#2 St. Cloud State finished off a sweep of #5 Denver on Saturday evening with a 4-3 win, the same final score as Friday night.
Here were my three takeaways from Saturday’s win for St. Cloud State.
- Bounce Back
After a tough night on Friday, it seemed inevitable that Denver would try to bounce back with a better effort on Saturday night. And sure enough, that’s what they did.
Denver made some personnel changes to bring some fresh legs to the bottom of their forward group. They changed up some coverage in the defensive zone, and most importantly came out with renewed vigor.
As a result, Denver controlled the early stages of this game. They were able to set up in the St. Cloud State offensive zone for long stretches, something they weren’t able to do much on Friday night. And that pressure paid off for them. David Hrenak stopped an early Tyler Ward breakaway, but the Pioneers converted twice on goals by Cole Guttman and Liam Finlay to take an early 2-0 lead.
But St. Cloud State is the deeper, more mature team right now, and they were able to push back. Nick Perbix answered back for St. Cloud State 37 seconds later, and from there, the Huskies controlled the game while Denver tried to stay in survival mode.
The Pioneers were able to keep it tied 3-3 heading into the third period, but much of the third period had a feeling of grim inevitability of the Huskies continuing to press and press for the game-winning goal while Denver never generated anything of note on the St. Cloud State goal. That inevitability finally came when Jack Ahcan hit Kevin Fitzgerald for the game-winning goal.
Final shots ended up 41 to 18, including a 16-3 edge in the second period. Like I said last night, I don’t think there’s a better team in the country than St. Cloud State right now.
2. Penalty Fest
Part of St. Cloud State’s big advantage came in the second period came when they were seemingly always on the power play. Jared Resseguie was given a five-minute major for kneeing St. Cloud State’s Jack Ahcan, which seemed kind of iffy to my eyes. Denver wasn’t happy with a couple other calls in that period either, and I would tend to side with them.
The most interesting part of the game came during Resseguie’s major. Denver had to kill off a few seconds of 4x3 power play, and then about 45 seconds of 5x3 power play. To add to the difficulty, forward Colin Staub broke his stick blocking a shot and Michael Davies lost his stick, leaving defenseman Ian Mitchell as the only Pioneer with a stick in his hands for most of the 5x3 kill. The Pioneers somehow managed to survive that without giving up a goal.
3. Parting Shot
There was a bit of drama in the closing moments of the game. A series of penalties left Denver with a 4x3(5x3 with the goalie pulled) advantage in the final 30 seconds of the game. The Pioneers got a couple decent shots off, including one chance from Cole Guttman to complete a potential hat trick, but could not convert.
In the aftermath of the game, there was a bit of a skirmish with a handful of Huskies finding their way to Guttman, who infamously backed out on a commitment to St. Cloud State shortly before the early signing period last fall to sign with Denver. There were a lot of words exchanged and Kevin Fitzgerald got in a good whack with his stick(Fitzgerald was assessed a minor for slashing after the game. The play was reviewed and apparently was very close to being more than that.) It ended with St. Cloud State’s Robby Jackson waving goodbye to Guttman and getting in a few final words. If anyone was wondering if there was still a little bad blood there, consider the issue settled.
That’s something I like about this St. Cloud State team. Whether it was last year ending in disappointment, their head coach leaving for a supposedly better job, or a number of players backing out on commitments for different schools, there seems to be a bit of a chip on this team’s collective shoulder. When they bring intensity like they did this weekend, it’s hard to see many teams beating them.