Monday evening, St. Cloud State faced off against top-ranked and undefeated Minnesota in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Classic, played in front of a sold-out crowd at Andover Community Center in Andover, Minnesota. The Huskies were able to build an early lead with a pair of first period goals and carried that to a 4-1 victory over Minnesota, handing the Golden Gophers their first loss of the season.
The victory was a major upset for the Huskies, and also significant in a historical context. St. Cloud State’s last win against Minnesota prior to Monday came almost 13 years ago, on February 13, 2010. Since that last victory, the Huskies had gone 0-60-1 against their in-state foes.
Minnesota outshot St. Cloud State by a fairly significant margin of 35-19, but it wasn’t exactly a fluke win by a team that was completely out-played. After building an early lead, the Huskies played smart defensive hockey and were able to convert on chances when they got them, while Minnesota struggled to generate quality scoring chances at even strength.
Monday’s game was officially a non-conference affair, so the Huskies don’t gain any points in the WCHA league standings. But it gives first-year head coach Brian Idalski a marquee victory in his first season as he attempts to build St. Cloud State’s program back to competitiveness in the WCHA.
It also puts an exclamation point on what has been an upward trend for the Huskies so far this season. The Huskies went 0-6 in mid-October, running through the gauntlet of the league’s three Big Ten teams—arguably the three most talented teams in the nation—but otherwise, have won the rest of their games. And after a disastrous first period in their first match-up against Minnesota, they’ve since outscored the Gophers 7-3 over the last eight periods of hockey they’ve played.
That sets the Huskies up for a very intriguing series this weekend when they host Minnesota Duluth. The Huskies lead the Bulldogs by four points in the league standings, albeit having played two more conference games. It has been presumed since the beginning of the season that the WCHA was the big four of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Minnesota Duluth and then the other four. But with St. Cloud State now showing they are capable of skating with and beating anyone in the country, the race for the final home ice playoff spot could become a little more contested than most observers expected, especially if the Huskies are able to come away with some points this weekend.