The #4 St. Cloud State University Huskies welcomed the Northern Michigan University Wildcats to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center Friday night in the Huskies’ official home debut this season.
The Huskies would come flying out of the gates early in the first period spending plenty of time in the Wildcats zone. Midway through the period all their hard work would finally pay off, freshman forward Nolan Walker found a wide open Jon Lizotte above the right circle and his shot would get tipped by forward Jake Wahlin to open the scoring with Wahlin’s first goal of the season at 8:38 in the opening frame.
The score would remain 1-0 at the end of the first. SCSU had 8 shots on goal and held NMU to just 5. Both teams committed two penalties, with Northern Michigan opening up the second period with 1:58 left on a power play after forward Easton Brodzinksi was caught slashing right before the buzzer.
St. Cloud would not allow a shot on goal during their penalty kill and would have possession of the puck in the Wildcat zone when they regained full strength. Brodzinksi came right out of the box and redeemed himself immediately scoring with assists from Jack Ahcan and Robby Jackson at 2:25 in the second period.
St. Cloud would find themselves on a power play next and they would waste no time getting to work. Forward Blake Lizotte would hit Brodzinski with a centering pass and forward Ryan Poehling put home a juicy rebound to score just 33 seconds into the power play chance increasing their lead to 3-0 at 8:05 into the second.
St. Cloud lit the lamp twice before Northern Michigan recorded a shot on goal in the period.
Wahlin would get whistled for holding and the ensuing power play would be the Wildcat’s best scoring chance of the night to that point with a 2 on 1 against Ryan Poehling, but Poehling would eat a shot in the slot keeping NMU off the scoreboard.
After that penalty was killed two and a half minutes later, Ahcan would take a 10 minute game misconduct penalty and would get ejected for contact to the head that would give the Wildcats a 5 minute power play to work with. Northern Michigan would finally find the back of the net for the first time with a power play goal right before the horn from Griffin Loughran with assists to Ryan Black and Mitch Slattery at 19:49 to cut their deficit to 3-1 before the final frame.
Northern Michigan was out shot 16 to 6 in the second with half of the Wildcat’s shots coming on the power play to close the period. St. Cloud absolutely dominated in the second, but would open up the third the same way they did the second, on the penalty kill, this time with 3:01 left before they could return to full strength.
St. Cloud would eventually earn that third goal back. A little give and go action had freshman forward and Minnesota Wild draft pick Sam Hentges give it to Blake Lizotte who would give it right back to Hentges who slid the puck home back door for his first collegiate goal. Forward Pat Newell also got an assist on the play. Hentges’ goal made it 4-1 at 10:59 of the third.
That’s where the scoring would end as St. Cloud would take care of Northern Michigan in game one. The Huskies played with tons of pace and were able to generate plenty of scoring chances in their home debut and the home crowd of 4,098 gave the Huskies plenty to feed off of in this Huskies homecoming victory.
Overall St. Cloud took six penalties in the game for 23 minutes equating to over an entire period’s worth of penalty minutes, Head Coach Brett Larson thought it was the team giving a maximum effort, “We think it’s just a little bit of trying too hard to be honest. Our guys are just playing really really hard hockey right now and the result of that was a couple penalties.”
Larson went on to say some of the penalty issues that plagued the team in their first two games were stick type infractions and that the team worked really hard at eliminating those in practice the past week.
Northern Michigan was 1/6 on the power play and Larson was happy with the way the penalty killers played, “I thought they did a really good job. Penalty kill is mostly heart and being willing to sacrifice and some guys did that. They laid down in front of pucks, they did whatever it took, and when they did get a good chance David [Hrenak] was able to make the save.”
Blake Lizotte was all over the ice in this one tallying a goal and an assist, centering Newell and Hentges with that line combining for four points from that line.
“We clicked really well. Sam Hentges as a freshman has been great and obviously Newell is playing unbelievable right now as well. He came into training camp at a new level this year. I think he’s kinda got something to prove still so I think he’s real excited about his game right now” Blake said.
The Herb Brook National Hockey Center was buzzing all game and Blake attributed the support of the fans for some of the team’s energy, “It was unbelievable. Coming out on the ice for warmups, and even starting lineups was crazy you couldn’t hear yourself think for a little bit so that was awesome.”
“It’s awesome. The university bringing homecoming back is an awesome thing. It brings attention to the school and it excites students around school. I think it’s a great thing and obviously it showed in the dog pound tonight,” Lizotte continued.
It was an exciting homecoming debut for the cardinal and black on the ice and they hope to be able to duplicate the same effort in game two Saturday at six p.m. at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.