ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Junior Andrew Gordon and sophomore Michael Olson each scored a goal and two assists to power No. 6 St. Cloud State to a convincing 5-0 victory over Minnesota Duluth on Friday night at the National Hockey Center.
Minnesota Duluth, winners of four of their last five coming into St. Cloud, were shut down early as the Bulldogs were unable to even record a shot on goal during the first period and did not force SCSU senior Bobby Goepfert to make his first save of the game until the 1:23 mark of the second, when the Huskies had already established a 3-0 lead they would not relinquish.
“We had good energy tonight,” said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko. “We played a strong game defensively and Bobby was strong when he had to be. [Senior Justin] Fletcher coming back from the injury was huge.”
“We got our ass beat,” said Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin. “We gave them some easy goals. That’s what happens when you don’t want to compete. We had some good shifts from the guys who wanted to play tonight, but we didn’t have enough guys who wanted to play.”
It’s happened so much that it’s almost become clich, but once again, it was former Bulldog Dan Kronick causing headaches for his old team twelve minutes into the game which put St. Cloud State (15-4-4, 9-4-4 WCHA) on the board for the first time. Kronick tipped in a rebound from junior Nate Dey’s initial shot for his tenth goal of the season, and his seventh goal against UMD in six games.
“We saw this all the time in juniors,” said Olson. “Guys play their old teams and they may not even realize it but it gives them that extra something. It’s awesome that Dan’s been able to perform so well against Duluth, you want to be able to show them what they’re missing and what we’ve gained.”
About 15 minutes into the period, Minnesota Duluth (8-15-3, 5-12-2) got their best early opportunity to score. Mason Raymond came into the zone with an excellent chance, and made Goepfert commit early. He was trailed by Justin Fletcher, who moved to take Raymond out of the play and they both bowled into Goepfert and the post as the net came off its moorings.
“I got a little whiplash off the post,” said Goepfert (5’10″, 175 lb.), who stayed on the ice for a moment while a trainer attended to him. “Nothing but a Charlie Horse, though. I’m built like a truck.”
Late in the period, a UMD turnover behind their own net generated SCSU’s second goal. Ryan Lasch deflected a pass out in front of the net and found Olson sitting on the doorstep. Olson quickly shoveled the puck toward the net, which beat Duluth netminder Josh Johnson top shelf.
“Lasch made a great play,” said Olson. “I don’t know if I hit it out of the air or whether it was on the ice, but it was just a neat little chip shot. I got the monkey off my back last week and I’m starting to get the bounces now.”
“Olson has been playing pretty well lately,” said Motzko, who shuffled the sophomore to the Huskies’ top line for the first time. “He’s been taking it to another level in practice and got a goal last week. He’s getting more comfortable out there.”
After winning the opening faceoff in the second period, the Huskies gained the attacking zone, and Dey lofted an uninterested shot toward Josh Johnson which the Bulldog goaltender appeared to misjudge as heading wide. It wasn’t the puck found the back of the net near the left post, and just 16 seconds into the second, SCSU boasted a 3-0 lead.
Sandelin had seen enough, and pulled Johnson in favor of freshman Alex Stalock.
“It’s all about effort,” he said. “If you’re not willing to win the battles and compete to win battles, you aren’t going to win games. Not in this league, not in any league.”
Stalock’s introduction helped steel the UMD defense to some degree, as the freshman turned aside all 10 shots he faced during the second period, but the anemic offense was unable to start hacking away at SCSU’s lead in the interim.
St. Cloud would strike again in the middle of the third period, when Andreas Nodl took the puck on a breakaway while the teams skated four-a-side. Nodl, who had a defender tailing directly behind him, drifted off to Stalock’s right and then fired the puck to the left for the 11th goal of his freshman year.
Shortly after the Duluth penalty ended, an interference penalty to SCSU captain Casey Borer gave the Bulldogs a five-on-three advantage for 54 seconds, which created some of UMD’s best opportunities of the game. The defense held strong throughout the two-man benefit, and Minnesota Duluth was once again sent away empty handed.
Andrew Gordon would add his 15th goal of the season shortly thereafter, picking up a rebound in the slot and shooting to Stalock’s left.
“We’ve had a loss, we’ve had games where we didn’t play well, and we’ve got a few guys dinged up,” said Motzko. “I’m really pleased how we’ve responded to that adversity. We need to have that all weekend.”
Bobby Goepfert has a 127:52 shutout streak in progress after backstopping his second consecutive shutout.
“I’d rather see twenty shots a period than two,” said Goepfert. “I knew they didn’t have too many opportunities early, and it was tough once they started getting it on net because I needed to get the feel for it back. We were only up 1-0 for most of that time and it was a little scary, because it would have taken the wind out of our sails if they’d have been able to get one off their first few shots.”
Frustrated with his team’s performance, Sandelin benched several players during the third period and says he’s willing to dress fewer players tomorrow in order to send a message to his team.
“The only real bright spots tonight were our penalty kill (7-for-8) and our goalies,” said Sandelin. “If the scoreboard isn’t a motivator for tomorrow, we’re in an awful lot of trouble, and not just for this weekend. You can’t just go through the motions against a team like St. Cloud. They got one point last weekend, that was certainly enough motivation for them.
“We had no urgency whatsoever.”
St. Cloud State remains tied for second in the WCHA with Denver, five points behind league-leading Minnesota. Minnesota Duluth remains in last place with 12 points.
The series concludes Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.