ST CLOUD, Minn. — The St. Cloud State Huskies probably couldn’t have picked a better time to play their most complete game in months Saturday night at the National Hockey Center. They used a combination of suffocating defense and some timely scoring to complete the weekend sweep of Alaska-Anchorage with a 4-0 win.
More importantly, they stayed within a point of Denver in the WCHA standings heading into next weekend’s showdown in Colorado. The Pioneers escaped Madison with a 3-2 win over Wisconsin to retain their slim lead in the league standings.
Dean Weasler made 21 saves to earn his third shutout of the year and four different Huskies scored as St. Cloud recorded its sixth consecutive win.
“That was a pretty solid effort from start to finish tonight,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “It was a very good team game and I am very pleased.”
The Huskies controlled for all of the 60 minutes, and for the first 40, they were as good as they have been all year.
“We were dominated tonight in every facet of the game,” said Alaska-Anchorage head coach Jon Hill. “Some nights you have to give kudos to the other team, and tonight they really deserved to win.”
St. Cloud got on the board late in the first period when Peter Szabo picked up a rebound in the crease and snuck it through Seawolves goaltender Chris King’s left leg and the post while the Huskies were on the power play.
Nate DiCasmirro scored an even-strength goal on another rebound at 6:34 of the second. Derek Eastman blasted home a power-play goal exactly six minutes after that to make it 3-0, and Garrett Larson finished it off with a quick one-timer from the right circle. It was Larson’s first collegiate goal.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to last night,” said Weasler, who picked up his 20th win of the year. “But tonight our goal was 60 minutes … like it is every night, but since Christmas we haven’t done it, so hopefully this is a nice stepping stone and we can take off from here.”
Weasler credited his defense for what could have been the easiest shutout of his career.
“Our defense played real well,” he said. “Tonight we did what it takes to win and it started with the defense.”
“Everybody played will and played smart in our defensive end,” said Eastman, a defenseman who helped to set up Szabo’s power play goal in the first. “We were communicating well in our end and ‘Weas’ played great.”
The team was less than eager to look ahead to next weekend’s series with the Pioneers, which, in all likelihood, will the be the second time the Huskies are in a weekend series that has both teams ranked 1-2. Minnesota was ranked No. 1 and St. Cloud was two when the two teams met back on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
“I’m not going to think about it,” said Weasler. “I’m going home and watching Team USA play, go workout tomorrow and practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then we’ll fly to Denver and worry about Denver then.”
The series might be the most anticipated of the college hockey season, but Dahl pointed out that every game the rest of the way is big.
“The playoffs start now for us,” he said. “Every game is going to be intense.”
In other words, it’s the right time to reach that peak again.