ST. CLOUD, Minn. — SCSU head coach Bob Motzko described it as “one of the best games of his career.” Dan Kronick scored the go-ahead goal just 18 seconds into the third period and then added an empty-netter late to seal No. 8 St. Cloud State’s eighth consecutive victory as the Huskies defeated a very game Colgate squad, 3-1 on Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.
“He was moving his feet, he was finishing his checks, he was skating all over the rink,” said Motzko about Kronick. “He initiated the movement and didn’t wait for it to happen. He had some jump in his step and moved all night long.”
“I felt good all weekend,” said Kronick. “We had a fast line tonight with [freshman Ryan] Lasch on the wing and [sophomore John Swanson] in the middle. I had a lot of chances in the first and second and just ended up passing to them, but had more confidence in the third.”
Colgate (7-10-2) played a physical game from start to finish and were able to keep up with the speedy St. Cloud State forwards early on in stark contrast to the dominating first period that SCSU produced on Friday night. The Raiders put the puck on net early and often, testing St. Cloud senior Bobby Goepfert from the get-go.
It would not result in an early lead, however, as St. Cloud State (10-3-3) scored first for the seventh time in the last eight games. Once again, it was freshman Andreas Nodl showing off his deadly precision from behind the net, as he made a perfect pass for the length of the attacking zone to junior Andrew Gordon, who was waiting at the point. Gordon blasted a shot from the point which evaded traffic in front and beat Colgate junior Justin Kowalkoski five-hole to open the evening’s scoring with just over five minutes to play in the first period.
Undaunted, Colgate continued attacking the puck and did not shy away from it’s physical game plan. Their grinding, never-say-die attitude paid off with a game-tying goal midway through the second period. A fine display of crisp passing in the attacking zone — reminiscent of the cycling one would see on a power play — eventually ended with the puck on the stick of sophomore David Sloane after finishing with a bang-bang sequence by junior Tyler Burton. Sloane took a light wrister from the left faceoff dot which became an absolute laser to the back of the net, beating Goepfert to the left to knot the game.
But the third period opened with a bang that Colgate was not able to bounce back from. Off the opening faceoff, the Huskies began a feverish attack, and Kronick, who had made his presence felt through the first 40 minutes through physical play and hard-fought battles in the corner, awakened the crowd with a nice move through the slot to put SCSU back on top. Kronick took a pass from senior Justin Fletcher, moved to the backhand to avoid one defender, then switched back to the forehand to avoid a second. His wrister beat Kowalkoski top shelf just 18 seconds into the game’s final frame.
Colgate’s best opportunity to draw square a second time came shortly thereafter when SCSU junior Nate Dey was sent off for tripping, but the Raiders could not muster enough pressure to put one past Goepfert. Colgate would put 11 pucks on net for a game total of 32 shots, but ultimately only put one past the redshirt senior.
In the final minute of the game, Colgate head coach Don Vaughan tried to pull Kowalkoski for the extra attacker, but a steal by Dey in the neutral zone and a quick pass to Kronick resulted in a wide open shot on the net before Kowalkoski could even get off the ice. The junior netminder hesitated back toward the net but could only watch as Kronick blasted the puck into the net to complete the weekend sweep.
Colgate has lost their last three games away from Starr Rink.
“I thought we played well enough tonight to get something out of it,” said Vaughan of his team’s effort. “We did what we wanted to do in terms of adjustments from last night, we got the puck deeper tonight and worked the boards a lot better. We did a better job of taking away a lot of their grade-A chances. It just stings because we made a very bad mistake on the first shift of the third period, and a good team like St. Cloud is going to capitalize on something like that. We may have dodged that bullet against a lesser team, but not this team.
“We competed hard. I was pleased with our effort. There was some good stuff there that we can bring home with us.”
The eleventh straight contest without a loss is the longest unbeaten streak in the history of the men’s hockey program at St. Cloud State.
“Our offense wasn’t really clicking tonight,” said Goepfert, “but our defense did a really good job all weekend. If we can get both going on all cylinders I think we’d be a real scary team. We’ve been fortunate that when one side isn’t on the other is bailing us out.”
Colgate and St. Cloud State are both entering their December breaks. Both will return to action on December 29, with Colgate taking on Northeastern in the first round of the UConn Hockey Classic in Storrs, Conn., while St. Cloud State travels to Burlington, Vt. to face Union in the Sheraton/TD Banknorth Tournament.