MANKATO, Minn. — Mankato, Minn — Many hockey teams struggle when they don’t have a number-one goaltender. St. Cloud State thrives on it.
After senior Dean Weasler stopped 36 of 37 shots Friday night in SCSU’s 7-1 victory, junior goalkeeper Jake Moreland stopped all 37 shots he faced to give the Huskies a 4-0 victory Saturday and a sweep over Minnesota State University (3-3-0 overall, 2-2-0 in the WCHA).
St Cloud, ranked No. 3 in the country, has used a goaltender combination every weekend this far into the season, and so far it’s been a great system as the Huskies have jumped out to a 6-0-0 start (4-0-0 in the WCHA).
Moreland said, “I like [the rotation]. It’s a lot better than not playing at all. It saves on wear and tear. And it’s kind of a setup for me. I watch (Weasler) on Friday night and see what he does.”
“That was championship goaltending, and that’s what you’ve got to have,” added SCSU head coach Craig Dahl of Moreland’s performance.
On the other side of the ice, MSU head coach Troy Jutting was frustrated with the great goaltending his team faced in the series.
“74 shots on the weekend and we score one goal,” said Jutting. “Normally if you get 74 shots you get a lot more than one goal. Their goaltenders did a great job. They’ve both played very well all year so far.”
The first period showcased a flurry of offense, but both goaltenders played an outstanding 20 minutes to keep the game close.
Less than a minute in, Moreland stopped MSU’s Matt Paluczak who had moved in from the blue line and received a pass from teammate B. J. Abel. Paluczak shot high, but Moreland deflected the shot with a quick glove save.
On the power play moments later, Maverick forward Jerry Cunningham received a pass from behind the net and found himself alone in the right faceoff circle. With plenty of time and a great scoring opportunity, Cunningham fired a laser shot on goal. Moreland was caught out of place, but he slid back and the puck seemed to get caught up in his pads, keeping the score at zero.
“I was completely lost on that play,” stated Moreland. “I heard a shot coming, so I just shut my legs and dropped, and then I felt it hit me. It got stuck between my pads. I didn’t even know I had it at first. I got up and it’s sitting there. I was kind of lucky, and I just felt a lot of confidence.”
After Paluczak went off for obstruction hooking at 10:50, MSU’s Jon Volp put on a show in net. In a two-minute span, the freshman stopped chances by SCSU’s Ryan Malone, Jeff Finger, and Dave Iannazzo. Iannazzo’s was the best, as he got the puck alone in the slot and sent a wicked wrist shot top-shelf. Volp made a spectacular glove save to knock the puck into the corner.
However, St. Cloud took advantage of an odd-man rush and got the puck past Volp with 11 seconds left in the stanza.
Skating 4-on-4, freshman Mike Doyle brought the puck into the Maverick zone on a 3-on-2 rush with teammates Peter Szabo and Ryan LaMere. LaMere, a defenseman, was the trailer on the rush and signaled for the puck as soon as he came into the zone. Doyle, heading down the right side, slid the puck to Szabo, who quickly fed the puck to LaMere as he came down the slot all alone. LaMere made a nifty play to fake Volp out and slid the puck past the sprawled goalie to give his team a 1-0 lead heading into intermission.
Dahl was impressed with Doyle’s vision on the play. “Doyle saw him (LaMere) and was yelling at Szabo to pass the puck to LaMere before he even passed to Szabo. That kid is smart.”
The goal was the first of LaMere’s career. LaMere, a freshman, was at a loss for words about that.
“I don’t know, it just feels good,” said LaMere, laughing. “Everybody else is asking me questions about it too. I don’t know. I’m lucky I got that first one. It’s a big monkey off my back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a couple more now.”
The second period started with Volp as the star player once again. Volp made two huge glove saves on hard blasts by Husky forwards Matt Hendricks and Mark Hartigan in the first four minutes of the period.
However, St. Cloud took advantage of a power-play chance halfway though the period and got past Volp again, increasing the lead to two. Hartigan brought the puck into the zone for the Huskies and spun around at the blue line. He stopped and sent a hard pass toward the left side of the goal crease, where teammate Iannazzo was set up. Iannazzo, a freshman from Maple Grove, Minn., deflected the pass into the net for the second goal of his career.
MSU’s best chance to score came with 40 seconds left in the period. At the end of a penalty kill, sophomore Shane Joseph swept the puck into the neutral zone. Paluczak, who had just come out of the penalty box, grabbed the puck and came in on all alone on Moreland. Moreland was up to the task and stopped Paluczak, preserving the 2-0 lead.
In the third, St. Cloud added a power-play goal by Hendricks at 2:30 and Szabo finished off the scoring with a goal at 12:19. The Husky defense clamped down on MSU’s offense, and the game ended with a final score of 4-0.
Special teams were a source of concern for the Mavericks, as they went 0 for 7 in the game. St. Cloud finished 2 for 6.
“We’re not scoring when we get wide-open chances,” said Jutting. “I thought we had five or six great opportunities on the power play and we just didn’t score when we got them. I don’t think it’s a case where we’re not getting our opportunities. We’re moving the puck pretty well and we have guys wide-open, and we’re just not burying the puck. We’re just a little snake-bit right now.”
The Huskies return home next weekend to battle North Dakota. The Mavericks stay home and face Findlay in a nonconference series.