ST. CLOUD, Minn. — With a bit of NHL flavor inside the National Hockey Center on Saturday night, St. Cloud State and Michigan Tech proved that despite the locked doors on the pro rinks, hockey still isn’t breathing as heavy as its players.
In an exciting, fast paced offensive slugfest that saw a combined 10 goals and 72 shots, St. Cloud State outlasted the other Huskies for a 6-4 win to complete a weekend sweep of Michigan Tech and improve to 6-3-1 on the year and 2-2-0 in league play.
6,011 fans squeezed inside the NHC, two of which included current NHLer’s and former St. Cloud State standouts Brett Hedican and Mark Parrish, who found something to do while they were out of work. All were treated to a St. Cloud State offense that is doing all it can to prove the early season prognosticators that predicted them to struggle scoring goals wrong.
Craig Dahl’s team had six different skaters finish with multiple-point nights, scored four power-play goals and got two goals apiece from Dave Iannazzo and Joe Jensen as his team picked up its fourth straight win.
“We operated at a pretty high efficiency,” said Dahl, who introduced his two former stars to his team in a jumping locker room after the game. “Usually you have to score on the power play to win games, so it was nice to see it start to click tonight.”
Did it ever. St. Cloud scored on its final four chances with the extra man, breaking out of a 9-for-73 slump.
“We’re starting to communicate better on special teams and that has a lot to do with it,” said Jensen, who got both of his goals on the power play. “We work hard at it in practice so we knew eventually it would carry over to the games.”
They needed it to tonight. Tyler Shelast started a crazy second period with a fancy tip-in to give Michigan Tech its first lead of the weekend, but Jensen didn’t let that last too long, as erased that deficit at the 7:53 mark when he beat a screened Cam Ellsworth from just inside the blue line. Iannazzo then scored his first, putting St. Cloud up by one a minute-and-a-half later when he one-timed a shot from the left circle that Ellsworth couldn’t catch up to.
Shelast tied the game at three with 6:40 to go in the second on another nifty play, tipping home a shot from Colin Murphy that Shelast redirected while the puck was about a foot off the ice.
Iannazzo answered again later in the period, finishing off a play that was started by Josh Singer, who was playing in his first career game with St. Cloud after transferring to the Huskies from Michigan Tech after the 2002-03 season.
Singer got through a pair of Tech defenders and put a backhand on Ellsworth, the rebound went right to Iannazzo, who cleaned up the mess to put St. Cloud back up 4-3.
Like last night, it could have been much worse, but Ellsworth was remarkable again. St. Cloud tied a school record with 27 shots on goal in the second, but only had a one-goal lead to show for it heading into the third period.
“I thought Ellsworth played very, very well for them,” said Dahl, whose team would finish with 49 goal. “Anytime you put 50 (49) shots on net and only get five (six) goals, that’s still a 90 percent saves percentage, he kept them in the game.”
And put some life in his team. Tech nearly tied the game a couple times in the early portion of the third, but couldn’t take advantage before St. Cloud went back on the power play. Nine seconds later, Peter Szabo rippled the twine behind Ellsworth to give his team a two-goal lead.
Michigan Tech kept coming though, and Colin Murphy made it a game again a minute later, scoring one of the strangest goals your ever likely going to see. Taggart Desmet won a draw in the St. Cloud zone, the puck came to Murphy, who fired a shot that went high over the net, bounced off the glass back towards the front of the net. Jason Montgomery tried to swat at it with his blocker, but puck went right into the net.
“I got pretty lucky I guess,” said Murphy. “We needed some luck though.”
They didn’t get enough, as Jensen finished out the scoring with another power-play goal from just above the left circle.
“It’s go to be frustrating for the guys,” said Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell, whose team dropped to 1-8-1 on the year and 1-7-0 in WCHA play. “They’re working hard, and we’re in every game, we just haven’t found ways to win.”
They’ll try again next weekend, when Russell’s team heads to Colorado College. St. Cloud State hits the road as well, as they head up I-94 to Grand Forks to face North Dakota.