This time, St. Cloud State the victim of an opponent’s fast start

St. Cloud State managed to bury its opponent early on in each of its regional games to pave its road to the Frozen Four.

Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal game against Quinnipiac took on a similar plot, with the winner rewarded for its fast start, but the Huskies found themselves on the wrong end in a 4-1 loss.

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“When you’re about to play the biggest game of your life, you don’t expect to come out flat-footed,” senior Drew LeBlanc said. “[Quinnipiac] came out flying and we came out flat and that decided the game.”

The Bobcats scored 1:49 into the game and went up 3-0 just after the 11-minute mark. Jordan Samuels-Thomas scored the Bobcats’ first goal and assisted on the second.

The Huskies stepped up their intensity and pressure inside the offensive zone for the remainder of the game, but SCSU will look to the slow start when it looks for answers.

“We’d do anything to replay the first 10 minutes of the hockey game,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “We dug ourselves a hole. We hunkered back down but we just couldn’t overcome it.”

The Huskies struck first against Notre Dame in the first round March 30, increased their lead and fed off the momentum they gained with the first goal.

SCSU’s method was the same the next day against Miami, jumping on the RedHawks early and keeping them from getting into a rhythm.

The Huskies outskated both of those teams and their speed won the games. Quinnipiac matched SCSU’s quickness Thursday and caught the Huskies defense flat-footed, allowing Russell Goodman to skate around the net untouched to get the puck to Samuels-Thomas on the first goal.

“They came out buzzing but it wasn’t anything of a surprise to us,” LeBlanc said. “Like coach said, if we got that first 10 minutes back and we come out better, it’s a different game.”

But it’s not like the Huskies didn’t have their chances to score. SCSU had a couple chances miss off scrambles in front of the net that didn’t materialize and a few other shots hit the pipe.

After LeBlanc hit the right post on a first-period power play, the Bobcats gathered the puck and Jeremy Langlois — whose penalty just expired — got the puck from the neutral zone. Langlois beat a backchecking LeBlanc and scored to put Quinnipiac up by three goals.

“At that point, we had a number of quality chances,” Motzko said. “We had a couple of great opportunities and they get [a goal] right after the penalty ended. I don’t know if that was a turning point or if it buried us, but we did not need another mistake right there.”

Bobcats goaltender Eric Hartzell was also on top of his game and was another reason the Huskies couldn’t mount a comeback. Hartzell stopped 33 shots, many of them through traffic and second-chance whacks at the puck.

The only goal Hartzell allowed happened when he was laying on his belly in the crease, trying to get back in position. Joey Benik had plenty of time to get the wide-open shot off and put the Huskies on the board with his fifth goal in three NCAA tournament games at the 6:25 mark of the second period.

“[Hartzell] was outstanding and he showed why he’s up for the Hobey,” Huskies senior Ben Hanowski said. “He saw over 30 shots and he only gives up one. We didn’t capitalize on our chances and he got into a good groove.”