ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Nick Jensen had never scored more than one goal in a collegiate game through his first season and a half at St. Cloud State.
All it took was 34 seconds for him to notch a goal Friday night against the Denver Pioneers. Midway through the first period, he set a new career best with his second goal of the night, and by the 21st second of the second period, Jensen recorded a hat trick.
“It goes to show if you get shots on net, good things will happen,” Jensen said.
Jensen’s career night and Ryan Faragher’s 36 saves led SCSU to a 5-1 win over the No. 14 Pioneers (8-7-3 overall, 6-5-3 WCHA) Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.
It all started with Jensen early on.
Travis Novak brought the puck past four Denver defensemen and passed back to Jensen coming in from the point. Jensen’s slapper made it over Juho Olkinuora’s right shoulder at the 34-second mark.
Later in the period, Jensen and Andrew Prochno played catch at the blue line long enough for the crowd to grow impatient, then Prochno passed down low to Jared Festler while Jensen crept to the slot. Festler connected with a wide-open Jensen for his second goal at the 13:04 mark.
“Their defenders just kind of stood there, thinking we don’t have to move,” Jensen said. “We just kept passing it back and forth and even the crowd got a little irritated. As soon as you make a quick pass and break for the net, they’re not ready for it.
“When you’re coming down Broadway like, that you just have to rip it.”
The Pioneers were able get back in the game with 1:35 left in the first period when Shawn Ostrow picked up a rebound off a Dustin Jackson backhand shot and put it past Faragher, but the momentum shifted away from Denver 21 seconds after intermission when Jensen floated a shot on Olkinuora for the hat trick.
“The way they started the first period, and then the second period the way they did, you build so much momentum,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky, whose team hosts Union in a single game December 30 and will make the trip to Colorado Springs to face Air Force the following night.
“When you [score early in a period] once a game, you give yourself a really good chance. When you do it twice, it’s really tough for the other team to come back from.”
Gwozdecky said Denver’s top players and special teams units’ struggles were big contributors to the loss. The Pioneers power play went 0-for-4, while the Huskies went 2-for-5.
“We showed the last few games that we’re not a high-scoring team,” Gwozdecky said. “We expect that we’d be able to, not only generate more offense, but score more goals.”
Cory Thorson jammed away at a puck in the crease until it squeezed through Olkinuora’s pads with a second left on a power play to make it 4-1 SCSU before the end of the second period.
Brooks Bertsch tacked on another goal with Drew Shore draped all over him in the slot with 9:43 to go in the game. Prochno, Jensen’s defensive partner, assisted on three goals, and Festler finished with two assists.
SCSU (7-9-4, 5-6-3) takes on Western Michigan, December 29 and 30 at the National Hockey Center.
“It feels good, especially after last night’s [3-2 overtime] loss,” Jensen said. “That was a real heartbreaker. We came out with a lot of fire tonight, and I think that’s why we played so well tonight.”