ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The shot wasn’t anything overly spectacular.
Ryan Lasch was skating up and around to the point and just heaving one in. Alex Stalock made a short, rigid bunny-hop to try and knock down the shot. Without warning, the gently rising puck was on the deck, accelerating, and sliding underneath Stalock for the game winning goal.
Matt Hartman made the redirection his second of the night with 39 seconds left in regulation for the last goal in a back-and-forth game as No. 6 St. Cloud State completed the sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, 6-5.
“Lasch has unbelievable hands,” said Hartman. “He made it happen. I just got my stick on it to keep it low. It was a great kind of goal for our team to score.”
Five minutes into the game, St. Cloud appeared ready to pick up where they’d left off on Friday with a high-power offensive attack. Senior Justin Fletcher and junior Andrew Gordon gained the zone with a slightly advantageous two-on-two. As Gordon split behind the defenders, Fletcher found him with a perfect pass, and Gordon lifted the puck in the slot top shelf.
A minute and a half later, SCSU senior Nate Raduns was shown the gate for checking from behind, which carried with it a five-minute major. Minnesota-Duluth went right to work.
Showing an effective power play possession that had been missing on Friday, the Bulldogs cycled well until sophomore Mason Raymond could throw the puck toward the crease, where he found classmate MacGregor Sharp waiting. Sharp tapped the puck past St. Cloud freshman Jase Weslosky with a redirection to tie the game.
UMD continued to push on the extended advantage, but their power play ended when sophomore Matt Greer took a holding the stick penalty behind the play. Licking their lips for an opportunity at four-on-four hockey, St. Cloud took the initiative immediately.
Nearly mirroring the first Husky goal, Justin Fletcher found himself on a two-on-one chance, this time with freshman Andreas Nodl. Fletcher passed the puck across the top of the slot to Nodl, who was waiting at UMD goalie Alex Stalock’s right to one-time the puck to the roof of the net.
A penalty to St. Cloud sophomore John Swanson 14 minutes into the first gave UMD just enough window to tie the score a second time. With the draw in their attacking zone, Duluth took the puck and used all of 13 seconds to find the net. This time, it was senior Bryan McGregor taking the pass from Raymond, beating Weslosky on the short side with a well timed blast.
Early in the second, it was the same story, but in reverse. Duluth senior Jeff McFarland was sent off for tripping, and the SCSU power play went right to work. Freshman Ryan Lasch took control of the puck in the neutral zone and simply snaked his way around the only defender in front of him on his way to Stalock’s right, where he took a shot which found the net short side.
The Huskies did not let up. Continuing to drive forward and looking to start putting nails in the coffin, St. Cloud won the ensuing faceoff and attacked. Freshman Ryan Peckskamp created an opportunity using his feet, working the puck down the left boards before cutting directly toward the net along the goal line.
Peckskamp switched to his backhand as he approached the net, returned to the forehand, and then took his shot, which glanced off of Stalock. Charging in to pick up the puck was junior Matt Hartman, who tapped the puck home for SCSU’s second goal in a span of 25 seconds.
“I knew the puck was somewhere there,” said Hartman. “Pecksy created that one. I told him he could have the credit, but he said he wants his first goal to be legit.”
It ended up being Peckskamp’s first career point instead when he was credited with the primary assist. Freshman Jon Ammerman was given the secondary assist, which was also his first career point.
With momentum shifting quickly, UMD head coach Scott Sandelin called timeout after Hartman’s goal in order to rally the troops and slow down the pace.
It paid dividends almost immediately. Winning the draw and gaining possession in the St. Cloud zone, the Bulldogs sent a flurry of activity in front of Weslosky, firing away and turning the area around the net into a firing range.
Weslosky darted across the crease from post to post, but found himself on the wrong post as sophomore Michael Gergen picked up a loose puck in the slot and deposited it in the back of the net to firmly put the lid on St. Cloud State’s outburst.
The comeback was completed at the halfway point of the second period. Shortly after Nodl took the gate for a slash behind the play, it was Mason Raymond setting up his fourth goal of the night, this time finding Matt Niskanen. Niskanen’s shot reverberated off the right post and snuck past Weslosky, who was trying to close off the angle, knotting the game at four each.
Once more, St. Cloud State would burst out of the intermission with determination, and once again they found the net because of it. Mirroring the second period’s early events, the Huskies scored a power play goal to take a one-goal lead. Fletcher, who had already set up three SCSU goals, collected a rebound in the slot and put it home.
Pressed to answer, UMD responded in kind to tie the game for a fourth time. Bryan McGregor notched his second goal of the evening when he one-timed a shot past Weslosky on the right side, again with Nodl sitting in the penalty box on a slashing call. It was Duluth’s fourth power play goal in only six opportunities.
“Our power play gave us an opportunity to win tonight,” said Sandelin.
“Their power play was excellent,” said SCSU head coach Bob Motzko. “I have to give more credit to their power play than to say that our penalty kill was bad. Their power play units were out there making plays every time they hit the ice.”
A tussle behind the play with about three minutes to go sent SCSU senior Dan Kronick and UMD freshman Chase Ryan to the penalty box, leading to two minutes of four-on-four. Minnesota-Duluth dominated early on with the open ice, but soon the puck found its way into the St. Cloud attacking zone, ending up on the stick of Ryan Lasch. Hartman’s redirection was not straightforward there was concern that Hartman’s stick may have been high but the goal stood, and UMD was unable to respond with only 39 seconds to play.
Prior to this start, Jase Weslosky had allowed only 4 goals in his first four collegiate appearances. He allowed five on Saturday, but still managed to come away with his fifth win in as many starts. It was the first time this season that St. Cloud State had won after giving up three or more goals in a game.
“We got ourselves in trouble by taking some bad penalties,” said SCSU head coach Bob Motzko. “That ended up dictating the flow of the game. Duluth played with a purpose and a mission all game, and they deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Alex Stalock made 22 saves in defeat. Minnesota-Duluth has lost three consecutive games, and their last five on the road.
“It was one of those run-and-gun shootouts,” said Sandelin. “Both teams pretty much just let the goalies fend for themselves. We battled back, but it’s unfortunate the game ended like that. The way things were going, that kind of game should have at least gone into overtime. It’s a shame the game ended on a call like that.”
“I don’t know why we should have to beg guys to play. They should be playing with that kind of intensity all the time.”
St. Cloud State travels to No. 5 Denver for a pivotal WCHA series next weekend, while Minnesota-Duluth returns home to face Northern Michigan in a non-conference matchup Wednesday night.
“I like games like this,” said Lasch. “It gets you going. You don’t know what’s going to happen next.”