ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Recent battles between Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State have been highlighted by fast-paced games, with players from both sides trading blows while racing up and down the ice.
Huskies second-year coach Brett Larson wanted none of that this weekend facing his alma mater and former employer.
The Duluth native and former Bulldogs player and assistant coach urged his team to show restraint and to get defensive this weekend. The Huskies did just that, holding eighth-ranked UMD to only a single goal in a 2-1 win on Friday and nothing on Saturday in a 2-0 victory to sweep the NCHC series at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
“Last night we got fortunate, to be honest. This night, it could have gone either way, for sure,” Larson said. “They are such a talented team and not only talented but hard working. They get pucks to areas that are tough to defend and I thought our guys did a good job protecting the areas between the dots, taking away any second or third opportunities. And David Hrenak had his best weekend of the year, stopping the first ones.”
Hrenak, a junior goaltender, made 27 saves in Saturday’s shutout after stopping 32 the night before.
Both of SCSU’s goals Saturday came in the final 95 seconds with senior wing Jack Poehling breaking the scoreless tie with 1:35 remaining in the third period. Sophomore wing Micah Miller clinched the win with an empty netter a minute later.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Saturday’s defeat was just an extension of what happened in the loss on Friday.
“This whole weekend started last night not being ready to play in the first 40 minutes and getting behind and chasing the game,” Sandelin said. “Tonight, I thought our team played a better game. They got a goal at the end. There wasn't a lot of room on the rink. I thought the chances they got throughout the first couple periods were either off some bad decisions or some bad puck management things with us. But it was just one of those games where not a lot was going on and there wasn't a lot of room on the rink, but you're gonna be in games like that.”
UMD senior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 24 saves in his 103rd consecutive start. Next weekend at Amsoil Arena against North Dakota, the Cohasset native can tie and break the NCAA goaltending record of 104-straight starts, set by Cornell’s Ben Scrivens from 2007-10.
Next weekend was also supposed to be the Bulldogs' chance to possibly overtake the Fighting Hawks in the NCHC standings. But after failing to pick up a single league point against the Huskies this weekend, UMD may just be fighting to stay alive in the regular season conference title race in what will be the only regular season series between the NCHC’s top two teams.
The Bulldogs went into the weekend three points back of the Hawks, but now sit eight points back after North Dakota finished off a five-point weekend with a victory on Saturday in Oxford, Ohio.
“It’s disappointing,” UMD senior captain Nick Wolff said of the weekend. “We (expletive) the bed yesterday and that led into today. We didn’t play a bad game today. We just didn’t get the puck bounces. It’s one of those games you have to fight for every inch of the ice out there and we didn’t get enough inches.”
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-0—0
St. Cloud State 0-0-2—2
First period — No scoring.
Second period — No scoring.
Third period — 1. SCSU, Nick Poehling 6 (Jack Ahcan, Jack Poehlin), 18:25; 2. SCSU, Micah Miller 4, 19:25 (en).
Shots on goal — UMD 10-9-827; SCSU 8-8-10—26. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (25 shots-24 saves); David Hrenak, SCSU (27-27). Power plays — UMD 0-of-2; SCSU 0-of-4. Penalties — UMD 4-8; SCSU 2-4. Referees — Dan Dreger, Tom Sterns. Linesmen — Kevin Cassidy, Justin Hills. Att. — 5,199.