St. Cloud State aspiring to stay on even keel, Huskies ‘don’t want to look too far into anything’

Jimmy Schuldt (SCSU-22) 16 October 28 Alabama Huntsville and St. Cloud State University meet in a non conference contest at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center (Bradley K. Olson)
Jimmy Schuldt leads St. Cloud State in scoring, averaging two points per game with 10 points through five games from the SCSU back end (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

Bye weeks can come in handy for teams on the mend, but being idle is less helpful for a healthy team that’s rolling.

Second-ranked St. Cloud State is off this weekend after opening the season with five consecutive wins, three of them against top-20 teams. The two most recent games came at home last week against No. 13 Boston College. After downing the Eagles 5-2 on Friday, SCSU got 36 saves from freshman goaltender David Hrenak in a 3-1 in Saturday night.

It’s tough to point out flaws in the Huskies’ start to the year. They’ve yet to score fewer than three goals in a game, and all but two of their skaters already have at least one point to their names.

Still, SCSU coach Bob Motzko isn’t getting carried away.

“Every year brings some surprises, and there’s no question it’s been a very good start for us, but it’s the old adage where you don’t try to get too high on things and when things are bad, you don’t get too low,” he said. “All of us teams around the country right now are identifying our shortcomings and what we need to improve on and continue to build on our strengths, and I think that’s all you can do.

“It’s October, and whether you’re 5-0 or 3-3, you don’t want to look too far into anything. You just want to keep getting better and improving.”

A bright spot Motzko emphasized was the output so far from Hrenak and his freshman classmates. There’s only six on the roster, but they’re quickly finding their way on a SCSU team that returned nearly all of its offense from last season.

“They’ve mixed in very well for us right now,” Motzko said of the Huskies’ newcomers. “(Luke) Jaycox on defense, he’s gotten in now for three straight games and has looked very good and added strength and size back there for us that we need and he’s another penalty killer.

“We’ve got a young goaltender who’s now played two games in two weeks, and really he was very nervous his first game but showed great signs in the Saturday game against Boston College and was much more relaxed and squared and had a very good night.

“Then there’s our forwards,” Motzko continued. “We’ve got three of them (Kevin Fitzgerald, Blake Lizotte and Easton Brodzinski) who have been in there, and they’re going to help us this year and the fourth guy, Will Hammer, hasn’t been in there yet but he’s going to help us. We have tremendous depth this year.”

That depth could develop further by the time No. 10 Minnesota Duluth visits St. Cloud next weekend. In the meantime, SCSU is staying productive.

“Our wish list is we wish we were still playing, but it’s a quirk in the schedule that comes up where we’ve got a bye and we just have to trudge through,” Motzko said. “We’re healthy right now and I think it’s a week where we can push ourselves.

“We’ll take a little rest this week, but we’ve got to push hard to keep moving forward.”

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The good news for UMD so far is that a Bulldogs team that was Frozen Four-bound last season clearly hasn’t forgotten how to score goals. What’s been more difficult is keeping them out at the other end of the ice.

UMD is 2-2-2 through six games this season and is outscoring opponents 21-19. Last weekend saw the Bulldogs tie Merrimack 5-5 at Duluth’s AMSOIL Arena on Friday night on a combined seven power play goals. On Saturday, UMD scored five times in the third period to defeat the Warriors 7-2.

“I’d like to say we’re going to score five, six, seven goals a night but I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but it’s nice for those guys,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “Every game I go into, I expect us to be in a tight game, and I think we’re playing decent defensively and we haven’t given up a ton of shots in our games and have had the puck a lot and out-chanced teams, but this weekend more of them went in.

“We capitalized, and that’s good and hopefully it helps the offensive confidence level for our team, and it’s developing that consistency, like everybody’s going through.”

After Merrimack went 4-for-6 on the power play Friday, the Warriors were held to 0-for-4 in the rematch. For that and other reasons, Sandelin came away happy.

“I thought all weekend we played pretty well,” he said. “Obviously Friday was a special-teams game for both teams, but I think the biggest thing is we battled back from being down 2-0 to take a 4-2 lead halfway through the third and then we took a couple bad penalties in the final six minutes that changed the momentum of the game and the next thing you know, it’s gone from 4-2 to 5-4.

“The message was to not take bad penalties, and we were fortunate we got the goal with over a minute left to tie it, but Saturday was much more of a complete game for us even though the game was tight. We had to kill off a penalty at the beginning of the third to keep it 2-1 and then we got a goal and gave one up and killed one more penalty and then opened it up a little bit with some goals.

“I thought our guys stayed with it,” Sandelin continued, “but it’s a good learning experience from the discipline side of it, and that’s how quick a game can change.”

One big question mark that remains is the Bulldogs’ goaltending situation. A hole was left after Hunter Miska left at the end of last season with collegiate eligibility remaining, and through three games apiece, both junior Nick Deery and sophomore Hunter Shepard have save percentages under .900 ahead of this week’s road series at Maine.

“I think the plan was to probably go and split them and see if somebody kind of takes charge, and right now I don’t know if either one of them has, quite frankly,” Sandelin said. “Shep’s won a couple of games and done all right and Nick’s played three and had a shutout and the other two were probably average, so I guess it’s going to be a battle until someone wants it.

“We might continue with that, but we’ll see. We’ll see how Friday’s game goes, and that could determine whether someone plays back-to-back games or not, but there’s no question it needs to be better and they know that, and hopefully they keep pushing each other so it does get better.”

This weekend’s series at Maine marks UMD’s first games this season outside of Minnesota – they lost 5-2 at Bemidji State on Oct. 13 – and could set the Bulldogs up well for what awaits the following week.

“I’m looking forward to getting on the road because I think we’ve been at home way too much,” Sandelin joked, “but it’s been a while since I’ve been in that building but it’s a fun atmosphere to play in, and it’s another good team that’s working its way up the ladder and they put up 11 goals against Miami so they’re doing something right, so that opened my eyes.

“I think it’s a good road trip for us and good preparation for the following week when we go to St. Cloud, and more importantly we’ve only had one road game and that was in Bemidji. I think everyone’s looking forward to getting on the road, and I want to see how our team does on the road.

“We didn’t fare very well in Bemidji even though we played a pretty good game until the third period, but you’ve got to win on the road to be an upper-level team, so it’ll be a good challenge for us and we’re looking forward to getting out there.”

Players of the Week

Offensive: Gordie Green, Miami: The sophomore forward picked up a career-high five points last Friday at Maine with two goals and three assists before posting another two helpers on Saturday.

Defensive: Grant Hutton, Miami: A junior defenseman for the RedHawks, Hutton posted four goals, an assist, seven shots on goal and a blocked shot in Miami’s road split with Maine while helping to kill 11 of the Black Bears’ 14 power plays.

Newcomer: Nick Swaney, Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs freshman posted four points in a tie and win last weekend at home against Merrimack. Both of his goals came on UMD power plays.

Goaltender: Cam Johnson, North Dakota: The senior goalie allowed only two goals last weekend at home against big rival Minnesota and made his first shutout of the season on Saturday in a 4-0 win over the Golden Gophers.

34 COMMENTS

  1. St. Cloud State aspiring to stay on even keel, Huskies ‘don’t want to look too far into anything’

    You sure about that? They are tweeting how they are “ranked #1 in Pairwise”. If that’s not looking ahead I don’t know what is…lol

    • The players are tweeting that? The coaches? Who is they?
      I’m looking ahead to December 8th. Can’t wait to see St. Cloud blow the doors off UND.

        • Barking ahead of time never works. Its like guaranteeing a playoff win. Back fires almost every time and then people look like an idiot. Let’s just wait until the games get here. St Cloud looks good so far, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The 3 best teams they’ve had the past 17 years all lost to an inferior opponent in the first NCAA tournament game.

          • I only used that as a example. Its just not smart to state that Cloud is gonna blow the barn doors off UND. Its not like they’re a cream puff, they are ranked #4. Wouldn’t mind seeing it happen, but I’m not about clamor about it over a month in advance.

        • North Dakota won 5 of 6 against St. Cloud last year, and that means that this year St. Cloud isn’t going to stomp them?

          • Well, UND just lost to CC. So maybe you should worry about beating the perennial cellar dwellars before you take aim at the top teams.

          • Maybe SCSU should prove they can actually win….well, anything. 2 regular season titles, one of which was split with the goofs, and two conference tournaments titles……that’s cute. What is the normal course for SCSU? Play well in the regular season, but not well enough to win regular titles, and then flop in the playoffs?

          • You nailed it. But this conversation isn’t about who is historically the better program. It is about who is the better team this year. And I will bet any amount of money that St. Cloud finishes higher than North Dakota in the standings.

          • No, based on looking at our roster and looking at your roster. You have Gersich, Poganski and a bunch of nobodies.

          • Yeah…..because a look at the roster guarantees doors blown off. Dumbest comment yet on your “theory.” So you’re saying last year SCSU had no one and that is why they lost 5 of 6?

          • Awwwwww…..poor baby. And we lost a lot of ours. Big deal. Happens every year. I’ll make sure to go to the games so I can witness the doors blowing off in person in one of the crappier rinks in college hockey.

          • Sorry, we lost all of our top 6 scorers. Not 6 of the top 7. We also lost the best goalie in the league. All that, and we still only finished one game behind the mighty North Dakota in the NCHC standings.

          • Best goalie in the league in 2015-2016 was from SCSU? You may want to go back and actually look at the stats and see who is on top. And its not Lindgren

          • You might want to see who was named NCHC goalie of the year. Which I believe is voted on by the coaches. They picked Lindgren.

          • I’ll take the actual stats as opposed to the coaches. That is about as useful as where they pick everyone to finish or the uscho weekly poll. Lindgren comes up 3rd best.

          • BS argument? Nothing is better than actual stats. Those are facts, where coaches voting is an opinion. Again, Lindgren comes in third best in the conference.

          • Based on your “look at the roster” hypothesis, BU should have won it all last year. Guess that went bust…..

    • You do realize that was tweeted by the promotional department that is desperately trying to sell tickets after 8 years of watching our attendance stagnate right… no coached or players tweeted that…

      We are trying to make money for our school… dont want to go the way of your womens team.

      • If the SCSU men’s hockey team is losing millions yearly like our women’s team did then….. see ya. But I doubt your comparison is even close to reality.
        Winning products fix attendance problems. SCSU should be fine…

      • I’d think ticket sales would increase if they got rid of the worst seats in the country and replaced them with something that was actually comfortable.

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