ST. PAUL, Minn. — There’s a certain quality about the best in any area that allows them to be calm under pressure, unfazed when most would be a nervous wreck.
To St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, that’s why Garrett Roe had such a big role in his team’s first NCAA tournament victory.
The Huskies junior center didn’t blink when he had barely a few feet in which to squeeze a shot between the goaltender and the post.
He didn’t think twice when he had a player between himself and his intended target early in the second overtime Friday.
Tony Mosey got the credit for the deciding goal 23 seconds into the fifth period in a 4-3 victory over Northern Michigan in the NCAA opening round, but Roe’s calm demeanor in a tight situation was what set up the play.
“He’s fearless,” Huskies coach Bob Motzko said. “If you’re an athlete, it’s like basketball, you have to want that ball and put it up. You can’t be afraid to make plays. He wants the puck. And when he’s aggressive and on his toes, the kid’s got great talent. He’s so dangerous.”
There may have been a larger sense to that fearlessness on Friday.
When Roe last took the ice, it was on the same Xcel Energy Center sheet, and it ended with him being wheeled off on a stretcher. Roe went head-first into the boards in a WCHA Final Five semifinal game against Wisconsin last Friday, and he was taken to an area hospital.
There was no significant damage, but Roe missed the championship game loss to North Dakota a day later and sent a big scare through the Huskies.
So it was no surprise how eager Roe was to get back into game action, even though his absence was brief. His exuberance showed in a one-goal, two-assist performance in which he led the Huskies with nine shots on goal.
“I couldn’t wait,” Roe said. “It was kind of a tough week for me last week. … During this week, the guys they didn’t treat me any differently than they usually would. They know I was getting ready to work, and every other guy was getting ready to work.
“Personally, I wanted to get out there more than last week. It’s the NCAA tournament, that time of year. Coming back from injury, missing a game, all the things combined — I wanted the game to start right now.”
All three of Roe’s points Friday — bringing him to 20 goals and 49 points on the season — came on the Huskies’ power play, which overpowered the Wildcats.
Roe set up the winner with the Huskies on a power play early in the second overtime when, from the right circle, he threaded a pass to the front of the net, where Mosey got his stick on it to direct it between Northern Michigan goaltender Brian Stewart’s pads.
“That’s what big-time players do,” Motzko said. “They want the puck and they have ice in their veins.”
The Huskies’ power play was 3-for-7. St. Cloud State senior Ryan Lasch added a goal and an assist on the power play, again providing a powerful Huskies man-advantage tandem.
“They’re the toughest guys to contain maybe that we’ve seen,” Wildcats defenseman Erik Spady said. “It was a tough battle.”
Roe extended his personal points streak to nine games, a span in which he has eight goals and 15 points.
“Roe reminds me of a Jonathan Toews kind of player,” Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said. “He certainly is the straw that stirs the drink.”
On Friday, Roe stirred the Huskies into the West Regional final and a chance to earn the school’s first trip to the Frozen Four.