ST. CLOUD – Just one more regular-season home game remains for the St. Cloud State Huskies.
If they intend to use that game to celebrate a regular-season championship with their beloved fanbase, they’ll need to get past the defending national champions for the first time this season. And if Friday night’s game is a telltale sign, it will not be easy.
A late goal by Adam Plant helped #3 Denver rally for a 1-1 tie with #1 St. Cloud State as the Huskies failed to put a sizable margin between themselves and the Pioneers in the NCHC standings.
While they can still win the conference title this weekend, a lackluster third period didn’t do SCSU any favors, as head coach Bob Motzko stated after the game.
“We got back on our heels,” Motzko said. “We did such a good job for two periods of battling in scrums, coming up with pucks, then we got a little tentative. [Denver’s] a very veteran team. We make one mistake there in the third and they tie it up.
“We were doing things in the first two periods [that] we stopped doing in the third. And that led to us kinda [being] back on our heels.”
Still, other than a bad third period in which they didn’t have a shot on goal at all, Motzko liked what he saw.
“It was a good hockey game,” he said.
As for Denver, they were able to salvage the draw after completely dominating the third period and containing SCSU’s offense to move to 2-0-1 on the season against the Huskies. Head coach Jim Montgomery agreed with his coaching counterpart on the overall game.
“I thought it was a great game,” he said. “Both teams checked really well. It’s what you expect.”
It was clear that both the Pioneers and Huskies came out playing to win early. Both teams forechecked well and set up multiple scoring chances in a scoreless first period.
St. Cloud State increased their offensive intensity late in the second period, atoning for missing three earlier power-play opportunities and getting the all-important first goal as Blake Lizotte knocked home a centering feed from behind the net by Mikey Eyssimont.
But for whatever reason, the Huskies just couldn’t match that same intensity in the third period. They didn’t record a single shot on goal in the frame and the Pioneers’ forecheck kept SCSU on their heels and forced goaltender David Hrenak to make save after save. Denver finally tied it on a one-timer from the right point by Plant with 3:37 left.
St. Cloud State got back to their style of game in overtime but it wasn’t enough to get the win and Logan O’Connor eventually gave Denver the extra point in the conference standings with a goal in the 3-on-3 session.
The Huskies still have a chance to win their second Penrose Cup on Saturday night, but it’s going to take a better overall effort-and it starts with keeping Denver goaltender Tanner Jaillet busy.
“We played a little nervous [in the third period}. Then in the overtime we played again,” Motzko said. “So of course they’re gonna come at you when you kinda get back on our heels like we were.
“We did a really poor job of shooting the puck tonight. We shot high and over the net and didn’t shoot a few times. That’s something that we can get better at.”
The Pioneers don’t simply intend to just let the Huskies wrestle the trophy from their grasp though, and Montgomery knows what they have to do in order to prevent that.
“We gotta be better than we were tonight,” he said. “I thought the first two periods was our ‘B’ game that we had. In the third period, I thought we dug down. Tomorrow night we’re gonna have to be better.”
Jaillet made 19 saves for the Pioneers and Hrenak had 25 for the Huskies.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:07 PM CT on Saturday night. It is Senior Night for St. Cloud State.
SCSU goal at 14:03: Blake Lizotte (6). Assisted by Mikey Eyssimont (19) and Patrick Newell (19).
DU goal at 16:23: Adam Plant (3). Assisted by Troy Terry (22) and Henrik Borgstrom (22).
Power plays: DU 0-1, SCSU 0-3.
Shots on goal: DU 26, SCSU 20.