When St. Cloud State beat Northern Michigan in the first round of the West Regional in March, the Huskies accomplished a feat that had eluded them since their birth as a Division I program in 1989. SCSU won its first national tournament game in eight tries.
But Huskies coach Bob Motzko makes a simple point: The current team is a different group of players than the ones that fell short so many times in first-round regional games. In fact, only six members of the team have experienced a national tournament loss.
“A lot of our kids were never around for first-round losses in the past,” said Motzko, who’s starting his sixth season as St. Cloud State’s coach. “It was the first time playing [a national tournament game] this side of the Mississippi. We’ll take the momentum and the excitement we generated and take the next step.”
Expectations are high for the Huskies after their run in the postseason and a strong returning cast from the 2009-10 season. The WCHA coaches picked SCSU to finish second in the conference standings and the regional media project the Huskies to take third.
Gone is SCSU’s all-time leader scorer and assists leader, Ryan Lasch, who finished his career last year with 183 points on 79 goals and 104 assists. Only Mark Hartigan scored more goals for the Huskies (86).
The good news is that SCSU has just the guy to maintain goal quota. Senior Garrett Roe is No. 5 on the program’s career scoring list with 142 points, putting him on pace to break Lasch’s record. Roe notched 20 goals with 29 assists as a junior.
“One constant from an offensive standpoint is Garrett Roe, and he’s been that way since Day 1,” Motzko said. “He plays so darn hard, he’s got the talent and he’s been so consistent. We all know what he’s capable of doing, and if he can take it to another level it’s all in the cards for good.”
Motzko has a history of finding forwards who can bury the puck. In addition to Lasch and Roe, Andreas Nodl scored 90 points in two seasons (2006-08) and there are a few rising scorers on the Huskies roster this season.
“When you talk about offense, you have to find players that are ready to take on bigger roles and more responsibility from an offensive standpoint,” Motzko said. “We have one real proven player in Garrett Roe and a handful of other players that have started to emerge.”
David Eddy scored 12 goals and finished the season with 23 points but is ineligible to play this fall. Ben Hanowski finished with 19 points as a freshman.
In the crease
Just as the Huskies took a goaltending-by-committee approach last season, Motzko hasn’t named a No. 1 goalie to start this season, either. Freshman Mike Lee started 26 of SCSU’s 47 games last season, posting a 2.80 goals-against average with a .915 save percentage.
Dan Dunn returns for his senior season after he started the other 21 games with a 2.58 GAA and a .915 save percentage.
“Both guys emerged as outstanding goaltenders last season and both are capable of being better,” Motzko said. “We have great competition at all positions, especially goaltending. We have two guys that have to compete for minutes and lead us in wins. We’re in good hands with our goaltending.”