BOSTON — Coming off a weekend sweep in which they only scored a total of three goals, the Huskies dominated all three periods.
Unfortunately for the Northeastern Huskies, they did so only in the first, after which the St. Cloud State Huskies took control in the second and third.
As a result, the WCHA version of the Huskies took home a 4-1 victory, after being fortunate to come out of the first period with only a 1-0 deficit. Two late second-period goals just 28 seconds apart gave them the lead and two more in the third cemented the win.
Goaltender Scott Meyer stopped 33 of 34 Northeastern shots. John Cullen assisted on all four goals, two by Ryan Malone.
St. Cloud moved to a 7-3-1 record while Northeastern fell to 5-5-1.
“It was a bit of a slow start for us,” St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl said. “Northeastern came out great. They had a couple breakaways, but couldn’t put it away. Fortunately, our guys woke up.”
Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder made much the same assessment from the other side of the fence and with considerably more bluntness.
“Both teams were looking for a W,” he said. “We wanted it in the first period and they wanted it in the next two. We just didn’t remember what it took to work hard and compete. Guys aren’t realizing that they have to play hard each and every period.
“We didn’t get it done. … The second period we didn’t show up. Over the last 40 minutes, they took it to us really good.”
Both Husky squads were coming off sweeps in the wrong direction the previous weekend. St. Cloud dropped a home-and-home series with cross-state rival Minnesota, 2-0 and 4-3; Northeastern suffered the same fate at the hands of Providence, 3-1 and 4-2.
With enough similarities to make Dahl say that it looked like an intersquad scrimmage, the two teams played very different first periods. Northeastern grabbed a 1-0 lead despite taking three extra penalties and failing to capitalize on three breakaways and another open net from in close.
The Hockey East Huskies outshot their Western namesakes, 11-5, but arguably lost the game not only by getting outplayed in the final 40 minutes, but also by failing to deliver the knockout punch in the first 20.
St. Cloud went on the power play at 3:01, but other than one strong chance down low couldn’t generate much. Minutes later, captain Brandon Sampair almost made Northeastern pay for sloppy play on the man advantage, hitting the post on a shot from the slot.
At the midway point, Northeastern’s Mike Ryan got the first of his two breakaways, taking a Jim Fahey long bomb to the blue line, but Meyer made the save.
A minute later, Zoller put Northeastern on the scoreboard. Scott Selig grinded away in the right corner for the puck and after emerging with it turned down a pass to the point, instead opting to slide it behind the net. Trevor Reschny got control there and centered a pass to Zoller, who beat Meyer short-side high from 15 feet.
St. Cloud went on the power play half a minute later, but Northeastern’s Leon Hayward picked off the puck at center ice and broke in all alone to force another Meyer breakaway save.
At 15:30, NU netminder Mike Gilhooly had to match his counterpart for flair, stopping Lee Brooks on a rebound while sprawling on the ice.
Seconds later, Joe Mastronardi made a terrific move while shorthanded and did everything but score. Faking a dump in, he carried along the left boards, lost control and then stole it back. Cutting in on Meyer, Mastronardi deked him beautifully, but with the netminder down and out backhanded the shot over the net.
Two minutes later, Ryan got another breakaway, this one of the penalty-shot variety since no defender was within 30 feet of him. With all the time in the world and a teammate coming in as a trailer, Ryan shot wide. Eric Ortlip and Hayward had whacks at rebounds but to no avail.
Down 1-0, Dahl wasn’t bothered by his Huskies’ inability to capitalize on their power plays, feeling that eventually they would connect. However, the generally poor play and, in particular, the breakaways were a very different story.
“I was really concerned about that,” he said. “That’s just not moving your feet. That’s just not being ready to play and get up and after it. That’s a mental thing. I was very disappointed in our first period.”
He wouldn’t be disappointed from that point on. Having dodged a bullet, St. Cloud controlled play for large portions of the second. Only its penchant for trying to force the extra pass, which gave time for a defensive recovery and no resulting shot, as well as the goaltending of Gilhooly kept the score at 1-0 until 18:01.
Having just gone on the first power play of the period, St. Cloud struck when Malone shot from the doorstep and then swatted the rebound out of the air and into the net.
Just 28 seconds later, Keith Anderson scored the game-winner, taking a left-to-right feed from Cullen down low and beating Gilhooly’s side-to-side move.
St. Cloud picked up the first two penalties of the third period, opening an NU window of opportunity. The first one resulted in great Northeastern pressure, but even greater saves and composure by Meyer. The second one, however, was almost immediately negated by an offsetting penalty and NU’s last, best chance to even the score was gone.
Midway through the period, St. Cloud added an insurance goal when Matt Hendricks scored his first collegiate goal. His centering pass from along the right boards deflected off a skate and into the net for a 3-1 lead.
A St. Cloud power-play goal at 13:35 made it 4-1 and all but over. Jon Cullen continued his 4-for-4 night, assisting on all his team’s goals, saving his best for last. On the right boards, he hit Malone cutting to the far post and all the sophomore had to do was put it into the open net.
A St. Cloud penalty at 14:22 created some drama as Crowder pulled Gilhooly for an extra attacker, but neither the Northeastern extra pressure nor the St. Cloud clearing attempts at the open net hit paydirt.
Northeastern will be off until next weekend, when it faces Maine at two downeast venues, Orono on Friday night and Portland on Sunday afternoon. St. Cloud remains in action this weekend, traveling to face the UMass-Amherst Minutemen on Saturday.