DULUTH, Minn. — Beating St. Cloud State has been all but impossible for Minnesota Duluth the past four years.
Entering Friday’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s opener, St. Cloud State was 9-1 against the Bulldogs the previous 10 games and 13-3 in the last 16. The Bulldogs chewed into that disparity by beating No. 16 St. Cloud State, 2-1, before a crowd of 4,809 spectators at the DECC.
It did not make up for a triple-overtime loss in a WCHA first-round playoff series last March in St. Cloud, Minn., but did keep UMD unbeaten at 2-0-1.
“We looked back into the history of the series, but only as far back as the last playoff games. That was enough incentive,” said UMD defenseman Jason Garrison.
The Bulldogs used power-play goals from linemates Michael Gergen and Nick Kemp, and 18 saves from goalie Alex Stalock, to secure the victory.
St. Cloud State (1-1-1) trailed 2-0 before scoring leader Ryan Lasch got his first goal of the season with seven seconds to play. UMD led in total shots 24-19.
What UMD did best was get an early lead, kill all eight St. Cloud State power plays, and score with a man-advantage.
“It was a tight game, a specialty-teams game,” said Gergen, who earned his first goal since Jan. 20, which came in a 6-5 loss at St. Cloud State. “Five-on-five I thought we had the upper hand. We blocked shots and we played well with a lead.”
UMD is 8-2-2 the last 12 home games and has allowed just six goals the last six home games. Stalock has given up three goals total in the season’s first three games.
St. Cloud State finished second in the WCHA last season and advanced to the NCAA Division I tournament, but has unproven talent in goal and on defense.
“We just looked uptight until [UMD] scored that second goal,” said St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko. “Until then, we were a really bad team. The tale of the game was our power play, which was atrocious. And [UMD] turned the puck over a lot and we had no transition game.”
Gergen lunged into a shot at the right circle for a goal 4:58 into the game as the Bulldogs were in the midst of reeling off 11 straight shots on goal for a 14-4 edge after 20 minutes.
There were just eight shots combined in the second period and through two periods, St. Cloud State had six power plays and produced only seven shots on goal overall.
“We just have to get more shots. We were trying to be too cute out there,” said the Huskies’ Lasch.
Kemp muscled in a Gergen rebound from the right edge past sophomore goalie Jase Weslosky, who has taken over for last season’s senior All-American Bobby Goepfert. Kemp’s second goal of the season came 9:09 into the third period.
UMD killed off two third-period power plays, is 18-for-18 this season and 69-for-70 for 13 games going back to last season.
“Not all the penalty kills are going to be pretty or textbook, but if you kill it off, you kill it off. That’s what is important,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “And it all starts with good goaltending. We played a pretty strong game.”
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune