and Mitchel Slattery (1).
SCSU goal at 10:59: Sam Hentges (1). Assisted by Blake Lizotte (3) and Newell (3).
Power plays: NMU 1-6, SCSU 1-5.
Shots on goal: NMU 21, SCSU 33.