ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Now this is WCHA hockey.
In front of a packed house at the National Hockey Center, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin slugged through the league’s first scheduled game of the season. There were hits, scrums, great goaltending — and, oh yeah, an outcome as the Huskies squeaked past the Badgers with a 2-1 win in front of 6,268 fans in Central Minnesota.
Goals were hard to come by, and open ice even harder, as the two teams made the Olympic sheet resemble an icehouse. But, when Dave Iannazzo sent a soft backhand shot that had a pair of eyes through a maze of legs early in the third, St. Cloud State had enough to get by, as the Huskies won the third period and opened their season with a win for the third straight year.
“We came to play in the third, boy,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “We wanted this game bad. The only way we are going to survive early in the year is to be blue collar and tonight we were that type of team.”
That was obvious from the outset, when they got the game’s first goal on a hard-working play during a gut-wrenching shift from their fourth line.
Andy Lundbohm bulldozed his way through a Wisconsin defender, circled the net and tried to stuff a shot past netminder Bernd Bruckler, but the puck snuck through the crease to Konrad Reeder, who needed all of his 5-foot-9 frame to redirect it in.
“Konrad, now that’s one guy that I think has been playing great for us,” said Iannazzo. “Last weekend and in practice, he’s been working really hard and using his speed and tonight it got him a goal.”
It was big, because Wisconsin controlled most of the play through the first half of the game. The Badgers outshot the Huskies in each of the first two periods, and made some nice offensive plays, but were unable to beat Jason Montgomery, who started for St. Cloud State in goal, until about the midway point of the second period.
After a questionable tripping call to the Huskies’ Brian McCormack, the Badgers got the equalizer on a weird play.
Rene Bourque took a shot from the point that banged of a St. Cloud defender, went up in the air, and then hit Jake Dowell before sliding past Montgomery. Dowell got credit for the goal.
“I was sliding across and it redirected,” said Montgomery, who will watch as teammate Adam Coole gets his shot in the net tomorrow net. “After that I don’t know what it hit.”
Neither did most people in the building. Replays proved inconclusive, but the goal counted.
“We were in good shape then. You know I was happy with everything but the outcome, we did a lot of good things, their goalie made some big saves because we tested him,” said Badger head man Mike Eaves. “Now we have to take that step and figure out how to win.”
Which, for the Badgers, should start in the third period. They played pretty good hockey through the first 40 minutes, then let things slip away early in the third.
“That’s because St. Cloud got that goal,” said Eaves. “That seemed to take some wind out of our sails.”
The Huskies got it because Iannazzo found himself in the right place and precisely the right time. After T.J. McElroy’s shot from the point hit traffic in front of Bruckler, the puck slid to Iannazzo. Bruckler found himself out of position, and Iannazzo tucked it away.
“This was big for us,” said Iannazzo, who also had three assists in the Huskies’ exhibition win last Saturday. “To start the season out at home and get that first win, we needed that.”
They’ll get a shot at their second Saturday night.