ST. CLOUD, Minn. — At the expense of Sacred Heart goaltender Jason Smith, Friday night marked the first time in eight games at the National Hockey Center that the St. Cloud State student section, known as the “Dogg Pound,” got to chant “sieve” with some feeling behind it.
After scoring only 10 goals in their previous seven consecutive home losses, the Huskies’ 9-1 non-conference victory over the Pioneers brought long-awaited smiles to the NHC.
Even the fact that Sacred Heart, currently third in Atlantic Hockey at 8-4-1, was winless in its eight non-conference games this season and had never played a WCHA opponent, didn’t steal a whole lot from the victory.
“Certainly we didn’t expect to beat them 9-1,” said Husky head coach Craig Dahl. “After the new year we had one win, which was against Duluth, so it was important for us to play well. I was hoping that we’d get a couple guys on the scoresheet.”
The Huskies put an exclamation point on that aspect, as freshman Andrew Gordon was the only SCSU forward without a point.
It didn’t take the Huskies’ offense long to get on track, scoring five first-period goals.
Sophomore defenseman Justin Fletcher struck first on the Huskies’ first power-play when he received a pass from sophomore forward Nate Raduns between the circles and finished with a wrister over Smith’s glove 6:18 into the game. Two minutes later, SCSU junior forward Joe Jensen followed his own shot from inside the right circle and tucked his rebound inside the right post.
SCSU’s fourth line made an unexpected appearance in the Huskies’ offensive burst when freshman forward Sean Garrity caught Smith out of the crease after tracking a shot. Garrity slid a pass from behind the net to a waiting Josh Singer, who barely beat Smith back to the right post for the second goal of his career at the 13:33 mark.
Just after National Hockey Center PA announcer Chuck Clausen finished reciting the scoring, Garrity found a gift for his first career goal after Singer’s shot bounced off Smith’s right leg, directly to him.
Garrity, a former Minnesota Mr. Hockey finalist from North St. Paul along with current teammate Nate Dey, was recruited by SCSU because of his offensive talent. After scoring 29 points as a USHL All-Star for Green Bay, it was a little surprising that it took him 14 games to find the back of the net.
“It was nice to get that first one, and not having to worry about that. Now I can just go out and play the game like I’m supposed to,” Garrity said. “Being on the fourth line, our role is just to be out there and not get scored on and play hard, give the team some energy and throw the body around. We tried to get that snowball rolling for the other lines.”
The Huskies’ fourth line of Singer, Garrity and freshman Matt Francis went beyond expectations to awaken SCSU’s offense.
“That was a big nice first goal for (Garrity),” Dahl said. “There is something to be said for guys who work hard on every shift, you’ve gotta feel good for him. That’s why that line has been successful — they work like dogs, led by Singer.”
Jensen scored his second goal of the game at the 14:54 mark, again crashing the net. This time he lost control of the puck after streaking between the circles and was pushed, along with SHU defenseman Todd Spencer into the crease, where the puck sneaked behind Smith.
After outshooting the Pioneers 19-6 in the first period, the Huskies didn’t let up much. Jensen recorded his third point of the game on a pretty 2-on-1 shorthanded assist for the lone goal of the second period at the 15:11 mark, assisted by Dey.
The Huskies kept digging the Pioneers’ grave in the third. From right-to-left, Dey found a streaking Brock Hooton on another 2-on-1 in which he finished at the left post, giving Smith no chance.
“The way that they went to the net to score goals was impressive,” said Sacred Heart head coach Shaun Hannah. “Their transition from defense to offense — one second we have the puck and the next they’ve got it and they’re gone.”
Considering the lopsided loss, Hannah was still able to reasonably assess the damage.
“Playing a WCHA opponent on an Olympic sheet of ice, it was a very good experience for our team,” Hannah said. “I didn’t think we were good defensively tonight. We weren’t making the pickups we were supposed to on the backcheck.”
After the Huskies scored their second power-play goal of the game at the 18:46 mark courtesy of a Matt Gens wrister from the point, the Pioneers ruined SCSU sophomore goaltender Tim Boron’s shutout on a goofy play. With 1:14 left and a scrum in front of Boron, SHU junior forward Rocco Molinaro attempted a shot which deflected off Singer’s head and found its way in.
SCSU senior co-captain Dave Iannazzo stuck the last nail in the coffin with less than five seconds left to seal the Huskies’ much-needed win, which put them at 10-15-2 overall. The Pioneers moved to 8-13-1.
“They were having a lot of fun, but like we always say, it’s fun when you win,” Dahl said. “This team has kept a real good attitude throughout this entire thing. Anybody who hangs around this team knows their attitude has been tremendous and their work ethic has been good. Our only problem has been to try and find some goals.”