After coming from behind to win their last four games, St. Cloud State took the lead early on and didn’t look back, defeating Duluth 5-0 Saturday night at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
In a game much different from the day before, a shutout from freshman goaltender David Hrenak helped No. 2 St. Cloud State (7-0-0, 2-0-0 NCHC) to a 5-0 victory over No. 8 Duluth (4-4-2, 0-1-0 NCHC) to remain undefeated.
Unlike yesterday, it didn’t take long for the scoring to start, as a power play goal from Jacob Benson gave St. Cloud State a 1-0 lead just under 10 minutes into the first period. Moments after killing off a penalty of their own, the Huskies were able to produce a goal with the extra attacker. After catching a pass in the slot from teammate Blake Winiecki, Benson quickly fired a low, blocker-side shot past Shepard, giving him his fourth goal of the season.
As their momentum died down later in the period, the Huskies would capitalize on another mistake made by the Bulldogs, taking a two-goal lead on the power play after a holding call on Peter Krieger. After catching a pass near the bottom of the right face-off circle, St. Cloud State forward Mikey Eyssimont showed patience with the puck, making a nice side-step move to the dot before firing a high shot to the back of the net, giving the Huskies a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko mentioned how special teams played a big role for the Huskies this weekend.
“There was a lot of things we did well. Special teams, big penalty kill, two power play goals… It was a big weekend for us. We’ll accept it and move on,” said Motzko.
The Huskies finished the weekend with four power play goals while giving up just one goal on 10 penalty kill attempts.
Finding themselves down a man midway into the second period, St. Cloud State extended their lead to three with a shorthanded goal from Robby Jackson. Jackson intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and skated the puck in on the right side before firing a shot far side, beating Shepard and giving himself his fourth goal of the season.
Minutes later, Winiecki would widen the Huskies lead even further, hammering in a rebound goal following a shot from teammate Will Borgen. Winiecki was a healthy scratch for Friday night’s game after struggling early on this season to get a goal.
“His planet was on the wrong axel. We had to take him out a night to jumpstart it and boy it did,” said Motzko.
Winiecki finished with two points on the night, reaching the 30-goal mark as well as the 60-point mark for his collegiate career.
“I don’t think I’ve been playing near as well as I know I can and as I have in the past… I kinda wanted to make tonight the night to turn it around,” said Winiecki.
Winiecki went on to mention how playing simple and bringing more energy and tenacity to his game helped him out Saturday night.
Throughout the two-game series, St. Cloud State received scoring production from a number of players. For the second game in a row, all five of the Huskies goals came from different players.
“This is a deep, deep hockey team and there’s gonna be a competition going on in there,” said Motzko. He doesn’t find this to be a problem.
Motzko went on to mention how their streak of 7-0 feels good, but that they still have a long way to go.
After giving up four goals in under two periods, the Bulldogs replaced Shepard with Nick Deery in net, who would not last long before falling victim, himself, to yet another St. Cloud State goal. Nearing the end of the second period, a goal from Jack Poehling would give the Huskies an even more comfortable cushion, entering the final period leading 5-0.
Freshman goaltender David Hrenak finished the game with 29 saves for the Huskies, recording his first shutout of his collegiate career. Hrenak has split time with Jeff Smith throughout the start of the season. The freshman mentioned how the attitude in the Huskies locker room has been well focused.
“These guys are unbelievable. Every time I come to the locker room I feel that winning mentality. Everyone wants to win,” said Hrenak.
Hrenak plans on bringing the game puck home to Slovakia at the end of the season.
The last time St. Cloud State won their first seven games was in 2001-02 season when they started off 9-0 before losing to Colorado College. The Huskies look to move their NCAA ranking up to first next weekend as they head to Denver to face the top-ranked pioneers Nov. 10-11.
“They’re the best team in the country, so it’s gonna be a great challenge for us,” said Motzko.
Denver won the National Championship last year. They lost Friday night to Western Michigan 6-5.
The Huskies will return to home action in two weeks, as they face Colorado College Nov. 17-18 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
Photos courtesy of St. Cloud State Athletics