ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The St. Cloud State Huskies entered Friday night’s contest with Rensselaer sporting a lineup patched together by a freshman class that had a grand total of 25 games experience between the nine members that dressed.
Every defensive pair included a freshman, and three of the four lines had at least one on it. But none of that mattered much as youth was served, or, should we say, put to service, as the band-aid held together long enough for a 3-0 win before 6,057 at the National Hockey Center.
The Huskies, who have come to rely on special teams over the past few years, scored all three of their goals with the man advantage and killed off seven penalties as they improved to 3-1-1 on the year.
“This was nice for the confidence,” said Tim Conboy, who was one new faces in the lineup and in turn scored his first career goal in a St. Cloud State sweater. “This is something that we can build on for the whole year.”
Joe Motzko scored the first goal with just under six minutes to play in the first period when he finished off a cross ice feed from another freshman, Jonathan Lehun. That would be the only goal in a period where St. Cloud out shot RPI, 11-3.
The Husky power play struck for the second time 3:42 into the second. Again Lehun set it up, this time sending a shot towards the Engineer net that bounced off a defender and into the air where it found Matt Hendricks’ stick. Hendricks, who was playing with a cast on his left wrist, knocked the puck out of mid-air and past RPI goaltender Kevin Kurk to make it 2-0.
Conboy put the finishing touch on with a wrister that beat Kurk high midway through the third.
“The younger guys are starting to understand that playing within your systems is a good thing,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “Considering everything, I have to be pleased with what happened (tonight).”
“Whenever a first-year guy can contribute, it’s huge,” said Hendricks. “They are all working hard and you can tell that they want to play somewhere else one day. This is an important time of the year for them. Yeah we got a lot of guys hurt so we need these guys to play and play well, but another thing about it is they are out their trying to take somebody else’s spot, they want to play just as bad as anybody on this team.”
Hendricks’ words were prophetic as to what transpired on the ice, and rekindled on the other side of the building after the game.
“[St. Cloud] did a lot of the little things real well,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen. “It was pretty obvious that they had some guys in the lineup that were real hungry, and probably hungrier than they would normally be.”
That’s not to say the Engineers didn”t have their chances. They had seven opportunities with the man advantage, but at times struggled to get shots on Husky goaltender Jake Moreland, who stopped 17 to record his third career shutout.
“They were blocking shots and making the tough plays that we couldn”t make,” said Fridgen.
Fridgen’s Engineers will get another shot Saturday night when the teams meet again. Only this time it will be an experienced core for Husky freshman holding up the patchwork.