ST CLOUD, Minn. — The St. Cloud State Huskies took a page out of the history book and put it to use Friday night at the National Hockey Center.
Before the game, assistant coach Brad Willner played a highlight tape for the team from last year’s Final Five championship that concluded with a 6-5 overtime win over North Dakota. What Willner didn’t realize at the time was that he was cooking up a case of deja vu as well.
Matt Gens’ low shot from the point found its way through maze of players and through Rob Anderson’s legs at 17:39 to give the Huskies another overtime win, this time 5-4 in game one of a best-of-three series in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs against Minnesota-Duluth.
“That was pretty exciting to see that tape,” said Gens, who is a freshman this year and therefore wasn’t on that team a year ago. “It gave us a pretty big boost.”
Which apparently they needed.
UMD was sharp throughout the night. The Bulldogs scored the game’s first goal with 1:45 left to go in the first period on a nice play that Drew Otten finished off to gain a 1-0 lead after one.
They answered every time the Huskies provided a question. First, Otten helped the Bulldogs regain the lead after Peter Szabo made it 1-1, this time completing a two-on-one with Jon Francisco.
St. Cloud scored back-to-back power-play goals 33 second apart to grab a 3-2 lead midway through the second, but just 18 seconds later the Bulldogs struck again when Andy Reierson’s wrist shot from the left circle beat Dean Weasler clean over his glove to tie the game at three.
Gens scored on a nifty play with just under nine minutes to play in regulation, but again UMD retaliated when Mark Carlson’s slapshot from the top of the circle beat Weasler to his left at the 16:52 mark to send the game into overtime.
“Both teams were getting their bounces tonight but they got the last one,” said Otten. “Our team battled hard and we had a great opportunity to capitalize at the start of overtime, but we just weren’t able to get it done.”
The Bulldogs started the overtime with 1:25 of power-play time after the Huskies were caught with six men on the ice in the last minute of regulation, but St. Cloud had the better of the chances in the early stages of the extra frame.
Twice the Huskies had a shorthanded odd-man rush in the first two minutes, but both times Anderson was up to the task.
“Man, I thought we had that thing one a couple of times in the beginning of overtime there,” said St. Cloud head coach Craig Dahl. “But you have to give UMD credit — they played very hard. Both teams did; it was definitely playoff hockey.”
Both teams had chances to win the game. UMD killed of a pair of St. Cloud power plays in the overtime, but also failed on both of its own chances with the extra man.
The Bulldogs outshot St. Cloud 10-8 in the extra session, and 40-36 for the game. What they couldn’t do was capitalize late.
Otten, nonetheless, praised his team’s effort.
“That was the best game we played all year tonight,” he said. “This thing could have [gone] either way; all 20 guys in the lineup laid it on the line. There is nothing we can do now but be proud of ourselves and get ready to go again tomorrow.”
Which they will. Game two starts at 7:05 p.m. CT Saturday.