DULUTH, Minn. — The victorious homecoming tour of St. Cloud goaltender Adam Coole continued as the St. Cloud State Huskies downed the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, 5-3, to gain a weekend sweep and take hold of first place in the WCHA.
The Huskies won the series by keeping the Bulldogs off balance with aggressive team defense and, especially on Saturday, stellar goaltending by Coole.
UMD started strong. Last year’s team scoring leader Tim Stapleton received a pass from Brett Hammond at the St. Cloud blue line, carried in and deked to his forehand to beat Coole high. The rest of the first period was primarily UMD applying pressure, and featured Coole stopping Hammond at close range; seconds later, T.J. Caig clanged the right crossbar.
St. Cloud answered late in the first when Mike Doyle connected with less than a minute to play while UMD was being assessed a delayed penalty for an infraction against Coole.
The Huskies scored on the delayed penalty so the penalty is nullified, right? Wrong — UMD winger Marco Peluso was assessed a five-minute major for high-sticking the goalie on a curious first call for an officiating crew which up to that point had let everything go for both teams on the weekend.
As a result, SCSU started the second period with well over four minutes of power play and made UMD pay for its transgressions. Dave Iannazzo came out of the left corner and beat Isaac Reichmuth on the short side to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
Then things came unraveled for the UMD goaltender. A point shot from Husky defenseman Justin Fletcher nearly found the back of the cage after being juggled by Reichmuth. Soon after, a drive by SCSU freshman Gary Houseman was gloved by Reichmuth, but inexplicably trickled into the net to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead.
As a result, UMD freshman goaltender Josh Johnson was called upon to relieve Reichmuth and receive his initiation into college hockey under dubious circumstances.
And the Huskies were in no mood to make his debut enjoyable. Johnson stretched out his right leg to stop Billy Hengen on a breakaway for his first save. Seconds later, a SCSU goal was waved off on a quick whistle.
The third period featured a UMD comeback and a strong SCSU finish. UMD tied the game 3-3 before the period was half over. Peluso used Stapleton as a decoy on a 2-on-1 and beat Coole cleanly through the five-hole to bring UMD within 3-2 at the 3:55 mark. Stapleton then scored his second goal of the game at 7:23 of the third period to knot the game at 3.
When it appeared UMD had the momentum at home to complete the comeback, the Huskies finished the job. While 4-on-4, Doyle took a feed from Iannazzo in the slot. The junior winger had plenty of time to pick his spot high on the glove side for the game winner.
Matt Gens found the empty net at 19:07 to give the Huskies the final margin of victory.
Victorious coach Craig Dahl explained the game plan for the weekend: “Keeping UMD to the outside and limiting their scoring chances. We did that for the most part, except in the third period tonight when we gave up way too many odd-man rushes. This is when Adam (Coole) came to the rescue.”
As far as getting too giddy about their undefeated start, Dahl warned, “Hey, we have to go to North Dakota next weekend. Just when you think you are going good, something like that will come up to bite you.”
But for now, St. Cloud should enjoy the view from atop the WCHA standings. They, and a certain former Duluth goalie, have certainly earned it.