ST. CLOUD, Minn. — If Ben Hanowski wasn’t asked to step up and multiply his role for St. Cloud State in the past few weeks, it was probably implied anyway.
Hanowski — the last SCSU captain standing after injuries shelved Drew LeBlanc and Mike Lee indefinitely — put the Huskies on the board and added a pair of assists in SCSU’s 4-3 victory over No. 1 Minnesota on Friday at the National Hockey Center. His linemate David Eddy set the Huskies up on three goals to double his assist total (6) on the season.
“They’re playing like a top line and they’re doing the job that’s needed,” said Huskies coach Bob Motzko. “The guys we count on to score, scored for us.”
The Huskies had to withstand a desperate Minnesota comeback that saw two goals late in the third period, but pulled it out in front of 5,772 fans. SCSU (6-5-2, 4-2-1 WCHA) is 3-1-1 in its last five games while Minnesota (10-3-0, 7-2-0) has lost two of three.
The Huskies scored the first goal and went into the first intermission up 2-1. Aside from the offensive jolt SCSU got from its top line, it got another stellar performance from its backbone, goaltender Ryan Faragher. The freshman stopped 40 shots, including 16 in the first period. Ten of those first-period shots were on the Gophers power play.
“Minnesota is a quick team, they play on the rush and they hit the late guy,” said Faragher, describing what he saw from the Gophers in a busy first period.
“I adjusted to the speed and our guys boxed out and kept away their grade-A scoring chances.”
SCSU grabbed the early lead by taking advantage of a Minnesota mistake behind its own net.
Eddy intercepted a bad giveaway by Ben Marshall and fed Hanowski skating across the slot for the easy goal 3:52 into the game.
“We capitalized on our opportunities right away when we had them,” Hanowski said. “When we got our chances, we put them in.”
The Gophers tied the game on a Nick Bjugstad-Jake Hansen-Bjugstad give-and-go on a power play. It was Bjugstad’s team-high 10th goal of the season at 11:13 of the first period.
But Minnesota’s Nick Larson committed a key unsportsmanlike conduct penalty just after the Gophers killed a minor penalty, leading to a SCSU power-play goal. The Huskies passed the puck around the Gophers’ zone from Nick Jensen to Hanowski to Cam Reid on the back doorstep with 2:40 left in the first period.
Two minutes and 37 seconds after Nic Dowd scored for the Huskies, Hanowski fed Jared Festler for a back-door, power-play goal 7:12 into the second period.
For the Gophers, dangerous passes and turnovers did them in. A couple early chances that went uncapitalized kept the Gophers from getting the all-important early lead. Jake Hansen’s pass on a two-on-one slid behind Erik Haula waiting on the other side and in the second period, Haula failed to put away a puck after he received a pass on the back door.
Then there were the plays that didn’t go their way, like Faragher’s ability to get a stick on a Bjugstad slap shot on a breakaway or an apparent Jake Hansen goal, denied because of a high stick.
“We came in here and worked and competed from start to finish and it just wasn’t enough tonight,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia told Gophersports.com.
Minnesota outshot the Huskies 43-18. Gophers goalie Kent Patterson never saw double digits in shots during any period and finished with 14 saves.
With 3:08 left in the game, Tom Serratore cut the lead in half when he tipped a shot from the point. Less than two minutes later, Kyle Rau banged away at a puck on the crease and finally put it through for his ninth goal of the season — that leads by three in rookie goal scoring.
The Gophers continued to pound away at Faragher and the Huskies net, but Hanowski, the guy who spearheaded the SCSU offense all night, cleared the puck the length of the ice as time expired.
Officials called players back to the benches as they headed to the dressing rooms and put 1.2 seconds back on the clock. The Gophers won the faceoff but Rau’s shot was blocked on the way to the net.
“We played just good enough defense to get out of here with a huge WCHA win,” Hanowski said.
The series makes its way down Interstate 94 for a 7:07 p.m. CST face off Saturday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.