ST CLOUD, Minn. — If the St. Cloud State Huskies picked up any bad habits over their holiday break, it didn’t show on the ice Friday night as the nation’s top-ranked team cruised to a 5-1 nonconference win over UMass-Amherst at the National Hockey Center.
Mark Hartigan scored twice. Ryan Malone added another two and Joe Motzko scored an amazing wraparound while falling to his backside as St. Cloud State improved to 18-2-1 on the year.
“This was an important game for us,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “It gave our guys a chance to see a different style of hockey that we aren’t used to seeing.”
The Huskies didn’t come out of the gate playing like the game meant anything. They outshot the Minutemen 19-8 in the opening frame, but it wasn’t until Hartigan’s goal at the 11:22 mark that the Huskies came to life.
“We were a bit flat early,” Dahl said.
UMass-Amherst tied it just 1:31 after Hartigan scored while the Huskies were down two men. Freshman forward Greg Mauldin knocked in his own rebound to send the teams to the dressing room tied at one.
Then the garbageman showed up.
Malone has made a living in front of the net over the past month or so, and his two second-period goals came in that fashion. Twice Derek Eastman took a shot that hit traffic, and on both occasions Malone was there to clean up the mess.
“I’m always trying to go to the net,” said the 6-foot-4 forward from Pittsburgh, who has been playing with a cast on his arm for the past three weeks. “I just try and get in there and create some problems, and I have been lucky so far.”
Hartigan scored his second on a wraparound late in the period to put the Huskies up 4-1 after two.
“They got up on us by a couple and we struggled after that,” said Minuteman head coach Don Cahoon. “They are a good team though and the experience that we gained from playing them tonight will pay off in the end.”
Motzko added his beauty in the third to make the score 5-1 and improve the Huskies’ record over teams from the East to 3-0 on the year.
“We’ve seen Maine, Clarkson and now UMass,” said Dahl. “We still have Providence and Brown left, so we can take these games and learn from them and use this experience down the road.”
Cahoon’s team has faced some of the toughest squads in the nation so far this year, and said that the Huskies could match up with any one of them.
“We’ve played Michigan State and they are a really good hockey team,” he said. “That would be a good game, State vs. State, I would like to watch that one.”
So would most of us.
The Minutemen have Saturday and Sunday off before facing Boston College at home on Monday. The Huskies return to action Saturday night as they host the U.S. National Development Team in an exhibition at the NHC.