ST. CLOUD, Minn. — If St. Cloud State’s exhibition opener Saturday night at the National Hockey Center serves as a sign of things to come, then maybe the Huskies won’t have as much of a problem scoring goals as prognosticators have predicted.
It did take a few shifts to find their skates again, but once they got going, that sour taste left by New Hampshire in last season’s NCAA regional evaporated behind St. Clair College goaltender Ryan Schuchard, as the Huskies beat him early and often in skating to an 8-2 win.
It was an exhibition, and St. Clair didn’t match up competitively like the WCHA will, but St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl wasn’t unsatisfied.
“It was pretty much what I expected it to be,” said Dahl. “Our guys played well for the first time out.”
Dahl said he wanted to see a number of things from his team, one of which was how the freshmen would respond in an actual game.
“They’ve got pretty good composure for young guys,” said Dahl. “They are going to make mistakes, and we know that, but as the year progresses they will get better and better. The only problem will be that we won’t be able to find a spot for all of them (in the lineup).”
But it was the veterans who got the Huskies going early.
Mike Doyle got them on the board first, swatting a backhand past Schuchard after freshmen Brent Hill’s shot hit a defender just in front of the crease.
“Doyle looks stronger,” said Dahl. “He put in a lot of work over the summer and it shows, I was real pleased with him.”
The Saints got that one back, though, when Ryan Ciasco blasted a shot past Jason Montgomery, who started the game for St. Cloud State and played the first period.
But Konrad Reeder and freshman Justin Fletcher each scored to give St. Cloud a 3-1 lead after one.
The Huskies added four more in the second and one in the third, and got multiple-point nights out five players, three of whom were freshman defenders.
“I think there is more skill on this team than even we thought we had,” said Doyle, who scored in the second and third to get the hat trick.
That was probably most evident late in the middle period when the Huskies scored a pair of shorthanded goals on one penalty kill. Doyle got the first, beating his man to the slot where he finished off a nice feed from Dave Iannazzo. Matt Gens had the other after Brian McCormack found the defender trailing the play.
“We had defenders jumping into the play,” said Doyle. “And when they get offensive we are a better team.”
Now they turn to Wisconsin, a team that played a pair of actual games this weekend against quality teams. The Badgers come into town next weekend tested, but the Huskies will be well-rested, with four prominent players out of the lineup for the exhibition.
And they know that starting next weekend, everything counts.
“We’ll be ready,” said Doyle,