ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The Aaron Brocklehurst project seems to be coming along nicely in St. Cloud.
The junior defenseman-turned-forward put up two goals and an assist in the span of 4:08 between the first and second periods to provide the spark, Nate Dey added two goals and two assists, and Andrew Gordon had a goal and four assists as No. 17 St. Cloud State completed the weekend sweep with a demolition of No. 18 Clarkson, 7-2.
“I’m loving it at forward right now,” said Brocklehurst. “I just tried to do what I do best, which is skate and shoot, and it worked out for me tonight.”
The Huskies’ top line of Dey, Gordon, and freshman Andreas Nodl combined to put up 19 points against the Golden Knights on the weekend.
“They’re starting to come together now,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “That was Nodl’s best game in three weeks. Nate Dey was outstanding tonight. They really looked like a line that can be one of the best in college hockey.”
“We went through a little dry spell where we were still kind of trying to feel each other out,” said Gordon. “Dey’s not a natural center so we’re kind of giving him a hard time on winning faceoffs, but once we get the puck we’ve been doing all right.”
Nodl kicked off the frenzy for St. Cloud State with a cleanup job as the first period began to wane. Dey found Gordon wide-open in the neutral zone, and Gordon weaved his way around a defender as he entered the attacking zone, giving himself a clear look at the Clarkson net defended by senior Kyle McNulty. Gordon’s big shot was deflected away to the right by McNulty, but the big rebound came right to Nodl, who wasted no time in putting the puck away into the empty net.
Four minutes later, it was the beginning of the Aaron Brocklehurst show. The junior skated into the Clarkson zone on the left side. As he crossed the blue line, the Clarkson defense seemed more concerned with the potential pass to the slot than with the puck carrier. All Brocklehurst had to do was skate directly toward the net mostly unimpeded, and he let one rip from the edge of the faceoff circle nearest the crease, beating McNulty on the short side to give SCSU the 2-0 lead as the period approached its conclusion.
A bizarre set of circumstances in the dying seconds of the period set up Brocklehurst’s continued dominance which kicked off the second. Shawn Weller was called for a double minor for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct after a play in the St. Cloud zone ended with goaltender Bobby Goepfert’s stick flying up and over the glass and a bit of a tussle behind the SCSU net.
Much like the previous night’s second and third periods, a quick goal in the first minute of the second period was in order, and it was Brocklehurst who brought it to bear. As the Huskies cycled the puck on the man advantage, Brocklehurst found himself wide open and called for the puck with a quick and hard tap on the ice. Gordon immediately found him near the left faceoff circle and Brocklehurst blasted a shot quite similar to his first goal for the 3-0 edge.
With the second half of the double minor still to be played out, Brocklehurst nearly netted himself the natural hat trick about 1:30 later. His big blast from the point — an area he was more often seen in as a defenseman — evaded all of the players in front with a direct route to the net and was redirected past McNulty by Gordon, giving St. Cloud a 4-0 lead after capitalizing on both penalties to Weller.
The Golden Knights have found copious amounts of success on the power play this season, but the WCHA officiating crew called far fewer penalties than Clarkson had been used to in the ECACHL, and power play opportunities were few and far between for both teams in the first two periods. St. Cloud State finally took their first penalty eight minutes into the second, and the Clarkson power play went to work.
After continued pressure and several good scoring opportunities, it was captain Nick Dodge who finally scored the Knights’ first goal of the weekend after four and a half periods of scoreless hockey. Dodge took a pass from junior David Cayer and skated along the goal line, throwing the puck on net from the right side. The shot was redirected off of the inside of Goepfert’s left leg and into the net — surely not the most impressive looking goal, but the Knights would take it as they looked to get back into the game.
But just 1:02 later, it was the Nodl-Dey-Gordon line which would again victimize McNulty and his defense. After maneuvering to the left side of the net, Gordon threw a pass to Dey in the slot which was one-timed home for Dey’s first goal of the season after 10 assists without a marker of his own.
“It weighed a lot on me,” said Dey of his goal drought. “The other guys score a lot but I’ve been getting my chances too and I have to bury them. It felt good to get that first one out of the way, because it’s not like I haven’t been getting my opportunities. I’ve been overthinking it sometimes and rushing my shots.”
SCSU sophomore Johnny Swanson would net his second goal of the weekend at 13:33 from Nodl, who set up the goal with an impressive deke move. The 6-1 marker was ultimately the end of Kyle McNulty’s night, as the senior netminder left having given up 6 goals on 25 shots. He was replaced by junior David Leggio.
The rout was on, but to their credit Clarkson continued to play hard and fight for loose pucks. A turnover in the St. Cloud zone resulted in the Knights’ second and final goal of the night when Dan Tuttle was able to successfully pick the puck almost right off the stick of SCSU’s Matt Stephenson. Tuttle grabbed the puck and cut directly to the net, putting it between Goepfert’s legs before the Huskies could even react to the steal.
Dey’s second goal of the evening came just over two minutes later to make the score 7-2 by the second intermission.
Despite the scoring outburst of the second period, the third was completely scoreless. Although the Clarkson power play had three opportunities during the period, the St. Cloud defense stood tall when they had to for the entire twenty minutes. The Knights largely controlled possession during the final period, attempting 23 shots in all, 7 of which were blocked by the SCSU defense, and 8 of which were snagged by Goepfert, who finished the evening with 30 saves.
“I liked our puck movement tonight,” said Motzko. “We were very solid defensively. We had a couple of breakdowns but that happens sometimes when you get a few goals. It was a good weekend for us. We went back to work, and it’s amazing that sometimes when you start working like that, the rest of the game comes to you a little easier.”
“Their top line outplayed our top line tonight,” said Clarkson captain Nick Dodge. “Our D-zone coverage was just weak all weekend. We gave up too many grade-A opportunities and didn’t generate enough for ourselves.”
Clarkson returns home for two more non-conference games, welcoming CCHA teams Bowling Green and No. 6 Miami to Potsdam, N.Y., next weekend. Meanwhile, St. Cloud State resumes its WCHA schedule, traveling to Minnesota-Duluth for a two-game series.