ST. CLOUD – Sometimes you need a little puck luck to win a game.
Thanks to two favorable deflections, St. Cloud State was able to hold off #8 Minnesota Duluth for a 2-1 victory Friday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey and Events Center. The Huskies also got an outstanding performance from goaltender David Hrenak and their defense, especially in the third period, to win their fifth straight home meeting against the two-time defending national champions.
“I thought it might have been our best game for our defensemen,” head coach Brett Larson said. “In general, we defended well – which we had to – and found a way to get it done.”
With the two teams facing each other for the first time since their instant classic Frozen Faceoff championship meeting in March 2019, the Bulldogs had trouble getting started over the first 15 minutes, managing just three shots and falling behind 1-0 as Luke Jaycox gave SCSU the lead with a shot from the right wing wall near the faceoff circle. It appeared to bounce in off Jake Rosenbaum, who was shadowing Easton Brodzinski on the other end of the net to take away the backdoor feed.
After Chase Brand tripped Dylan Samberg in the UMD zone a few minutes later, it took 22 seconds of the ensuing power play for the Bulldogs to tie the game as Kobe Roth grabbed a rebound and deposited it into a wide-open net to the right of Hrenak.
Duluth’s struggles to sustain a forecheck continued into the second period. Meanwhile, SCSU went back on top at the 4:11 mark on another favorable deflection; a centering pass by Brand intended for Zach Okabe out front instead appeared to bounce off UMD defenseman Jarod Hilderman before trickling in behind Hunter Shepard. Brand didn’t even realize it went in right away.
“I just tried to get it to the net,” Brand said. “It worked out.”
After firing 11 shots on goal in the first period, the Huskies only managed 11 more over the final two periods as they went more on the defensive in the third period. With Duluth starting to get more desperate, Hrenak was pounded with 18 shots in the final 20 minutes, many of them coming via two Bulldogs power plays and the final 1:37 with Shepard off for the extra attacker. But he managed to pull out the win in what Larson called his best game of the season.
“I thought he really stepped up in the moments we needed him to,” Larson said.
The big saves he made on those two power plays were key as well. St. Cloud State was penalized five times on the night, and they killed four of them. Give credit to the defense in front of him as well; they blocked a total of 15 shots and clogged lanes to keep the Bulldogs off balance offensively. But if you keep taking penalties against a well-coached team like Minnesota Duluth, eventually you’ll pay the price.
“Your best penalty killer has to be your goalie, and I thought David was,” Larson said. “In front of him, the guys were willing to block shots.
“That power play is one of the best I’ve seen. They’ve really got it clicking. I know tomorrow night we can’t give them that many opportunities, otherwise it’ll cost us.”
Hrenak finished with 32 saves, while Shepard had 20.
SCSU goal at 11:59: Luke Jaycox (3). Assisted by Nolan Walker (9) and Easton Brodzinski (10).
UMD power-play goal at 15:13: Kobe Roth (9). Assisted by Noah Cates (10) and Jackson Cates (11).
SCSU goal at 4:11: Chase Brand (4). Assisted by Spencer Meier (4) and Ondrej Trejbal (5).
Power plays: UMD 1-5, SCSU 0-2.
Shots on goal: UMD 33, SCSU 22.