ST. CLOUD, Minn. — There were supposed to be two Husky hockey teams at the National Hockey Center Friday night, but somewhere in between the Upper Peninsula and central Minnesota, one team took the delayed route.
Well, most of them did.
Michigan Tech goaltender Cam Ellsworth certainly made it, and St. Cloud State made sure to make it was worth his time. Ellsworth came up with 43 saves but couldn’t survive a slow start from the rest of his team, which finally arrived some time in the second period to witness SCSU pick up its first WCHA win of the year, 3-1, before 5,863 inside the NHC.
Nate Dey and Mike Doyle each scored in the first and Matt Hartman added some insurance in the second after Tech had made it a one-goal game, giving St. Cloud State its fifth win of the year in a contest that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate.
“Their goaltender played well, but we were able to generate some offense,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl, whose team is looking at this series as must-win with four games against North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth on the slate in the next two weeks. “We’ve been playing well for a few weeks now and we got some freshman to throw some pucks in the net, so we’re real pleased.”
One of those freshmen, Dey, got SCSU going in the first when he finished off a pretty play from Billy Hengen for his second goal of the year. Hengen started at center ice after a Tech turnover, carried the puck into the zone, and crashed towards Ellsworth before slamming on the breaks and feathering a pass across the crease to Dey pounced at 13:27. It was Hengen’s ninth point in the last three games, all St. Cloud wins.
“Billy did all the work,” said Dey, the first Mr. Hockey award winner out of the Minnesota high school system to ever play for St. Cloud. “I had the whole net.”
Doyle made it 2-0 a little over three minutes later after taking a nifty pass off the stick of Peter Szabo. After Doyle sneaked by the Tech defense and headed towards Ellsworth, Szabo hit him with a perfect pass; Doyle redirected it and scored.
The game could have been much more lopsided, but Ellsworth held down the fort for most of the first 20 minutes, a period of time that saw his team get outshot 21-4.
“It was their home opener in the WCHA and you knew they were going to come out hard,” said Ellsworth. “I was just trying to give the team a chance to win.”
He did, and when Tech finally arrived the team tried to respond. Chris Conner netted Tech’s lone goal, a two-man power-play advantage, midway through the second, banking a shot off Tim Boron from behind the St. Cloud State net to cut the home team’s lead in half, but Hartman another freshman made it a two-goal game again with 5:32 to go in the period when he jumped on one of Ellsworth’s few mistakes. Grant Clafton fired a shot from the right point but Ellsworth kicked the rebound all to way back to the top of the slot. Hartman banged it in over the goaltender’s outstretched glove.
“[Hartman] made no doubt about it, but you’ve got to give credit to Cam,” said Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell. “He really kept us in the game. You have to also give some credit to St. Cloud though. They played really well.”
St. Cloud’s been doing just that as of late. After being swept in Denver three weeks ago, Dahl’s team is 3-0 and has outscored its opponents 20-3. Michigan Tech, on the other hand, has only a single win to show for itself through nine games.
“It’s been a rocky road here for a bit, but I think we have a good team here,” said Ellsworth. “It’s the most talented team we’ve had since I’ve been here. If I can come out and give an effort like that every time we play, the scoring should catch up, but it still comes down to wins and losses.”
The Huskies and Huskies meet again tomorrow night at 7:05, when the Huskies — of the Yoop variety — will try to arrive on time.