ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Let’s just say Friday wasn’t Troy Jutting’s day.
Early in the afternoon, the Minnesota State-Mankato head coach took a puck to the head during his team’s pregame skate. Then, four stitches and a few hours later, he watched as his team sputtered though an 8-5 loss to St. Cloud State before a standing room only crowd of 6,348 fans inside the National Hockey Center.
Needless to say, Jutting wasn’t really in the mood to talk afterwards. In fact, both coaches were a bit testy following the game as the two teams combined for 19 penalties and an even larger number of boneheaded plays in a game that seemed more like and afternoon soap opera than a hockey game.
“It wasn’t a very good hockey game at all,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl, who kept his locker room closed for an extended period of time after the game. “I’m glad we won but boy, I’ll tell you, that might have been the worst game we played all year.”
Dahl’s team did look pretty good in the first period though, putting 19 shots on MSU freshman goaltender Chris Clark, who was starting his first career game and appearing in only his third. He was good in the first as well, turning away 18 of those shots.
His team did him an early favor too, and got the netminder something that the Mavericks hadn’t had in awhile when David Backes buried Chad Clower’s rebound 5:41. It was MSU’s first lead of the New Year, and their last since the early stages of an 8-5 loss to Dartmouth back on Dec. 28. They only got to savor it for 10 minutes though. That’s when SCSU’s Justin Fletcher tucked a backhand under the crossbar to send the teams to the dressing room tied at one.
The roof started to cave in the second, just about the same time the penalty box door started to get its workout. St. Cloud State’s Ryan LaMere went off for holding the stick 58 seconds into the period, but Dave Iannazzo gave the Huskies their first lead 30 seconds later on a shorthanded breakaway. Shane Joseph evened the score on that same power play, but Garrett Larson swatted in his own rebound at the 3:08 mark to give the Huskies the lead back. That didn’t last long either, as Chad Clower scored his first of the year just over two minutes later, roofing a shot over Adam Coole’s blocker.
St. Cloud State broke it open after that, though, scoring three straight power-play goals to close out the period. Peter Szabo got the first, batting in a Billy Hengen centering pass out of mid-air. Szabo then returned the favor, feathering a perfect pass to Hengen that the sophomore slid under Clark to make it 5-3. Joe Jenson finished off the barrage with a 5-on-3 goal.
“It got into a shootout and both teams started to think offense,” said Hengen, who would later add an empty netter to go along with a pair of helpers. “I guess we forgot about playing defense.”
It really looked that way in the third. Iannazzo added another power-play goal 7:47 in, but Clower and Dana Sorenson scored back-to-back goals to make it a two-goal game with just over two minutes to play. Jutting pulled Clark at that time, but Hengen sealed the win with 1:08 to play.
“We did score some goals, but giving up five is unacceptable,” said Hengen. “And the coaches let us know about it.”
Were they looking at the box score from the MSU series with Minnesota last weekend when the Mavericks gave up 16 goals in two games?
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them because I certainly didn’t give them the chance to talk to me about it,” said Dahl.
Said Jutting, “Our guys are fine, they understand what happened.”
He still will probably need an Advil or two to get through this night however, and the Huskies freely admitted that they know MSU will be better tomorrow in the rematch.
“They’re a good team, said Iannazzo. “This is Division I hockey, they’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.”