ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Junior Nate Dey scored twice and assistant captain Andrew Gordon had a goal and four assists as No. 16 St. Cloud State defeated the University of Lethbridge in a penalty-filled exhibition match, 8-2 on Friday night at the National Hockey Center.
“The penalties were unfortunate,” said St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko, who enters his second season at the helm. “It wasn’t good for them, it wasn’t good for us. It is what it is, but we’re going to get enough out of this game to find areas we need to address and to help us move forward quickly.”
Lethbridge defenseman Justin Cruse took a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind about four minutes into the game when he slammed St. Cloud sophomore John Swanson into the boards behind the Pronghorn net. Swanson would go off to be treated for a cut above his eye, but when he returned shortly thereafter, he netted the first goal of the night after another Lethbridge penalty gave the Huskies a five-on-three.
“Bryan [DeMaine, trainer] was wiping the blood off, and all of a sudden I heard Coach Motzko call for my power play unit,” said Swanson. “I told Bryan ‘I’ll be right back.’ Ryan Lasch made a great pass and I was lucky enough to score.”
Lasch, a freshman forward and St. Cloud native, passed the puck across the crease from right to left and found Swanson wide open and in perfect position for a one-timer, sending the Husky faithful into a frenzy.
“That’s part of becoming a big-time player,” said Motzko of Swanson’s grit. “You’re going to get rapped on a little bit, and then you respond. It was a nice little test for him and he passed.”
Junior Andrew Gordon added a second goal with a minute and a half left in the game’s opening stanza. With a five-on-three advantage after a pair of Lethbridge hooking penalties, a shot by junior Dan Kronick rebounded off of Pronghorns netminder Brandon Highton and fell to Swanson, who quickly passed left to right across the crease to find Gordon, who one-timed the puck home.
Lethbridge amassed 29 penalty minutes during the first period, which featured only 6:52 of five-on-five play, but went into the first intermission down only 2-0.
After a Lethbridge goal five-and-a-half minutes into the second, junior Nate Dey scored his first goal of the evening off a pass from freshman Andreas Nodl. Dey’s first shot was stopped by Highton, but he continued to hack away at the puck until it squirted through, putting the Huskies up 3-1.
Four and a half minutes into the third period, Nodl and Dey would score just 11 seconds apart. The top line of Nodl, Dey, and Gordon combined for four goals and six assists on the evening. Nodl finished his first evening in a St. Cloud State uniform with a goal and two assists. Fellow newcomers Lasch and A.J. Gale combined for two goals and an assist.
“In the beginning, I think we were more like ‘wow, here we are in college,’” said Nodl. “That’s the dream for everybody, that’s why we played juniors, but after a while we all just settled in and it became just another game of hockey, but it’s a huge deal for all the freshmen.”
Midway through the third, Lethbridge defenseman Shawn Mezei was assessed the Pronghorns’ second five-minute major, this time with a game disqualification attached – also for hitting Swanson from behind.
“[Justin] Fletcher actually hit me from behind in practice, too,” said Swanson. “So it was really the third time this week.” Swanson was removed from the game as a precaution but was fine afterward.
On the ensuing power-play, the Huskies went on a tear, netting three goals during the extended advantage, including two in five-on-three play following a pair of minor penalties to Lethbridge during the Mezei penalty.
SCSU finished the evening 5-for-14 on the man-advantage, and killed five of six penalties during the contest.
“We saw a few things that we needed to see tonight,” said Motzko. “Not just special teams… we scored a few goals, and that’s great for your confidence.”
St. Cloud gave each of its three goaltenders one period of work. Senior Bobby Goepfert worked a light first period, stopping the only two shots he faced. Freshman Jase Weslosky gave up one goal on five shots in the second period, and freshman B.J. O’Brien allowed one goal on seven shots in the final frame.
St. Cloud State kicks off its regular season next weekend at home in a two-game WCHA series against the Denver Pioneers.
“Guys are still battling for spots,” said Motzko. “Some guys still need to work themselves into better shape, and some need to get comfortable, the same things every team works thorough these things early in the season. Denver is playing twice this weekend, so they’re going to have more of an opportunity to work out the kinks than we will, so the most important thing for us is to raise it up a level in practice to make sure we’re ready for them next week.”