My three takeaways from St. Cloud State’s 5-3 win over Western Michigan to complete their weekend sweep and maintain their lead atop the NCHC standings.
Here are my takeaways from tonight’s game:
- Too Much SCSU Pressure
St. Cloud State has historically been a tough match-up for Western Michigan, especially when playing on the big ice sheet in St. Cloud. Add in that Western Michigan was without two key players in Wade Allison due to an upper body injury, and Ethen Frank due to illness and this weekend was bound to be uphill sledding for the Broncos.
The Huskies dominated just about every aspect of this game, controlling the puck for long stretches of time and keeping heavy, consistent pressure in the Western Michigan zone all night. That pressure didn’t earn results in the first period, but it eventually broke through in a big way in the second period when the Huskies scored four goals and essentially put the game out of reach.
2. Poor Trevor Gorsuch
A big part of the reason this game didn’t look more lopsided on the scoreboard was the play of Western Michgian’s Trevor Gorsuch in goal. Western Michigan came into this weekend on a 10-game unbeaten streak dating back to November 16th. Over that stretch, Gorsuch had a .941 save percentage, sixth nationally in that period, and played some fantastic hockey. He was brilliant again in the first period, making 13 stops to send Western Michigan to the locker room up 1-0.
But like I said above, there was just too much St. Cloud State pressure. Gorsuch finished the second period with 23 saves on 27 shots and was pulled for the third, but he deserved a better fate. I considered throwing him a Three Stars vote because this game could have been much uglier had he not made some big saves.
3. Husky Zone Entries
It’s been a while since I’d seen St. Cloud State play, and tonight was a good reminder at just how impressive they can be. Like I said above, the big ice here in St. Cloud really works to their style of play, and the games that really count will be played on smaller sheets. But watching the way they just dismantled a pretty good team, they’re the best team in the country to me.
One thing that stood out tonight was how good the Huskies were on zone entries. They’re ability to get the puck in the zone with possession and set up offensively makes them really tough to defend.
You can see this on their first and third goals on the night. Those little passes at the blue line look simple, but 90% of the time in college hockey, you see that play break down because the puck carrier has no help and has to try to beat the D by himself, or the helping forward is too early and has to give up his speed to stay onside. It takes a lot of skill and experience to work that timing correctly.
The other area where they’re great at bringing the puck in the zone is bringing a second wave of pressure once they gain the line. They’ve got forwards willing to commit to driving the net without the puck to clear out space in the high slot, and then they bring another guy coming late with space to work.
Again, things open up a little bit more with that extra 15-feet of blue line that Western has to defend, creating those opportunities a little more, but the Huskies are the most skilled team in the country and can slice and dice teams better than anybody else.