ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Minutes after getting on after his team following Rensselaer’s 3-0 loss to St. Cloud State Friday night at the National Hockey Center, Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen noted that the difference between the two teams was a willingness to do the little things.
Those ‘little things’ he referred to, such as blocking shots, working through checks and showing some desire was what Fridgen said he was looking for. And he got exactly that in the rematch Saturday night as RPI outworked St. Cloud State en route to a 3-1 win.
The Engineers killed off eight Husky power plays, scored on two of their own and finally got the goaltending out of Nathan Marsters that they were looking for.
“Sometimes when you throw out a challenge to your team you see what kind of character they have in their response,” said Fridgen. “We made some adjustments on our power play and penalty kill, but we challenged them and they responded favorably.”
That and their goaltender made 40 saves.
“Nate came up with some huge saves for us, especially when we needed them,” Fridgen added. “That was his first victory, it was one of those things where I thought he was due and he was real hungry for that first win.”
St. Cloud State put up double-digit shot totals in all three periods, yet walked away with just one rebound goal to show for it.
“I’ve been struggling so far this year and it felt good to get a good game under your belt,” said Marsters. “Hopefully I can build on it, but this was a big win for the team as well.”
His team gave him the support that Kevin Kurk lacked Friday night. Like the night before St. Cloud State got on the board first. Just after a slashing penalty to RPI’s Scott Romfo expired, Matt Hendricks took a shot from the slot that bounced off some bodies in from of Marsters. The puck went to the goaltender’s left where Nathan Lehun waited to stuff it in.
RPI couldn’t solve Husky goaltender Jason Montgomery in the opening frame, but they got to him on their first attempt in the second when Ben Barr scored 1:27 into the period. Carson Butterwick gave RPI their first lead of the weekend on the power play midway through the second and Keith MCWilliams added a 5-on-3 goal late in the third to seal it.
MCWilliams’ goal came just a few minutes after his Engineers killed off consecutive St. Cloud State power plays, a problem the Huskies ran into all night long.
“Our power play didn’t get it done tonight,” said St. Cloud State forward Joe Motzko, who had three points Friday night. “Last night our power play won the game for us and tonight we just couldn’t get the job done.”
“We had a couple of chances early with the power play, but as the night went along we just progressively got worse,” said Husky head coach Craig Dahl. “Our second period was a little lackluster and that’s probably what did us in, but (Marsters) made some real nice saves and he didn’t give up nothing cheap, but we had our chances, we just didn’t get it done.”
The Huskies will have all of six days to work on finishing those chances with sixth ranked North Dakota heading into town next weekend. They will, however, be closer to full strength than they have been all year with the return of Ryan Malone and Jon Cullen to the lineup.
RPI, on the other hand, starts conference play next weekend with home games against Clarkson on Friday night and St. Lawrence the following night.