ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Dan Kronick had a dream game against his old team on Friday night. With the help of wing mate Konrad Reeder, he was able to turn Saturday’s rematch into a near-total nightmare for Minnesota-Duluth.
Kronick and Reeder connected for four goals in the first two periods, three of them by Kronick, leading St. Cloud State (12-9-3, 7-8-1) as the Huskies jumped out to a 5-0 lead, then held on to defeat Minnesota-Duluth 6-3 at the National Hockey Center on Saturday night.
“[Kronick] has been playing well for a while now,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “You’ve got to score a couple of goals to get some confidence — no one’s above that he’s six-foot-four, two hundred pounds, and he’s really using his advantage well.”
The first period became the Kronick and Reeder Show in short order. Six minutes into the game, Kronick was released from the penalty box and immediately put himself in front of UMD netminder Issac Reichmuth. The screen was sufficient to cause confusion, as a shot by Billy Hengen from the point was redirected by Reeder and then quickly tapped in by Kronick for a power-play goal to give SCSU the 1-0 lead.
The duo linked up again five minutes later as Kronick entered the corner to the left of the net and hit Reeder in front with a no-look backhand that was immediately rifled with a one-timer that increased the St. Cloud lead to two.
A UMD penalty late in the first gave the Huskies their second man advantage of the game, and the Reeder-Kronick connection came alive yet again. As junior Justin Fletcher blasted a shot from the blue line, Reeder calmly tapped the puck directly across the crease to Kronick. The forward waited on the other side of the net to poke it past Reichmuth, who was unable to cross the width of the crease in time to make the save.
Only 50 minutes later, a fourth-line goal by freshman Michael Olson, scoring after a huge rebound off a shot by St. Cloud native John Swanson, ended a first stanza completely dominated by St. Cloud State. The goal hung a demoralizing punctuation on a difficult twenty minutes for Minnesota-Duluth (8-14-4, 5-10-3).
Seven and a half minutes into the second period, it was Kronick and Reeder once again to give the Huskies a commanding 5-0 lead. Converting on their third power-play opportunity in as many chances, St. Cloud State began with a shot by Aaron Brocklehurst which was saved by Reichmuth. The rebound came to Reeder, whose shot was also saved, but the second rebound to Kronick found the back of the net for his third goal of the night, fourth of the weekend, and seventh of the season.
Minnesota-Duluth refused roll over and die, and the offense was finally able to break onto the scoreboard after their terrible start, using the man advantage midway through the second period to kick start their struggling effort. A shot by freshman Andrew Carroll was saved by St. Cloud goalie Jason Montgomery, but the rebound to senior center Tim Stapleton became a laser shot that spent only a split second in the goal as it hit the top right corner of the net with pinpoint accuracy.
Five minutes later, an even-strength goal cut the SCSU lead to three as MacGregor Sharp passed the puck across the front to Nick Kemp, resulting in a textbook execution of a two-on-one break. Kemp one-timed the puck to the back of the net before Montgomery could move across the crease.
The spirited UMD comeback attempt continued into the third period. A goal by freshman Matt Greer closed the Bulldogs to within two with about twelve minutes to play, and a sensational save by Reichmuth on the other end only a minute later seemed to give Duluth the momentum it needed to continue its drive to overcome a horrible start and erase a five-goal deficit.
Duluth maintained pressure throughout the period, but despite many chances was unable to cut the St. Cloud lead further. An empty-net goal by Brocklehurst with a minute and a half to play ended any chance of a further comeback by the Bulldogs and gave the Huskies their first WCHA series sweep since early November 2004, when they swept Michigan Tech in an early-season matchup.
UMD’s Nick Kemp would pick up a game disqualification for fighting at 19:59 of the third after the second of two scraps taking place in the final ten seconds, meaning he will not be available for Minnesota-Duluth’s game at home on Friday.
For his part, Kronick finished the weekend with four goals and two assists against his former comrades, greatly improving on the three goals and four assists he had accrued during the season prior to the weekend.
“It feels pretty good playing against the old guys,” Kronick said. “Feels good taking it to ‘em a little bit. I’ve been thinking about this one for two years now, it’s been on my calendar for a while. I’m just glad I did as much as I could to help the team win.”
With the victory, St. Cloud State moves into sole possession of sixth place in the WCHA, two points ahead of UMD, which falls into a three-way tie with Minnesota State and Michigan Tech for seventh.
Minnesota-Duluth returns home to face Minnesota State in crucial back-to-back league games next weekend. St. Cloud State travels to Grand Forks, N.D. on Friday to face the team directly above it in the league standings – No. 9 North Dakota – for the first of two WCHA contests.