GRAND FORKS, N.D. — For St. Cloud State, the streak remains.
Continuing its perfect road record and holding on to the top spot in the WCHA, St. Cloud State (15-10-0, 12-5-0 WCHA) claimed a 3-1 victory over North Dakota (13-8-4, 8-5-4 WCHA) with two key goals from Jonny Brodzinski.
What began as an intense puck battle quickly dissipated into a flat first period for North Dakota. At 4:15 of the first, Brodzinski found the puck on a rebound off the boards and made a quick shot past Zane Gothberg (30 saves) to give the Huskies an early lead.
“It was a good game for us defensively,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said. “I thought one of the keys was the first six or seven minutes. They had a great flurry. They were putting everything deep, putting on a ton of pressure, but we handled it and Brodzinski gets one in there and then we settled in.”
In his seventh start this season for UND, Gothberg faced only one shot near the scoring area for the remainder of the period, coming from Ben Hanowski’s turnaround goal from down low at 16:36.
With a 2-0 lead, Brodzinski led St. Cloud’s offensive edge as the teams headed to the locker room after the first period.
“I’m not sure how many shots he had,” Motzko said. “I didn’t see, but he had eight or nine shots on goal and he shoots the puck. People are going to start to see that. It’s a big league shot and it’s just deadly when he can get open. He’s a big strong kid when he gets open.”
With a mere three shots on goal for the first 20 minutes of the game, UND posted its lowest number of shots this season during a single period.
A scoreless second period left the teams looking for a spark as the shots favored St. Cloud 18-8. The unresponsive crowd watched as Brodzinski scored his second goal of the night at 7:35 of the third with a blast from the left circle that deflected off the post and into the net to put the Huskies up 3-0.
Contributing a strong defense with Ryan Faragher (15 saves) standing firm in the net, St. Cloud held UND to minimal chances — constructing strong offensive play in its zone
With time at a premium, North Dakota’s power-play opportunity at 13:49 provided Rocco Grimaldi with a chance to put UND on the scoreboard. The pair of Grimaldi and Carter Rowney made its way down the ice on a give and go as Grimaldi left the puck at the top of the circle for Rowney, whose shot was re-directed by Grimaldi into the net.
Momentum intensified as North Dakota became eager to narrow the gap on the scoreboard. With an empty net, an extra skater allowed the team to keep the puck in the zone and create pressure on Faragher, more than doubling its shots from the first two periods.
But UND was silenced by its last efforts as the Huskies skated away with a 3-1 victory.
“We just played uninspired, I guess, from the start,” Grimaldi said. “I give credit to their team — they played a great game from the forwards all the way down to their defense and their goalie.
“It just wasn’t our game. I can’t even put a finger on what we did wrong tonight. Including myself, no one was inspired to play that game tonight and that can’t happen. We’ve just got to forget about this one now. It’s over and done with.”
For North Dakota, a total of 16 shots might come as a surprise, but St. Cloud’s focus was on controlling what it could in all zones.
“Two hours from now, it might surprise me,” Motzko said. “But when you’re on the bench, you’re not looking at that at all. I’m just looking at Grimaldi coming down the ice and [Corban] Knight and [Danny] Kristo and you’re not looking at shots, you’re looking at defending. Maybe in a couple hours we’ll be surprised by it, but it’s over. We’ve been a pretty good defensive team this year. That’s been a key for us.”