ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It may have taken 20 minutes into Friday night’s contest, but the Husky hockey team that left Houghton, Mich., late last Saturday night finally made it back to central Minnesota.
They got home just in time, too, rattling off three consecutive second-period goals which provided the difference in a 5-2 win over Bemidji State Friday night before a generously-announced crowd of 5,938 fans at the National Hockey Center.
Before that it wasn’t pretty for St. Cloud State, as Bemidji scored 18 seconds into the game and outshot the Huskies 16-9 in a first period that the Beavers controlled, but couldn’t capitalize on as the teams headed for the dressing room tied at one.
A different St. Cloud State team hit the ice for the second, though. Garrett Larson, Grant Clafton and Billy Hengen scored consecutive goals in a 10-minute span, the Huskies outshot Bemidji 25-13 the rest of the way and freshman goaltender Tim Boron made 27 saves lifting St. Cloud State to its third consecutive win and 17th overall.
“We played good second and third periods and did what we needed to do,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “If anybody thinks you’re going to dominate Bemidji State, you got another think coming. You’re not going to dominate Bemidji State, and I fully had a lot of respect for them coming in.”
As did his players, but perhaps the Beavers were even more improved than the Huskies had thought. Coming into Friday night Bemidji had been cruising through the CHA with a 12-2 mark, playing its nonconference opponents — mostly teams from the WCHA — tough. But the way they started the night still appeared to catch the Huskies off-guard.
“They are defiantly an upper-caliber team,” said St. Cloud State captain Matt Hendricks, who scored the tying goal in the first and added an empty-netter late in the third, “They work as hard as any team we’ve played this season, if not harder, and that first period was kind of a wakeup call for us.”
The Huskies calmed down in the second, being more patient after trying to rush everything in the first, and were rewarded 4:28 in. Andy Lundbohm fired a shot on Beaver goaltender Grady Hunt, and Larson was there to put home the rebound for his seventh goal of the season to give St. Cloud State its first lead of the night.
Clafton was the beneficiary of a bad Bemidji State turnover in its own end, taking a pass from Konrad Reeder after Reeder picked off a blind clearing attempt and fed Clafton, who was all alone in front for his first career goal and his fourth point in three games since being moved up to defense to forward before last weekend.
Five minutes later, Hendricks sent a pass from the corner to Hunt’s right that Hengen tipped past the netminder for his eighth of the year.
“We played to our tempo and our style right away,” said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. “But once you get behind it amazing how your energy level drops off and falls off when you get down 3-1. You can sense it on the bench and you can see it on the ice.”
Bemidji got a bit of a boost when Riley Riddell intercepted Justin Fletcher’s errant clearing pass and hit Luke Erickson to cut the lead to 4-2, but the St. Cloud State defense tightened up and Boron didn’t budge the rest of the way, impressing his teammates and coaches with his third straight win.
“Winning breeds confidence,” said Dahl. “And right now Timmy’s winning.”
As is St. Cloud State, which has won five of seven and is looking at a six-pack in the next three weeks that nobody in the country is envious of after this weekend, traveling to Wisconsin and Minnesota with a home series with Colorado College sandwiched in between.
“We need to keep playing how we did last weekend and in the second and third periods tonight,” said Hendricks. “I’ve said this a hundred times before, we’re not the most talented team. What we have going for us is a good goaltender, we play strong defensively and we’ll chip some goals in here and three because we can grind and work real hard.
Which they’ll have to do again Saturday if they want to find another leak in the dam Serratore and his Beavers have built.