St. Cloud State defeated Denver 4-3 to take the first game of their weekend series on Friday night.
Here were my thoughts and takeaways from tonight’s game.
- SCSU dominance
This was a really good hockey game, as one would expect from a pair of team’s both ranked in the top five in the nation, but as the game progressed, it became clear that St. Cloud State was the far superior team.
Final shots ended 39-24, but I’m not sure that even shows the disparity in the final 30 minutes of this game. Denver caught a couple breaks early with a soft goal allowed by David Hrenak, a bad neutral zone turnover leading to a breakaway, and then a puck going through traffic on the power play to give Denver a 3-1 lead.
But while Denver was able to generate chances off transitions, it was St. Cloud State’s ability to deliver body blow after body blow by setting up in the Denver zone and making them defend for long stretches. The Huskies generated a lot of power play opportunities early in the game by out-working Denver and beating guys to spots to draw calls. That eventually wore Denver down.
That’s no disrespect to Denver, who is a very good team. But this St. Cloud State team looks like it could be even better than last year. I’ve now seen all three of the top three teams in the polls, and St. Cloud State looks a notch above the other two.
2. You Win Some, You Lose Some
The early story of the game was Denver freshman Cole Guttman scoring the first goal of the game. Guttman was at one time committed to play at St. Cloud State, and was reportedly the center of a mid-ice squabble last season between now-departed head coaches Bob Motzko and Jim Montgomery.
Of course the irony of that interaction was that months prior, Motzko hadn’t shown such reverence to the Marquess of Queensbury’s recruiting rules when he solicited a commitment from a player formerly committed to Alaska-Anchorage named Nolan Walker.
As it turned out, Walker would end up being the key player tonight, scoring a pair of goals and adding a pretty assist on the game-tying goal.
One of my biggest concerns for Denver coming into the season was how the team would do in the absence of goalie Filip Larsson, who is out indefinitely with a lower body injury. The Pioneers were left with a junior walk-on starting in goal that put up meh numbers in the NAHL and BCHL. There was definitely potential for this early stretch of the season to be a disaster Denver couldn’t recover from.
But Devin Cooley was outstanding tonight, making 35 stops and keeping this game much closer than it should have been. The Pioneers look like they will be fine until whenever Larsson can ascend to the starting job.