ST. CLOUD – The script seemed to be the same as Saturday night: the RedHawks raced out to a two-goal lead after one period, the Huskies furiously rallied to tie it, and overtime would be the only way to decide a winner. Saturday night’s script had Miami winning in the extra session.
Would the same be said for Sunday?
Not if SCSU forward Mikey Eyssimont had anything to say about it. He wrote his own ending for this one and now the Huskies are moving on.
Eyssimont’s second goal of the game capped a big night for him and top-ranked St. Cloud State survived 4-3 in overtime over Miami on Sunday night at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center to advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
Eyssimont is now a member of the 100-point club at SCSU, but winning this series and advancing in the conference playoffs has to feel a lot sweeter.
“Missing out last year was really hard,” he said. “We’re gonna go have fun next weekend.”
The goal for Eyssimont almost didn’t happen, though. Just seconds before his winner, the RedHawks had a prime scoring chance of their own as Kiefer Sherwood picked up a St. Cloud turnover and fed Casey Gilling out in front of the net, but Gilling’s shot somehow missed everything and lofted out of play behind St. Cloud goaltender David Hrenak.
Eyssimont and Patrick Newell took advantage of the new life they were given, and they came in the Miami zone 2-on-1 after winning the ensuing faceoff with Newell feeding Eyssimont in front for the series-clinching goal.
Grant Hutton and Casey Gilling scored for Miami and Ryan Larkin made 38 saves, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Penrose Cup champions. Give credit to the RedHawks for making this series hard for the Huskies, though.
“[Miami is] tight; they’re tough,” SCSU head coach Bob Motzko said. “We played pretty well, but so did they. Hopefully there’s a lesson in there for us.”
St. Cloud State did what they wanted to do and established a strong forecheck right away, keeping the Miami defense and goaltender Ryan Larkin busy. But Larkin kept SCSU off the board and the RedHawks once again drew first blood.
Hutton, who had the overtime winner on Saturday night, scored for the third time this weekend halfway through the first after a Scott Dornbrock pass from the point to the backboards caromed to him in the right circle, where he patiently waited before firing it home. Miami later doubled their lead with a Gilling power play goal as Hrenak couldn’t control the rebound of a Dornbrock shot. Just like that, SCSU stared at a 2-0 first-intermission deficit for the second consecutive night. But like Saturday night, they never took their foot off the gas.
“We didn’t panic,” Eyssimont said.
The Huskies regrouped and quickly cut the deficit in half early in the second period on a Jimmy Schuldt one-timer from the point on a power play. Miami made sure the momentum shift was brief though, as off the ensuing faceoff won by Zach LaValle, Karch Bachman skated into the SCSU zone to the crease and beat Hrenak on a backhand shot five seconds after the Schuldt goal.
“That was a tough blow. The good thing is, we had a lot of time left,” Motzko said.
St. Cloud refused to let the quick response get to them, and they continued to pressure offensively, which eventually paid off. Eyssimont pulled SCSU back within one with just 1:47 left in the period as he skated around the net, went to the slot and fired a seeing-eye wrister through traffic and in to make it a 3-2 game. Eyssimont reached the 100-point plateau for his career with the goal.
“Tried to throw it on net and luckily it went in,” he said.
While momentum shifted largely in SCSU’s favor before the second intermission, they made sure they didn’t look too far ahead.
“We just tried to stay calm and collected,” Eyssimont said.
The Huskies completed their second two-goal rally in two nights when a Judd Peterson shot from the point somehow snuck through traffic and slowly went in behind Larkin with just under six minutes left, setting up the inevitable extra frame.
Then in overtime, after Miami’s unlucky break with Gilling missing the net after being left alone in front of Hrenak, the Huskies still had a heartbeat. Motzko still doesn’t know how that happened, and nobody else in the arena seemed to know either.
“Nobody saw the puck. I thought it was in,” Motzko said. “That’s overtime.”
The close call did appear to give the Huskies an adrenaline rush, setting up the game-ending heroics for Newell and Eyssimont.
A physical Miami team gave St. Cloud State all they could handle over a grueling three-game, three-day series and now it’s time to rest before another desperate team awaits in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff: the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. UND, which is sitting at No. 14 in the all-important Pairwise rankings, swept Omaha over the weekend to remain alive in the NCAA Tournament race, and they figure to be another tough test for the Huskies.
“We’re expecting the same sort of battle. We know North Dakota very well, and they know us very well. It’s gonna be a battle,” Eyssimont said.
The Denver Pioneers, who finished off the Colorado College Tigers 6-1 earlier Sunday night, will face the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the other NCHC semifinal. Matchup times have not been announced as of Sunday night.
MU goal at 9:31: Grant Hutton (13). Assisted by Kiefer Sherwood (21) and Gordie Green (18).
MU power-play goal at 16:23: Casey Gilling (9). Assisted by Scott Dornbrock (7) and Alec Mahalak (8).
SCSU power-play goal at 1:26: Jimmy Schuldt (10). Assisted by Robby Jackson (27) and Mikey Eyssimont (22).
MU goal at 1:31: Karch Bachman (10). Assisted by Zach LaValle (3).
SCSU goal at 18:13: Eyssimont (16). Assisted by Jack Ahcan (18).
SCSU goal at 14:08: Judd Peterson (6). Assisted by Jon Lizotte (12) and Will Borgen (12).
SCSU goal at 8:14: Eyssimont (17). Assisted by Patrick Newell (20) and Jack Ahcan (19).
Power plays: MU 1-1, SCSU 1-4.
Shots on goal: MU 22, SCSU 42.