ST. CLOUD – The only main difference between Friday night’s game and Saturday night’s game? SCSU head coach Brett Larson did not believe his team played very well to begin the second game of the series.
But as has been the case just about all season so far, his team had an answer. And now they have another sweep to begin conference play.
Faced with an early-two goal deficit for the second straight night, #2 St. Cloud State rallied for the lead again and later broke a third-period tie to beat #5 Denver 4-3 on Saturday night at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, completing the NCHC sweep in front of 4,419 fans.
“It felt like a replay [of Friday night],” Larson said. “Another one-goal win. The guys are really doing a great job of sticking with things and fighting back.”
Kevin Fitzgerald scored the game-winning goal with 10:53 left in the third period, lifting the Huskies to their fourth sweep of the young season.
“I think we’re all pretty confident in the room,” Fitzgerald said after SCSU’s fourth straight comeback win.
Cole Guttman scored twice for Denver, which dropped their first two games of the season this weekend. Devin Cooley had another outstanding night with 37 saves, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a split. Pioneers coach David Carle believes he saw some growth from his team, however.
“There’s a lot of positives to take away,” Carle said. “We’re a group that’s always talked about. We gotta learn lessons. St. Cloud’s a Frozen Four caliber team, and we went toe-to-toe with them at times this weekend. [We’re] excited about a lot of parts of our game. There’s a lot of good things to be excited about for our young group. We’re nowhere near our ceiling yet.”
For the second straight night, Denver cracked the scoreboard first, and once again it was the former SCSU recruit Guttman as he perfectly redirected a Les Lancaster shot into the net six and a half minutes into the game. Liam Finlay later added to the lead as he buried a centering feed from Brett Stapley, who circled the net before dishing the puck out front.
With Denver (5-2-1, 2-2-0 NCHC) playing strong to start, St. Cloud State (9-1-0, 4-0-0 NCHC) needed a quick response to stop the bleeding and get back into the game, and that’s just what they got as Nick Perbix scored his first collegiate goal on a trickling shot from the right circle just 37 seconds after the Finlay marker.
“We just need to learn this lesson that we can’t come out slow,” Larson said. “Denver outworked us for the first period. They wanted it more than we did. It was clear that they were playing better than us, and we kinda got shocked into playing.”
After Denver’s Jared Resseguie took a questionable major kneeing penalty early in the second period, Blake Lizotte tied the game as he buried a centering feed from Ryan Poehling, and Easton Brodzinski later scored the third straight SCSU goal with a power-play tally of his own on a pretty redirect.
Guttman made sure that lead didn’t last long, scoring just over three minutes later on a wrist shot from the slot to make it 3-3 after two.
“It was nice to get it tied up going into the locker room,” Carle said. “If we could play in the first like we did both nights, we’d have an opportunity to win a hockey game.”
After Fitzgerald’s goal gave SCSU the lead back, it was mostly back-and-forth until the teams traded a ton of penalties in the final minutes, leading to a crazy but entertaining finish. This will be the only time these teams face each other this season, unless they meet in the conference playoffs.
St. Cloud State will stay home and welcome old WCHA rival Bemidji State next weekend in a nonconference series, while Denver will head home to host top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth.
DU goal at 6:38: Cole Guttman (4). Assisted by Les Lancaster (2) and Jarid Lukosevicius (5).
DU goal at 15:14: Liam Finlay (7). Assisted by Brett Stapley (6) and Tyler Ward (1).
SCSU goal at 15:51: Nick Perbix (1). Assisted by Nolan Walker (7) and Ryan Poehling (8).
SCSU power-play goal at 3:30: Blake Lizotte (3). Assisted by Ryan Poehling (9) and Jimmy Schuldt (7).
SCSU power-play goal at 14:21: Easton Brodzinski (5). Assisted by Robby Jackson (10) and Schuldt (8).
DU goal at 17:38: Cole Guttman (5). Assisted by Jared Resseguie (1).
SCSU goal at 9:07: Kevin Fitzgerald (3). Assisted by Jack Ahcan (11) and Jack Poehling (1).
Power plays: DU 0-3, SCSU 2-10.
Shots on goal: DU 18, SCSU 41.