ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Another hard-fought battle in the National Hockey Center. Another outstanding performance by the St. Cloud power play. Another valiant effort from outmatched Brown. Another St. Cloud win.
Not everything was the same tonight, though. The Huskies prevailed against the underdog Bears, 5-4, on the strength of a 3-for-5 night on the power play. Friday night, it was 4-for-5.
St. Cloud’s Tyler Arnason led the way with a goal and two assists. Sophomore defenseman Derek Eastman scored the game winner 2:18 into the third — surprise, surprise, on the power play — which, at the time, gave the Huskies a 5-3 lead.
“Special teams killed us all weekend,” Brown head coach Roger Grillo said. “But we gave ourselves a chance in both games. I was proud with the way we battled.”
Like Friday, the Bears entered the third with a one-goal deficit, down 4-3. Brown couldn’t get that fourth goal, though, until just before the final buzzer.
“I thought we played undisciplined and unfocused tonight,” St. Cloud head coach Craig Dahl said. “There isn’t much to take out of a game like this.”
The visiting Bears came out as flat as a soda that has been sitting out all night, giving up two goal in the first six minutes, and three in the first 11, to give St. Cloud a 3-0 lead. The crowd was roaring, the Huskies were outplaying the Bears in every aspect of the game, and it appeared things could be on their way to a rout.
Opening up the scoring for St. Cloud was Keith Anderson. Just like last night, he gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead on the power play. Anderson received a nice back-door pass from sophomore forward Joe Motzko, which he converted past Brown’s freshman netminder, Yann Danis.
Just over a minute later, SCSU assistant captain Ritchie Larson jumped up into a two-on-one with captain Brandon Sampair, after a Brown neutral-zone turnover. Larson fired in a one-timer from the left side.
And just when things could get any worse, Husky defenseman Duvie Wescott fought past several unsuccessful Brown defenders and beat Danis stick side. With the score at 3-0, Grillo saw no option but to call a timeout and get his troops together.
“We were flat and they were flying in the first,” Grillo said. “After the timeout, we started skating and Yann started to settle down.”
Brown turned it around after that, and played a relatively even game with the No. 4-ranked Huskies. Freshman forward Shane Mudryk got the Bears on the board late in the first, off a perfect feed from senior Matt Kohanksy. Kohansky made a great move and a great pass that Mudryk fired in a wide open net.
Brown would cut the lead to one goal midway through the second. After the Bears couldn’t convert on a great opportunity in front, in large part due to some great saves by SCSU goaltender Scott Meyer, the puck squirted out to sophomore forward Paul Esdale at the left point.
Esdale fired a shot that somehow got through the mess of bodies in front of the St. Cloud cage. After the mess cleared, Meyer was furious that the goal was allowed, despite the many Brown bodies in the crease area. His outburst cost him a ten-minute misconduct, and he did not return to the game.
But minutes later, Brown took another penalty, and the crowd erupted in anticipation again. Arnason had no problem extending the lead to 4-2, after receiving a nice pass in front from Nate DiCasmirro.
Brown would counter later in the second, cutting the lead in half, to 4-3. Kohansky, who had a goal and an assist on the night, came down on his second two on one opportunity of the night, and this time was not stopped by Jake Moreland, Meyer’s replacement in net.
Kohansky took his time, cutting into the middle of the ice, and beating Moreland, who did an admirable job coming cold off the bench, between the pads.
“Their ‘D’ were pinching a lot tonight,” Kohansky said. “That’s what gave us a lot of chances. We are starting to bury the puck a lot better, which is a good sign.”
Early in the third, just as last night, the Bears took a bad penalty that would lead to the game-winner. On the power play, Eastman fired a bullet shot from the right point. The puck deflected off a Brown stick, and past the helpless Danis, who was only beaten that one time in the last 30 minutes of the game.
“I thought we were doing a good job killing that penalty,” Grillo said. “It just seemed like the puck had eyes on their power play this weekend.”
Brown had plenty of chances to get within one, but Moreland held the Bears back. Finally, with the extra skater on the ice and an empty net at the Brown end, Paul Esdale scored his second of the night, on another slapper that just beat the clock.
“I think we’re playing pretty well,” Arnason said. “They played some good hockey this weekend. Their record doesn’t show it, but they are a tough squad. People expected blowouts. We played good enough to win, and I’m happy about that.”