NO. 8/10 ST. CLOUD STATE (14-5-1 WCHA, 17-10-1 OVERALL)
The Huskies are No. 8 in the PairWise Rankings going into Friday’s game with Minnesota. St. Cloud State is 8-0-1 in its last 9 WCHA games and is three points ahead of Nebraska-Omaha for the conference lead in the standings.
“Everybody knows the importance of this weekend,” Huskies sophomore forward Brooks Bertsch said. “We’ve got to worry about our process and getting better every day.
“This is a big opportunity in front of us for our team, to keep building on what we have. After our hiccups against RPI and Northern Michigan, I think we’ve responded really well. Hopefully, we can keep climbing and moving forward to where we want to be.”
So what concerns the Huskies about the Gophers?
“They move the puck well and can play all four lines,” Bertsch said. “They have a great power play. They’re a high speed, high offense team. There’s a reason why they’re the No. 1 team in the country.”
“Our main focus is to watch their speed,” Huskies sophomore defenseman Andrew Prochno said. “As a ‘D’ core, the best way to defend that is to take gaps away. If you don’t know much about hockey, you’d think that you’d want to back off and give them space. That’s actually the last thing you want to do. If you give them space, they’ll be able to dipsy doodle and get right around you. You want to get in their face … If we keep hitting them and bodying them (with checks), we’re going to try to physically wear them down.”
Huskies coach Bob Motzko said that the Huskies need to try to generate some offense against the Gophers, who are giving up fewer than 24 shots per game.
“They’re a very, very good defensive team and can really shut you down in their end, limit your time,” Motzko said. “We have to try to establish all four lines of play and we’ve got to not turn pucks over and get pucks deep (in the offensive zone). That’s going to be a critical factor in the series.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to fight like heck to put a dent in somewhere, so later in the game you might have a chance.
“It really becomes a series of little things like faceoffs,” Motzko said. “You want to at least stay even. You want the advantage, but you don’t want to be behind and always starting on the defensive side. That will make for a long night.”
ODDS AND ENDS:
* Senior left wing Ben Hanowski has 66 points (35 goals) in 62 games played the last 2 seasons.
* Senior center Drew LeBlanc needs one point to tie his career best in a season. LeBlanc has 38 points (30 assists) this season. He had 39 points (26 assists) in 2010-11, his last full season. LeBlanc continues to lead Division I in assists and is 2 points behind Nebraska-Omaha’s Ryan Walters for the national lead in points.
* Freshman wing Jonny Brodzinski has at least one point in 13 straight games (9 goals, 6 assists). Brodzinski also leads the nation in plus/minus (plus-23) and his 13 goals are the most for a freshman in the nation. Right behind him is freshman teammate Kalle Kossila (12 goals).
* Junior center Nic Dowd has career-bests in goals (12), assists (17) and points (29). Dowd’s previous bests were all last season: 11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points in 39 games.
* Junior defenseman Nick Jensen is 2nd among Division I defensemen in assists with 18.
* The Huskies did not have a penalty in the series sweep last weekend at Bemidji State. St. Cloud State is the least penalized team in Division I.
|10-Ben Hanowski||19-Drew LeBlanc||11-Kalle Kossila|
|16-Jimmy Murray||26-Nic Dowd||22-Jonny Brodzinski|
|9-Joey Benik||8-Cory Thorson||13-David Morley|
|17-Joey Holka||37-Joey Rehkamp||21-Brooks Bertsch|
|28-Andrew Prochno||14-Nick Jensen||29-Ryan Faragher|
|7-Kevin Gravel||12-Ethan Prow||33-Joe Phillippi|
|40-Tim Daly||4-Taylor Johnson||35-Rasmus Reijola|
The Gophers are No. 2 in the PairWise Rankings going into Friday’s game. The Gophers have not played since a home-and-home series Jan. 25-26 against MSU-Mankato. The Mavericks got a 2-1 win at Mariucci Arena and then the Gophers came back for a 4-1 win in Mankato.
“We definitely took advantage of the bye week and got rested,” Gophers defenseman Brady Skjei said.
What concerns the Gophers about the Huskies?
“We keep hearing about how good their forwards are,” Skjei said of the Huskies forwards, who have scored 83 of the team’s 93 goals. “The emphasis for the ‘D’ core will be shutting those guys on the top two lines down. It should be a good series.
“The week off helped. There was a little bug going around (the team) and that week off helped us get healthy.”
“They’ve got guys who make plays, their goaltending is going well, they’re 8-0-1 in their last nine WCHA games in a league where there’s a lot of splits,” Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel said. “They’re in good shape.
“I’m assuming that they look at us how we look at them. Same firepower up front … Both teams have active defensemen and both are goaltending well.”
The Gophers are the defending McNaughton Cup champions and see this as a big series to try to close the gap. Minnesota trails the Huskies by 5 points (with 2 fewer games played) and is in a three-way tie for third place with Denver and North Dakota.
“You’re getting down to the final couple series and it’s tough to sweep,” Guentzel said. “The best chance to make up some ground is when you’ve got the team ahead of you right in front of you … Our schedule down the stretch is tough.
“It wouldn’t matter if St. Cloud was in first or ninth or we were in first or ninth, it would still be a competitive series. People get riled up. It doesn’t matter who is in what place. (Drew) LeBlanc didn’t play against us last year and they played us tough. They ended up going to the (WCHA) Final Five and could have won that game against North Dakota.”
ODDS AND ENDS:
* Nate Schmidt, the junior and St. Cloud Cathedral graduate, leads Division I defensemen in scoring (25 points).
* The Gophers are 51-27-12 all-time against St. Cloud State, including 17-14-6 on the road. The Gophers were 3-1 last season against St. Cloud State and were 1-1 at the National Hockey and Event Center. St. Cloud State won the first game at the NHEC (4-3) and the Gophers won the second game (3-2).
* The Gophers are 7-2-3 against ranked opponents this season.
* Minnesota leads Division I in offense (3.77 goals per game), fourth in defense (1.85 gpg), third in the nation in power play (24.8 percent) and sixth on the penatly kill (89.2 percent).
* Junior forward Erik Haula is the team’s active leader in career points. Haula has 104 points (37 goals) in 100 career games.
* Haula is from Pori, Finland, which is on the west coast of the country. St. Cloud State’s Kalle Kossila is from Kauniainen, Finland, which is on the southern coast.
* There are four players from outside the state on the Gophers’ roster: Haula, Nate Condon (Wausau, Wis.), Tom Serratore (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Sam Warning (Chesterfield, Mo.).
* Freshmen triplets Mike Reilly (D), Ryan Reilly (F) and Connor Reilly (F) were teammates with St. Cloud State freshman forward Joey Benik last season with Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League.
|7-Kyle Rau||27-Nick Bjugstad||19-Erik Haula|
|11-Sam Warning||16-Nate Condon||24-Zach Budish|
|14-Tom Serratore||22-Travis Boyd||12-Justin Holl|
|6-Jake Parenteau||26-Christian Isackson||17-Seth Ambroz|
|4-Seth Helgeson||10-Ben Marshall||32-Adam Wilcox|
|5-Mike Reilly||20-Mark Alt||1-Michael Shibrowski|
|2-Brady Skjei||29-Nate Schmidt|
SCSU STATISTICAL LEADERS
MINNESOTA STATISTICAL LEADERS
TEAM STATISTICAL COMPARISON
|Shots per game||29.5||32.5|
|Opponent shots per game||25.2||23.3|
|Goals per game||3.3||3.8|
|Opponent goals per game||2.3||1.8|
|Power play %||17.9||24.8|
|Penalty kill %||83.5||89.3|
|Short-hand goals for||2||2|
|Short-hand goals against||6||2|
|Penalty minutes per game||8.5||10.7|
|Opponent penalty minutes||12.5||17.1|
|Faceoffs||850-791 (.518)||890-761 (.539)|