ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Fourth-ranked St. Cloud State University opened up a two-game series at home by topping Brown 4-2. The Huskies’ power play was the story, converting on four of its five opportunities.
The hosts got goals from four different scorers in an unexpected battle against the underdog Bears. Sophomore winger Joe Motzko scored the game-winner 3:59 into the third, which at the time gave the Huskies a 3-1 lead.
Despite the fact that at even strength Brown outscored St. Cloud 2-0, the Bears could not overcome the dominant Husky power play, which scored on four chances in a row after failing on its first attempt.
“We weren’t playing greatly or poorly,” St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl said. “But our power play was lethal. We just really moved the puck well.”
Early in the first, Brown certainly appeared to struggle adjusting to the Olympic ice sheet at the National Hockey Center. Brown goaltender Brian Eklund made several saves early just to keep it scoreless, and the Bears countered with offense of their own after St. Cloud’s only failed power play.
Keith Anderson finally cashed in for the Huskies with 3:27 left in the first period. After Motzko fired a shot on net, which Eklund turned aside, sophomore forward Jon Cullen directed the rebound to Anderson, who buried in it.
“I can’t remember the last time I scored,” Anderson said. “It was getting frustrating. But, finally, it went in.”
Sophomore center Tye Korbl evened it at 1-1 with just seconds left in the first. Korbl streaked in from the left side, whipped a shot on net, and lunged to slam his own rebound home. The first ended with the Bears even with SCSU.
The only scoring in the second came shortly after the only penalty Brown took in that frame. Just five seconds into its third power play of the night, the Huskies cashed in to make it 2-1.
After a faceoff was won cleanly back to the point, St. Cloud junior blueliner Duvie Westcott fired a net, which was redirected past Eklund by Nate DiCasmirro.
“The success of our power play was pretty simple,” DiCasmirro, who also scored his first goal after a long break like Anderson, said. “We were shooting the puck and going to the net real well. Their goalie did a great job stopping every first shot.”
Despite only cashing in on that lone goal, the Huskies dominated play throughout the second. They outskated and outhit a Brown team that seemed slower and energy-depleted. Eklund made 14 of his 41 saves during the second.
Sophomore forward Chris Legg had a great chance to tie it for the Bears late in the second — on one of the Bears’ few scoring chances — after Jason Wilson hustled to give him a break in all alone, but failed to convert.
Motzko then got the game winner early in the third, as St. Cloud again came out in control of play. After Brown took another penalty just 3:46 into the period, the Husky power play found the net just 13 seconds later.
Anderson fired a shot on net which dinged off the crossbar and onto the stick of Motzko. Motzko wasted no time getting the game-winner on a long rebound from the left side to make it 3-1 SCSU.
The Bears wasted no time cutting the lead back to just one goal. Brown’s leading scorer, senior forward Matt Kohansky, made a splendid pass in front to Legg, who, this time, was not bested by St. Cloud’s Scott Meyer in net.
Meyer was not beaten again though. Brown only mustered a few chances to tie it up, all of which were turned aside strongly by Meyer, who made 21 saves on the night.
After a Brown giveaway in the defensive zone, senior defenseman Christian Warrington was forced to take another penalty. With the opportunity for St. Cloud to add an insurance goal, Brown head coach Roger Grillo could only hope the Husky power play would not prevail again.
This time it was Husky leading scorer Mark Hartigan who chipped in to make it 4-2. The Brown penalty killers were able to kill off over a minute of the penalty, but Eklund could not stop a bullet one-timer that Hartigan received off a nice cross-ice pass from Westcott.
“We are obviously going to have to work on the penalty killing for tomorrow night,” Grillo said. “[Eklund] gave us an opportunity in this game, and our special teams didn’t get the job done.
“We had enough scoring chances to win it tonight … We just came out flat in the second. We looked tired and just plain slow.”
The Bears had the chance to counter with a five-on-three power play in the remaining minutes in the game, but could not convert. Brown was zero for six on the power play.
Looking to Saturday night, Dahl said, “We were pretty sloppy at times in the neutral zone. We also better figure out how to score at even strength, ’cause that could hurt us.”