ST CLOUD, Minn. — Two words echoed off the walls of the National Hockey Center throughout the second period of the St. Cloud State’s 7-4 win over Alaska-Anchorage Friday night in St. Cloud — “Hobey Baker.”
And deservedly so.
Mark Hartigan, who was second in the fan voting process for college hockey’s top individual award behind New Hampshire’s Darren Haydar entering the weekend, put on a one-man show in the middle 20 minutes Friday night. Hartigan scored four goals and knocking an apparent fifth off the right post as the Huskies used seven second-period goals to pull out their 25th win of the year.
“We saw the Mark Hartigan show tonight,” said Husky head coach Craig Dahl. “He was not only spectacular tonight, but he was unselfish as well; he was one of three hardest workers on the ice.”
It did take 20 minutes for the show to start, though. The Seawolves came out fast, catching St. Cloud off guard. They scored a pair of first-period goals and at one point held an 11-1 advantage in shots on goal, but after ten minutes the Huskies began to wake up. They pulled even on the shot chart after the first at 12-12 and after Alaska-Anchorage forward Dan Gilkerson went off for roughing at the 19:10 mark, St. Cloud took advantage.
The Huskies opened the second period with that power play and it took them all of 23 seconds to cut UAA’s lead to one. Hartigan took a pass from defensemen Jeff Finger in his own zone and skated the length of the ice, making moves past a pair of Seawolves before beating Kevin Reiter with a backhand from the slot.
Less than a minute later, St. Cloud tied the game on a nice play that ended with Ryan LaMere depositing a Doug Meyer pass behind Reiter. Hartigan got his second when he cleaned up a rebound off a Matt Hendricks wraparound attempt at the 7:09 mark to give his team a 3-2 lead. The hat trick was completed just over two minutes later on a shorthanded blast that beat Reiter high over his glove.
Then at the 15:01 mark, the junior from Canada sent the 6,172 at the game in a frenzy, poking home his own rebound to give the Huskies a 5-2 lead.
“Our guys were a little disappointed after the first period — we had a nice little visit, and then he took over,” said Dahl.
“That’s leadership right there,” said Hartigan’s linemate Hendricks, who assisted on three of Hartigan’s goals. “He put the game in his own hands and showed everybody on this team that he wants to win.”
Derek Eastman and Peter Szabo added late second-period goals and Corey Hessler and Steve Cygan each scored for Anchorage in the third to make the score a bit more respectable, but on this night, all eyes were on number three.
It was the first hat trick of Hartigan’s career, and his fourth goal moved him past Jeff Saterdalen on the team’s all-time goal scoring list, which seemed about as important to him as the Hobey hype that has been circulating around central Minnesota for the past month or so.
“Those types of things are byproducts,” he said. “We are concentrating on larger things. If we would have blown this tonight, that trophy (the MacNaughton Cup) would be more distant. We want to pull that thing into us. Coach has been here for, what, 22 years (15, actually) and has never won one.
“We want to get him a championship.”
Which they stayed within reach of on this night. Denver won at Wisconsin to remain a single point ahead of the Huskies in the WCHA standings. The two teams meet next weekend at Denver in what is shaping up to be the most exciting series of the year. But in order for them to be in position next weekend, the Huskies know the business at hand must be taken care of first.
“We know that if we want to win a championship we have to play even better than we did tonight,” said Hendricks. “We can’t always rely on one guy.”
But they were able to Friday.