ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It was nearly 11 months coming, but St. Cloud State finally has a weekend sweep.
Marty Mjelleli scored two goals, and Dan Kronick notched three assists to lead St. Cloud State to a 6-2 victory over Robert Morris before 5,753 at the National Hockey Center on Sunday night.
St. Cloud (8-8-2) got out of the gate quickly, throwing shot after shot at Robert Morris goalie Christian Boucher. The Colonials withstood the SCSU onslaught for the first nine minutes of the game, until a rebound shot by Gary Houseman initially saved by Boucher slowly trickled off of his leg and behind him into the net, giving Houseman his third goal of the weekend and the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Just 38 seconds later, a hard shot into the zone slammed off the end boards and took a St. Cloud bounce, right to Mjelleli in front of the net. While Boucher struggled to find where the bounce had taken the puck, Mjelleli snapped the puck through the five-hole for SCSU’s second goal of the evening.
“It was kind of a fluke,” Mjelleli said. “I just kinda walked out and put it off his pad, I think [Boucher] probably just felt it squirt right through there.”
Robert Morris (4-11-1) finally scored its first goal of the weekend late in the first, as sophomore Jace Buzek took a feed from Doug Conley on the right side of the goal, moved to the slot, and gave the puck just enough lift to clear the shoulder of St. Cloud netminder Jason Montgomery. The goal was the first by an RMU player against a WCHA team.
Any chance that the Colonials had to take momentum into the intermission was dashed when St. Cloud returned the favor on the other end, attacking off the ensuing center-ice faceoff and ending with Brock Hooton cycling the puck to junior defenseman Casey Borer, whose one-timer from the top of the left circle was a laser to the back of the net, only 32 seconds after the Robert Morris goal.
For the Husky captain, it was the first goal of his collegiate career, coming in his 85th career game.
“There were a lot of guys getting second chances this weekend, almost getting reborn,” said a smiling Borer. “We’ve got to get some of these guys doing some pond skating during the break.”
Early in the second period, St. Cloud State got into penalty trouble and found itself killing a five-on-three. Soon after Andrew Gordon stepped back onto the ice, he was the recipient of a clearing pass in the neutral zone. Gordon moved quickly to attack on the breakaway, but was robbed by Boucher, who managed to scoop the puck with his glove.
Following the ensuing faceoff, RMU began attacking on the power play, missing the net on two shots. Following the second missed shot, the puck came back out to the point, and sophomore Jeff Gilbert wound up for a big slapshot.
Unfortunately for the Colonials, his follow-through caught only air as Joe Jensen adeptly snatched the puck away, creating an instant shorthanded breakaway. Shooting from the right faceoff dot, Jensen bounced the puck off Boucher’s right leg and into the net for the shorthanded tally, putting the Huskies up 4-1.
RMU refused to quit and played tough during the third period, putting up 13 shots in the final frame, equaling its shot total from Saturday night’s game. In all, the Colonials would finish with 31 shots on the evening to St. Cloud’s 45.
“Last night, I felt like we really quit in the third period,” said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. “I was very proud of our guys [tonight], and I was very proud of the effort we put forward throughout the game. We had a lot of chances and just played so much better tonight.”
SCSU added to the scoring with two goals late in the third period, Mjelleli’s second goal of the night came with six minutes to play, and senior forward Josh Singer, playing in his first game of the season, scored on the power play with a minute and a half left.
Freshman Aaron Clarke gained a consolation goal for Robert Morris, the first of his collegiate career, scoring just as the final horn sounded as the Colonials put up a spirited attack during the last minute despite the five-goal deficit.
The weekend sweep was the first for SCSU since January, when it swept Sacred Heart at home. The Huskies entered the weekend with wins on six of eight prior weekends this season, but no sweeps.
“Every game in college hockey is just waiting to be dictated by a play or two,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “Whatever team makes those plays turns the game. We had a tight game, and Casey Borer gets a nice goal and Joe Jensen scored when we needed goals, and that was the difference that turned the game.”
Robert Morris, meanwhile, has not won since defeating Alabama-Huntsville at home in mid-November.
“This weekend was kind of a steppingstone for us,” said RMU captain Kurt Wright. “The atmosphere was different, the rink size is bigger — it was something we weren’t used to, but we adjusted to it and that’s important, especially going into the league schedule.”
Both teams are off until 2006. Robert Morris returns to action on January 6, at home against No. 19 Bemidji State for the first of two CHA league games. St. Cloud State also returns on January 6, traveling to Hamilton, N.Y., for the first of two nonconference games against No. 11 Colgate.
“We need to keep on marching,” said Mjelleli, who had three points on the weekend. “Our goal is to have a very solid second half, and starting against Colgate right off the bat, it’s good to have a little momentum.”