ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Sensational freshman Andreas Nodl continued the torrid start to his collegiate career on Friday night, scoring twice to help spoil a heroic effort in net by reigning Dryden Award winner Mark Dekanich as No. 8 St. Cloud State lengthened its unbeaten streak to 10 with a 3-1 victory over visiting Colgate at the National Hockey Center.
“As long as we keep shooting the puck, chances will come,” said Nodl. “You can’t get frustrated by a good goaltender or hitting the post, you just keep shooting and you’re going to score goals.”
A checking from behind major to Colgate sophomore Joe DeBello just four minutes into the game kickstarted the St. Cloud State attack with a prolonged power play, an advantage which only heightened when junior Ben Camper took a holding penalty a minute and a half later.
SCSU maintained the attacking zone for the entirety of the Camper penalty, blasting away at Dekanich from both the outer edges and from inside, but were frustrated by a combination of quick movements by Dekanich and the goalposts, as St. Cloud — more specifically, senior Justin Fletcher — rang two off of the posts during the extended two-man advantage.
Eventually, with time running down in the Camper penalty, the Huskies began cycling the puck and pinching the extremely tired Colgate defense, finishing off with a one-timed shot by Nodl which deflected off Dekanich’s glove and into the net.
“I was trying to go top shelf, but he knew I was going up there,” said Nodl. “I missed the shot, but it was a great time to miss the shot since it ended up in the net.”
St. Cloud State (9-3-3) continued for the remainder of the period to exert a dominating pressure against the Raiders, maintaining effective puck control throughout the game’s first 20 minutes.
With under five minutes to play in the opening period, a nifty move by SCSU sophomore John Swanson faked Dekanich to his left in anticipation of a shot which became a dish to senior Dan Kronick, who was waiting alone to the right of the goal crease. Dekanich dove back to correct his error, sending his stick flying in the process, but Swanson’s deke had effectively created the second goal of the game for the Huskies.
The two goals notwithstanding, Dekanich played a marvelous first period, stopping 13 of 15 shots while having some of his few mistakes softened with the help of the pipes. St. Cloud hit a total of four pipes in the first period.
“Those guys are my best friends,” said Dekanich about the steel to either side of him.
On the other end, Colgate (7-9-2) was only able to uncork four shots against freshman Jase Weslosky.
The second period began with marked improvement in puck possession for the Raiders and the trend continued until play became much more even than the one-sided first. Dekanich continued to hang tough during a mid-period penalty kill, and as the penalty was expiring, the Raiders found unlikely source of offense to bring themselves back into a position to strike — captain Liam Huculak.
Taking a pass from defenseman Alex Greig, Huculak gained the zone and took an opportunistic shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that fooled Weslosky, who had seen few shots to that point. The goal was Huculak’s first of the season and his first since February 10th.
“He’s not a great goal scorer, but it was a great goal,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “He looked him off and got a lot on it. He’s been playing a lot better lately. That certainly isn’t a big part of his game but we’ll take it. We’d like to see him maybe get a couple more like that.”
Dekanich’s heroics began to shine again late in the period as SCSU swarmed, looking to regain the two goal lead before the second intermission. With what was perhaps the most impressive save on a night full of impressive saves, Dekanich was able to move across the crease following a pass to Nodl, who was waiting on the doorstep to put one home, but Dekanich got down, stacked the pads, and then elevated them to keep Nodl’s wrister out of the net and preserve the game for the time being.
Despite a much more even second, Dekanich was still forced to make 16 saves in the period to keep the Raiders’ deficit at one.
The winds began to shift in Colgate’s favor during the third period, and following an interference penalty to SCSU’s Grant Clafton six minutes in, the Raiders produced some of their best scoring opportunities of the entire game, and suddenly it was Weslosky who needed to come up big. The freshman preserved St. Cloud’s tenuous lead with four saves during the man advantage, and 10 saves overall during the third.
Nodl scored his second goal with 1:20 left in regulation to finally give the Huskies back their two-goal cushion with little time remaining for Colgate to answer. Yet again, it was Justin Fletcher hitting the post with the initial shot, but the puck caromed directly to Nodl, who batted it into the open net.
“It was like every shot I made was off the post,” said Fletcher, whose shots accounted for four of SCSU’s seven pipes during the game. “I’ve won games of three-bar before, but never from 60 feet out.”
Weslosky won his third game in as many starts for St. Cloud State, making 26 stops on 27 shots, but his efforts in victory were overshadowed by the outstanding play by Dekanich on the opposite end.
The loss was the second straight for Colgate against WCHA opponents after losing to Denver in the consolation game of the Icebreaker tournament earlier this season. The Raiders have not defeated a WCHA foe since a 3-0 victory at Colorado College on October 23, 1999, and are 0-7-2 against the league since.
“You don’t ever want to start out giving up a five-on-three like that, especially on the road,” said Vaughan. “I thought we were maybe going to pull out of it after that, but we made some mistakes and they all ended up in the back of the net.
“It’s a big adjustment playing on [an Olympic-sized rink]. Some of the guys in the locker room have probably never played on an Olympic sheet. It’s a different game.”
For St. Cloud State, it was the seventh consecutive victory overall; the Huskies are also unbeaten in 11 straight games against ECACHL opponents (8-0-3) since a 2-1 loss at Rensselaer in November 2003. The team tied a school record for longest unbeaten streak at 10, a figure it can break on Saturday night.
“I don’t think too many of the guys are thinking about it,” said Fletcher. “We don’t talk about it too much. We don’t go out there thinking about records to beat, we just go out and play hockey.”
“We’ve got a nice streak going,” said SCSU head coach Bob Motzko, “but on the other hand, [Colgate] came in here winning four out of five and they played very well tonight. We’re going to have two teams digging in tomorrow. They adjusted to the big ice as the game went on and I can only anticipate that we’re going to see a good hockey game tomorrow.”
The non-conference series, and the first half of the 2006-07 season for both squads, concludes Saturday night in St. Cloud.
“It’s important to keep that momentum heading into break,” said Nodl. “We can’t act like we’re going to be off for two weeks because every game is important.”
“It’s a bump in the road for us,” said Dekanich, “but we still feel good about how our game has picked up of late. It happens. We’re going to be hungry tomorrow night to get a win.”