ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It was exactly what St. Cloud State needed: a quick start and a turnaround performance by a power play that struggled through the first four games.
The Huskies scored four goals on five power play opportunities in an offense-friendly 7-5 win against nonconference opponent New Hampshire Friday at the National Hockey Center.
“Special teams needed to dictate tonight and it did,” said SCSU coach Bob Motzko. “It was a monster win for us.”
The Huskies entered the game 1-3-0 and special teams were hurting SCSU, which had a 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) power play.
“We won the special teams battle and that was one of our goals coming in,” said SCSU forward Ben Hanowski.
The Huskies had plenty of chances from the start, including a David Eddy shot that hit the pipe 57 seconds in, but it was UNH that got the first goal.
Austin Block’s pass in the UNH attack zone deflected off an SCSU skate and into the slot where Scott Pavelski corralled the puck, turned around and shot it past Huskies goaltender Mike Lee.
SCSU finally cashed in less than two minutes later on the power play when Nic Dowd deflected Hanowski’s shot from the point past UNH goaltender Matt Di Girolamo.
Huskies forward Jordy Christian carried the puck into the zone and with three minutes remaining in the first period and left it for Mitch MacMillan in the left circle. MacMillan fired a shot on goal and Travis Novak buried the rebound off Di Girolamo’s pad save. It was Novak’s third goal of the season.
The Wildcats tied it on a goal in the 91 seconds before the first intermission and tied the Huskies for shots on goal in the first period, but SCSU had the advantage in scoring chances and the tempo.
“I liked our energy, but we need to do a better job of keeping the puck alive in the offensive zone,” Motzko said. “They blocked a lot of our shots.”
“That was alright, the score was still tied,” added UNH coach Dick Umile. “Once we got behind, we started competing.”
The Huskies opened up a three-goal lead in the second period with power play goals by Drew LeBlanc and Jarrod Rabey and an even-strength score by Cam Reid.
Then the Wildcats came back to life with goals by John Henrion, Stevie Moses and Damon Kipp to bring UNH within one goal at 6-5. SCSU’s Nick Jensen also scored in the third period.
Umile pulled Jeff Wyer, who replaced Di Girolamo after the second period, with 43 seconds remaining in the game, but Hanowski ensured the SCSU victory with an empty-net goal from the red line.
“We got pucks to the net and we had a lot of different guys scoring and that’s always going to help you win games,” Hanowski said.
Lee finished with 28 saves in net for the Huskies to pick up his second win of the season. Di Girolamo stopped just 19 of the 24 shots he faced and Wyer had 11 saves, all in the third period.
For Umile, he was happy his team was able to finally put some pucks in the net after a nightmarish 0-3 start in which the Wildcats scored just one goal against Hockey East opponents. But despite a five-goal performance, UNH’s own penalty kill buried the team.
“Offensively, it was nice to score some goals, but then we got into some specialty situations, they score four power play goals and that was the disappointing part of the game,” Umile said. “Our guys loosened up a little bit with guys scoring and maybe that will help us out.”
On the other bench, Motzko knows his team’s power play is clicking, but the penalty kill has to improve after UNH scored twice on five power plays. The SCSU kill entered the game 8-for-11 (72.8 percent) and now have one of the worst in the nation at 69 percent.
“The (Henrion) power play goal, we nearly killed the darn thing off, but we made some bad decisions late,” Motzko said. “We had a great kill in the second period and what we did in the third, we can crack that.
“There were a lot of early-season mistakes on both sides, the pucks got past the goalies and it made for a crazy ending.”