Here’s the game recap from Friday night’s game between St. Cloud State and Colorado, a 2-2 tie with St. Cloud State taking the extra league point in overtime. My notes and thoughts from the game:
-From the opening drop of the puck, this had the feel of some of St. Cloud State’s recent dominating performances at home, and looked like it could turn into a blowout. The Huskies got on the board in the first two minutes of the game for an early lead. St. Cloud State was called for a rather soft too many men penalty, but on the ensuing power play, the only two opportunities were a pair of semi-breakaways for Jack Poehling off a rush and a ghastly turnover by the CC in their own zone seconds later.
But Colorado College goalie Alex Leclerc came up with big saves on both—a recurring theme for the evening—and moments later, the Tigers caught a huge break when St. Cloud State goalie David Hrenak misplayed a weak dribbler from the corner, knocking the puck into his own net with his stick. The Tigers would get another goal later in the first period off a deflection in front, and from there, they were able to dig in defensively.
-The shooting numbers, both in total attempts and shots on goal actually stayed fairly even throughout this game, at least until the third period when St. Cloud State was really pressing for the game-tying goal. But there was a big difference in the quality of shots on goal. St. Cloud State was generating a ton of shots from inside the prime scoring area. They had 29 through the first two periods, which is a really high number. As I mentioned above, Colorado College goalie Alex Leclerc was really sharp on Friday, and was the difference-maker in this game, because if he didn’t make some big saves, this game could have gotten out of hand quick.
-It was more than just Leclerc that led to Colorado College snapping St. Cloud State’s perfect home record though. The Tigers are an interesting team. On paper, they’re probably a distant eighth in terms of pure talent on the roster. With Nick Halloran out due to injury, there’s really no one you would describe as a solid NHL prospect. But they’re a very humbling team to play against.
Aside from some very sloppy play by their defensemen in their own end with the puck, they are a team that makes the opposition earn everything. Strong back pressure from their forwards threw off the timing on St. Cloud State’s zone entries all night long. They were very disciplined at covering the points in the defensive zone and getting bodies into shooting lanes. They got pucks deep whenever they had the chance. They’re not really what I would call a good team, but I think they punch well above their weight based on what they have to work with.
-It was fitting that the Poehling brothers line would get the game-tying goal(and I guess also the Supertime goal), as they were clearly St. Cloud State’s best line the entire night. It’s very tough to match the energy that they bring.
Ryan Poehling in particular continues to play at a level above everyone else in college hockey. I noted one play in the first period where Colorado College had a developing 2-on-1 coming out of their own end and Poehling made an incredible backcheck to steal the puck away and create a scoring chance going the other way. The way he can fly around the ice and retrieve loose pucks is such a quietly valuable skill.
-Blake Lizotte was flying around the ice, and had maybe the best 200-foot game I’ve seen him play. He wasn’t rewarded for his effort on Friday, but could be owed one on Saturday if he keeps playing like that.
-The bad news for St. Cloud State is that thanks to some injury troubles, they weren’t quite able to grind away at Colorado College as much as they might have hoped. With Kevin Fitzgerald and Nolan Walker out due to injury, the Huskies aren’t able to attack as effectively with their lower lines as they potentially could. Walker’s injury is rumored very short-term, while Fitzgerald may be out longer. They would both add a little extra element offensively to this team.
-The other big area of concern for the Huskies might be David Hrenak. He finished the night officially with 23 saves on 25 shots, but like I said, most of what he was seeing was from outside the prime scoring area; He gave up the game-changing soft goal early and caught a huge break in the second period when a shot that leaked through him hit the post and died in the crease. On the season, he’s at a .906 save percentage, which ranks 49th in the country. He doesn’t need to do much on most nights, so it’s mostly fine, but that feels like an awfully big Achilles’ heel in a one-and-done format.