DULUTH, Minn. — An 18-day layoff appeared to have little effect on St. Cloud State on Friday night, as the seventh-ranked Huskies moved into second place in the WCHA after posting a 6-3 victory over Minnesota-Duluth in front of 3,712 fans at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.
Sophomore left wing Mike Walsh netted the game-winner for SCSU (14-4-1, 9-4 WCHA) at 6:19 of the third period. Meanwhile, sophomore center Ryan Malone added a goal and two assists and senior goaltender Scott Meyer knocked away 33 of 36 Bulldog shots to post his 12th victory of the year.
Walsh’s goal came on a good second-effort as he skated in on a two-on-one break with Nate DiCasmirro. UMD (4-15-2, 1-11-2 WCHA) defenseman Andy Reierson dove to block Walsh’s initial shot, but the puck deflected back onto Walsh’s stick, and the sophomore fired the puck past goaltender Rob Anderson for his second goal of the year.
But the game seemed to define itself in the second period, thanks in part to Meyer s goaltending. The White Bear Lake, Minn., native weathered a massive UMD barrage, stopping all 17 shots on goal. His teammates responded offensively as well, by scoring two goals during that span on 10 shots.
Meyer’s best save came at about the 15-minute mark of the middle stanza. With UMD attacking on a delayed penalty call against the Huskies, Judd Medak was robbed when he failed to put the puck in what appeared to be a wide-open net. Medak skated in toward Meyer’s left side, and took an initial point-blank shot that Meyer stopped with his body. The rebound came right back to Medak, who skated toward the opposite side of the crease. Sprawling, Meyer made the save by extending his stick and smothering the puck.
Meyer said there was more than just skill involved in making the save.
“I was just trying to get something on it,” he said. “I had a lot of luck there.”
Luck seemed to play a part in the first period as well. With UMD leading 1-0, the Bulldogs appeared to take a 2-0 lead, when a goal by Mark Carlson was disallowed after referee Bill Mason determined the net had been knocked loose before the puck crossed the goal line.
“That was a big break; we were very fortunate,” Meyer said. “I was moving to the right, and the puck hit somebody, and I thought it was a goal, because I couldn t find the puck, and all the UMD guys were celebrating.”
UMD coach Scott Sandelin also thought it was a goal.
“I’m still trying to figure out where the net was off,” he said. “That made a big difference in the hockey game.”
UMD opened the scoring on the game’s first shot while on the power play at the 2:03 mark. Senior center Mark Gunderson netted his fourth goal of the year on a slap shot from the blue line. Beau Geisler and Medak earned assists on the goal.
The Huskies seemed to take control of the period from there, outshooting UMD 14-4 in the opening period. Brian Gaffaney tied the game with his first tally of the year at the 5:26 mark. Malone and Joe Motzko worked the puck to the senior defenseman, before Gaffaney fired a wrist shot that appeared to squeak in underneath Anderson’s arm on his stick side.
SCSU took its first lead of the game on the power-play in the second period. Malone and sophomore center Jon Cullen skated in on a two-on-one break. Cullen sent the puck toward the net with a pass from the top of the faceoff circle on the goaltender’s left side. Malone tipped it in at the 7:07 mark for his fourth goal of the year.
“I just tapped it in,” said Malone. “It was easy for me, I just had to get there.”
Malone added an assist to Cullen’s shorthanded goal in the third period. Malone started the play after forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and broke into the UMD zone. Anderson responded by skating out of his crease to the faceoff circle and poke-checked the puck off Malone’s stick. However, the play took Anderson out of position, and Cullen grabbed the loose puck and fired it into the open net.
That goal, at 11:34 of the third period, seemed to seal the game for the Huskies. It made the score 6-2, and came just 45 seconds after Tyler Arnason notched SCSU’s fifth goal of the night on the power play. Mark Hartigan also scored a power play at 18:45 of the second period for St. Cloud.
Duluth also received goals from junior Lessard and Jon Francisco. All three Bulldogs goals came in the midst of eight power-play opportunities, while SCSU converted three of its seven chances with the man advantage.
The win, combined with aDenver loss to Colorado College on Friday, putsSCSU into a three-way tie for second place in the WCHA. The Huskies, CC, and Minnesotahave 18 points, three behind league-leader North Dakota.
Overall, St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl said he was happy with how his team responded after the long layoff.
“They were good all week in practice,” he said. “I was not real worried that we could play.”
The loss kept UMD winless in an eight-game WCHA homestand that began Dec. 1 and will continueSaturday night against St. Cloud before concluding next weekend against Colorado College. The Bulldogs are 0-4-1 in the first five games of that homestand. Carlson said time is running out for his team to turn its season around.
“It’s getting critical,” he said. “We’re in there every night, pulling out all the stops, and not sitting back. Hopefully, it’ll be tomorrow [Saturday] night when it turns around.”