ST. CLOUD, Minn. — With all the hype surrounding North Dakota’s super freshman Zach Parise entering this weekend’s series with St. Cloud State at the National Hockey Center, some forgot that the Huskies had a pair of their guns returning to the holster for the weekend.
And they were loaded.
Jon Cullen and Ryan Malone each returned to a depleted St. Cloud roster after missing last weekend’s split with Rensselaer, and both put up five point nights to lead the Huskies to a 7-3 win over North Dakota before 6,479 screaming fans in Central Minnesota.
“People can say all they want, but this is a junior and senior league,” said St. Cloud head coach Craig Dahl. “And unless you’re just a real blue chipper, you have got to pay your dues, because the juniors and seniors always seem, year in and year out, to dominate nine times out of ten, and it was a great performance by our older players tonight.”
Dahl put three of his seniors on a line that had the responsibility of shutting down the Parise line, which worked, as the freshman went pointless for the first time in his short college career. But what else Dahl got out of his senior line was probably more pleasing.
The Cullen-Malone-Joe Motzko line finished the night with 13 points among them. Cullen, the Huskies captain, had a goal and four assists. Malone scored three times to go with a pair of helpers. Motzko added another tally and had two assists.
“That was the game plan; we were going to play against that line,” said Cullen. “But a lot of times lines like that which score a lot can be susceptible defensively too. We wanted to play good defense first and whatever happened after that we’ll take as a bonus.”
Motzko got it going early in the first, beating Fighting Sioux goaltender Josh Siembida after Cullen broke up a North Dakota clearing attempt to put the Huskies up 1-0, 3:31 into the game. Malone scored his first goal at the 14:30 mark of the opening frame, finishing off a feed from Cullen just as Motzko was drilled into Siembida.
North Dakota got on the board 1:54 into the second when James Massen cleaned up a Brandon Bochenski rebound while the Sioux skated with an extra man to cut the St. Cloud lead in half. Malone scored his second goal on a partial breakaway just over two minutes later to make it 3-1.
North Dakota would again make it a game as Andy Schneider and Jason Notermann scored back-to-back goals in the final 3:04 of the period to tie the game at three heading into the final twenty minutes.
“It was a pretty close game, though, until we busted it out in the third,” said Dahl.
Which they wasted no time in doing. Cullen scored a power play goal 2:55 into the third and less than a minute later Tim Conboy one-timed home a loose puck just above the left circle to give St. Cloud a 5-3 lead, one that this time they wouldn’t relinquish. Malone completed his hat trick with another breakaway goal midway through and Conboy blasted another puck into the net less than a minute after that.
“We felt good after we tied it up,” said North Dakota defenseman David Hale, whose Fighting Sioux were playing a bit shorthanded with four players serving one-game suspensions stemming from an fight last weekend at Yale. “But they came out in the third and scored those two quick goals to take all the momentum away from us. Plus their first line played really well, as did their power play.”
St. Cloud finished the night 2-of-6 with the man advantage. North Dakota did out shoot the Huskies 43-25 on the night, but for the most part couldn’t solve Jake Morleland, who finished with 40 saves, 15 of which came in the third.
“He played well,” said Dahl of his goaltender. “After the second period (in which Moreland gave up three goals) I told him to forget about the last 40 minutes and concentrate on the next 20, which he did.”
The Fighting Sioux, however, probably won’t forget any of the 60-minute whitewashing as they prepare for tomorrow night’s rematch.
“The character we have on this team will show up tomorrow night,” said Hale, with a stern look in his eyes. “We will be better.”