ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Despite sleepwalking through the first 50 minutes of the game, St. Cloud State managed to come alive in the final 10 to erase a 2-0 deficit and claw its way into a 2-2 tie with the U.S. National Team Development Program on Sunday night at the National Hockey Center.
The Huskies, fresh off a sweep of Bemidji State, were playing in their third game in as many days, and coach Bob Motzko used the exhibition as an opportunity to experiment with lines and with positioning, as junior forward John Swanson was used on the blue line to evaluate his potential for boosting the defense.
“We were sluggish again, and it was because of mistakes and not because of fatigue,” Motzko said. “We’re just kind of a quiet group right now. It’s easy to say that you want to be physical, but before we can do that we’ve got to make a few passes. If they had 35 shots tonight, 25 of them were off of turnovers.”
Redshirt freshman B.J. O’Brien, starting for only the second time on the season, looked strong in net for St. Cloud State, stopping 32 shots to rebound from a disappointing performance in the Huskies’ second game of the season, a 3-3 tie with Canisius.
“I felt good,” O’Brien said. “I made the saves that I could and I hung in there and didn’t get down, just gave the team enough to let them battle back so we could get out with a tie.”
About three minutes after an apparent goal by New Hampshire recruit Kevin McCarey was waved off on a kick-in, Team USA opened the scoring when Jordan Schroeder intercepted a pass in the attacking zone and cut directly to the net with only O’Brien in front of him. He lifted the shot while falling over, just out of O’Brien’s reach and into the net at the 11:47 mark of the first period.
The second period would ultimately finish scoreless, but both teams had opportunities to score. SCSU sophomore Ryan Peckskamp rung a shot from the right faceoff circle off the far post after beating uncommitted goaltender Michael Clemente midway through the period.
Later, O’Brien would arguably make the save of the game when he went down to the butterfly before snatching the puck out of midair with his glove to rob Team USA on a two-on-one break.
Schroeder, a Minnesota recruit, made it 2-0 early in the third period when he batted a jumping puck which deflected off an SCSU defenseman out of the air and in.
As the period wore on, SCSU’s uninspired play made things appear as though Team USA was on its way to its first victory over an NCAA school on the year, but St. Cloud came roaring back.
It started with a simple tap-in goal by freshman Aaron Marvin. With Clemente trying to freeze the puck and a frenzy in front of the net, the puck squirted out behind him and Marvin was there to shove the puck in for SCSU’s first goal.
Shortly thereafter, junior Michael Olson was called for obstruction-tripping, but the St. Cloud penalty kill took care of business. After exiting the penalty box, Olson hung around in the neutral zone and waited as the Huskies took control of the puck. A long pass from sophomore Ryan Lasch shot into the attacking zone, and Olson chased it down to take a mini-breakaway, and neatly deposited the puck between Clemente’s legs to tie the game with less than four minutes to play.
The Huskies pushed for the game winner in regulation, but missed by inches. Swanson earned a breakaway with under 30 seconds to play, but hit the post to Clemente’s right.
Team USA was forced to kill a penalty in overtime, but did so with relative ease. O’Brien, on the other hand, had to make five saves in the extra session to preserve the tie.
The NTDP returns to action in NAHL play next weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., against the Traverse City North Stars. Their next NCAA games will be November 24 and 25 in Maine, where they will face Bowdoin and Colby.
Meanwhile, St. Cloud State hosts No. 20 Alaska-Anchorage at the National Hockey Center for two WCHA contests next weekend.