St. Cloud starts slow, finishes strong in road sweep

This season’s St. Cloud State team appears to be one that gets the job done on the road, no matter how hairy any given scenario might be for the Huskies.

Last Friday’s game at intrastate rival Minnesota-Duluth proved a perfect example.

Playing its first home game since Oct. 26, UMD bossed large parts of its series-opener with the Huskies. Duluth outshot SCSU 38-19 in the game, had two more power-play opportunities than the visitors, and the Bulldogs were even ahead 2-1 on the scoreboard more than halfway through the game.

The game got away from the hosts, though, as St. Cloud scored three unanswered goals and Huskies goaltender Ryan Faragher ended up with 36 saves in what ended up as a 4-2 win for the Huskies, heavily outplayed though they were.

The following night, SCSU enjoyed almost complete control. In Saturday’s rematch, the Huskies scored the first three goals of the game and eventually chased UMD starting goaltender Aaron Crandall in a 5-1 win over the Bulldogs.

St. Cloud bumped its road winning streak to eight with its victory Saturday, thus marking the first time the Huskies had won eight straight away from home since the 2001-02 season.

UND finally finding consistency

If North Dakota’s last few games have been good indicators, UND might finally be getting its 2o13-14 season back on track.

Coming off an underwhelming home series against St. Lawrence in which UND played poorly in a 5-2 series-opening loss Nov. 29 before winning 3-2 in the rematch, UND proved itself further last weekend at Western Michigan in picking up two more 3-2 victories.

To get the ball rolling on UND’s first sweep of this season, UND first had to grind out a win against a Broncos team that was above .500 at home going into last weekend. Friday’s game wasn’t pretty for either side, but UND outworked its hosts and got a pair of goals from freshman Luke Johnson and one from senior Derek Rodwell en route to the win.

Saturday’s performance from UND wasn’t any more stylish than what it put out the night before. Maybe even less so, considering the visitors only put up seven shots on goal in the series’s final 40 minutes, but with Western unable to create enough scoring chances at the other end of the ice, UND again came up a 3-2 winner and, perhaps even better, got back to .500 on the season at 7-7-2 overall and 5-5-0-0 in the NCHC.

Blais’ goalie experimentation pays off

As I’ve written before this season and as we’ve all known down the years, Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais likes to tinker with his goaltending corps and see what works in certain scenarios.

You might not find a better example of this than what happened Saturday night in UNO’s game at Colorado College.

Despite watching his Mavericks underwhelm Friday in a 4-2 loss to the Tigers, Blais gave junior goaltender Ryan Massa the nod once again Saturday. That didn’t work out so well, though, as Blais pulled Massa after Saturday’s first period for giving up two goals on the eight shots Massa faced in the frame.

In came freshman netminder Kirk Thompson, and his introduction helped provide the spark the Mavericks needed. UNO got back into a game after initially falling into a 2-0 hole, and Thompson made 17 saves in 45 minutes of action while the visitors salvaged what ended up for NCAA purposes as a 3-3 tie.

The NCHC has overtime shootouts, though, of course, and it was then that Blais rolled the dice once more with his goaltending. Thompson’s night ended when the five-minute overtime period did, and back came Massa for the shootout.

The gamble worked. Massa stopped three of four shots in the shootout, and UNO forwards Ryan Walters and Josh Archibald scored in the first and fourth rounds, respectively, to give UNO two points from the three originally on offer coming into the game.