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St. Cloud State Tops Denver To Stay Perfect in Pod

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St. Cloud State moved to 2-0-0 in the NCHC’s Omaha Pod, keeping pace with rival Minnesota Duluth for the only unblemished record so far, with a 4-3 victory over Denver on Saturday night. Nolan Walker’s backhand goal on a pretty pass from Easton Brodzinski in the third period stood up as the game-winning goal for the Huskies.

Here is the final scoring for the game.

Final Scoring

First Period

0:33 Sam Hentges from Zach Okabe 1-0 St. Cloud State

Denver turned the puck over in their own end leading to a 2-on-1 rush with Okabe and Hentges. Okabe slid the puck over to Hentges, who was denied with his first shot, but chipped home the rebound for the goal.

3:51 Carter Savoie from Kohen Olischefski and Mike Benning (power play) 1-1 tie

Olischefski dropped the puck off to Savoie at the right dot on the power play and Savoie picked the top corner of the net with a wicked wrist shot.

Second Period

0:58 Cole Guttman from Carter Savoie and Mike Benning (power play) 2-1 Denver

Savoie got the puck along the left wing on the power play and fired a shot that was stopped, but the rebound popped into the slot where Guttman was ready to put the rebound back into the net.

4:23 Kevin Fitzgerald from Ondrej Trebal and Sam Hentges 2-2 tie

Fitzgerald beat a Denver defender in the neutral zone allowing him to streak down the left wing with an opening to shoot. Fitzgerald put his shot to the far side of the net over the shoulder of Chrona for the goal.

7:19 Spencer Meier from Seamus Donohue and Zach Okabe 3-2 St. Cloud State

Okabe won a puck battle along the right boards back to Donohue at the right point. Donohue slid a pass across the blue line to Meier at the left point. Meier walked in and fired a perfect wrist shot off the pipe and into the net.

Third Period

11:41 Nolan Walker from Easton Brodzinski and Brady Ziemer 4-2 St. Cloud State

Brodzinski rushed the puck down the right wing and made a perfect to a streaking Walker down the slot. Walker took the pass on his backhand and roofed the shot for the goal.

15:06 Brett Stapley from Bobby Brink and Mike Benning 4-3 St. Cloud State

Benning pinched in from the right point to win a puck and made a cross-ice pass to Brink at the left face-off dot. Brink made a pass to Stapley at the front of the net and he was able to convert for the goal.

Notes and Thoughts:

-Sam Hentges got things started early for St. Cloud State with a goal just 33 seconds into the game. Hentges had gone 364 days since he last scored a goal December 7th, 2019 at Miami.

-Carter Savoie picked up another power play goal tonight and added an assist when Cole Guttman put back the rebound to one of his shots tonight to continue his hot start. Denver’s power play is at its’ most effective when they keep things simple and just try to get opportunities for Savoie to shoot coming off the wing. One of the reasons it is so effective is that they’ll move Savoie around on the power play so he can attack off either wing.

That said, I feel like Savoie’s play is a microcosm of Denver and their issues right now. The power play looks great, but they’re just not generating much at even strength and they haven’t been able to lock things down defensively enough to make those power play goals stand.

-Individually, I like a lot of what Denver has on their blue line. Mike Benning and Antti Tuomisto are exciting young freshmen and Griffin Mendel is developing into an excellent defender. They should be solid in goal as well with Magnus Chrona back after a very good freshman season. But it’s just not coming together right now. As it stands, Chrona has a .879 save percentage, which isn’t going to get it done. I suspect it’s just a matter of really good opponents and some bad luck though, and I would assume we see Denver bounce back at some point, just because there is so much talent there.

-One of the key moments in the game in the third period came when St. Cloud State killed off 1:37 of 5x3 power play shortly after they scored to go up 4-2. Some of that was mitigated by the Huskies giving up a goal right after killing off the penalties, but killing those off served as a big potential momentum swing.

-I’ve probably been among the most critical of David Hrenak over the last three seasons, but I thought he was a difference-maker tonight, even if his final stat line didn’t look pretty. Hrenak is more of an athletic, instinctual goalie and he made a couple big saves tonight where he had to slide across his crease to make a big stop. He’s almost better at making those types of saves than when he has to rely on discipline and position.

-Zach Okabe had a nice game, not just getting credit for two assists, but really making the key plays to set up those goals, first on Hentges semi-breakaway, and then on Spencer Meier’s goal, in which he made a brilliant play to kick the puck back to Seamus Donohue and eventually leading to the goal.