DULUTH, Minn. — There are games throughout the course of a season that mean more than the outcome on that particular night. Top-ranked St. Cloud State’s 4-2 over No. 5 Minnesota Duluth on Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth had that kind of feeling for the Huskies.
St. Cloud’s No. 1 ranking in the USCHO.com poll could fall by the way side after the Huskies lost to the Bulldogs on Friday night, but they responded by impressing in a lot of areas while erasing an early 2-0 deficit in defeating the defending NCAA champions. It was the kind of effort that can reverberate throughout the rest of the season.
There was no panic in their game after they were dominated in the early going. Their skill was on display as they wrestled control of the game away from the Bulldogs. And they received the type of goaltending needed to make a long run in the NCAA tournament.
The pieces were all in place by night’s end, on a night when a very good Minnesota Duluth team put together the type of effort that would have beaten most teams.
“This isn’t an easy place to play,” said SCSU captain Jimmy Schuldt, whose goal tied the game at 2-2 late in the first period. “Anybody who has ever played here knows that. But we talk about it all the time; it’s easy to stick together and be positive when you’re winning.
“The true test of character comes when things aren’t going well, to see how you respond. It was a character win.”
First-year St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson, a former Minnesota Duluth assistant coach facing his former team or the first time, was impressed by the composure his team showed.
“We were able to get through it and not panic,” Larson said. “It speaks to the character we have on this team.”
The Bulldogs were outshot 14-6 in the first period on Friday night came out determined not to have a repeat performance on Saturday. SCSU didn’t get its first shot on goal until the first period was over 10 minutes old.
UMD took a 1-0 lead at 3:13 of the first period on a goal by Riley Tufte. The Bulldogs increased their lead to 2-0 10 minutes later when Justin Richards scored a power-play goal, and it looked as though a weekend sweep was in the works.
“We expected a lot of pressure at the start,” Larson said, “and they came with it. Their forecheck can be tough, and when they get it going they make it tough on your breakout.”
The game began to change late in the first period when Huskies defensemen Spencer Meier finished off a pretty passing play to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half. SCSU drew even 49 seconds later when Schuldt intercepted a clearing pass in the slot and fired the puck past goaltender Hunter Shepard.
Schuldt had only a split second to measure the risk against the possible reward for pinching in from the point. When the puck landed on his stick he wasted no time in putting it in the net.
There was not stopping the Huskies after that. SCSU scored what proved to be the game-winner at 4:25 of the second period when Easton Brodzinski made a pretty stick-handling move in the slot to free himself from a defender and slip the puck past Shepard on his backhand.
“That first goal was huge for us,” Larson said. “You could just feel how it took the pressure off our bench.”
— SCSU Men's Hockey (@SCSUHUSKIES_MH) January 13, 2019
Before the Huskies sealed things with a late third-period goal, goaltender David Hrenak was the best player on a team that showed how it’s done when it comes to playing with a lead.
“That’s what we need from David,” Schuldt said. “On nights like these when he is on the top of his game he is right up there with the best goalies in the country.”
And when the Huskies play like they did on Saturday night, it’s possible that they are still the best team in the country.
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Minnesota’s Blake McLaughlin scored with 7.8 second remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie as the Golden Gophers completed a weekend sweep of No. 9 Notre Dame.
The Irish jumped to a 1-0 lead before Brandon McManus tied the game in the second.
Mat Robson made 34 saves to earn the victory.
Better late than lucky 〽️ pic.twitter.com/ylPxKtdaOe
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) January 13, 2019
Harvard 2, No. 6 Quinnipiac 1
The Crimson went on the road to upset No. 6 Quinnipiac behind goals by John Marino and Jack Drury.
Drury’s goal into an empty net became the game winner as Ethan de Jong scored Quinnipiac’s lone goal with 27 second remaining.
Michael Lackey made a career-high 46 saves to earn the victory.
— Harvard Men's Hockey (@HarvardMHockey) January 13, 2019