The St. Cloud State Huskies women’s hockey team was back at it on Friday in an important home game against the Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks in their trek to make it out of the WCHA cellar. The two teams split their series earlier this season in Mankato with the Huskies picking up with victory in game two of that and beating them again in the Minnesota Cup to reach the final. St. Cloud State University lead the all-time series against the purple and gold 40-32-12 heading into the game.
The two in-state rivals would feature two great goalies with the Huskies sending out sophomore Emma Polusny (4-6-1, 3.45 GAA and a .939 save percentage) while the Mavericks countered with freshman Abigail Levy (8-10-4, 1.93 GAA, .937 save percent) who is off to a great start in her rookie campaign.
There wasn’t a whole lot of action in the first half of the opening stanza with each team feeling each other out but the cardinal and black would strike first before the end of the opening frame.
In a brilliant move making her way behind the net sophomore forward Laura Kluge would pull the Mavericks’ starting netminder freshman Abigail Levy out of position and she would bank in her own rebound off a defender to open the scoring at 8:53 of the first for her third goal this season with assists to Kayla Friesen and Rachel Herzog. SCSU would lead MSU 1-0.
Huskies’ Head Coach Eric Rud was proud of his team’s fight after not having the best start to the game, “there will be a game in the next two months that we’ll play great, and find a way to lose it. That’s why this one is important, to not have our A game, but to be able to make a couple plays to get through a 60 minute window with grit and determination. That’s a kind of game that can really kick start a team.”
1-0 would be the score after one period. Polusny was a perfect 8/8 on saves and Levy letting in the one goal making 4/5 saves. St. Cloud won the faceoff battle 7-4 with freshman Jenniina Nylund winning a team high 3.
3:23 into the second period Nylund would get whistled for checking and Minnesota State would go on a power play. On the penalty kill, often times, your best killer needs to be the goalie, and in this case Polusny was.
A couple minutes after that kill the Mavericks would get two on the power play after an Ivy Dynek trip, but the rebel’s defended themselves from the empire once again making it 2/2 on the penalty kill.
It would take nearly 13 minutes for the Huskies to get their first shot on goal of the period with the Mavericks opening up the period on a 13-1 run for shots on goal, but the home team was still leading 1-0.
With 5:23 left on the clock the Mavericks would get luck on their side when the ref blew a whistle early after a shot on Levy would produce a rebound, but the ref would blow his whistle and the scoring chance would be negated.
This time it was Minnesota State’s turn to light the lamp. Sophomore defender Tristen Truax would rip a shot from the point and it would take flight with senior forward Rebekah Kolstad’s catching it and dropping it to her stick, then taking a backhand shot that would arc over the glove of Polusny to knot the game up 1-1 at 16:29 of the second period.
The score would stay 1-1 as the game would enter its final frame. Shots on goal would favor MSU with 24, 16 in the period compared to SCSU who had 11, with 5 of those coming in the second. The Mavericks would win 10 faceoffs and it would be 14-14 for the game in that category.
Looking to reclaim their lead, Nylund and the Huskies would come flying towards the net. Nylund would cut towards Levy from the far side and would get brought down as she approached the crease, but senior forward Julia Tylke was right there to clean the play up and put home the loose puck and it would be 2-1 St. Cloud with assists with Nylund and junior defender Abby Thiessen getting the apples on the Tylke tally.
Also on the play, Mavericks defender McKenzie Sederberg would get the whistle for the trip on Nylund giving St. Cloud their first power play chance of the game. They would be unable to convert the first chance, but Mavericks forward Emily Antony would go to the sin bin for interference and the Huskies would get another chance at 9:09 of the third.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Senior forward Hannah Potrykus would cut towards the net with seconds left on the power play, and the puck would find its way to the other side of the crease with junior forward Janna Haeg roofing her shot and the Huskies would buy that insurance for a 3-1 lead at 12:39 with the secondary assist to Kluge.
Trialing by 2 with 3 minutes remaining Minnesota State’s head coach John Harrington would pull Levy in a move Patrick Roy would approve of in attempts to at least try and force overtime.
Rud’s team was excellent on special teams, killing both penalties and scoring a power play goal. “It’s definitely been an emphasis for us [the power play], it’s crucial down the stretch. Everybody’s playing good defense right now and it’s hard to score 5 on 5. It was a nice quick little play and it was nice to see” said Rud.
The Huskies would hold on to win 3-1 thanks to the help of Polusny, now 5-6-1, and her 29 saves on 30 shots and St. Cloud would take the only game of the weekend. The Mavericks come back to close out the series on Tuesday, February 5.
After getting just 11 total shots on goal the first two periods, 9 third periods shots would be plenty as Levy made 17 saves on 20 shots as St. Cloud State (8-16-2, 2-12-0 WCHA) travels to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the University of Wisconsin (21-2-0, 21-2-1 WCHA) Badgers next Friday and Saturday in another WCHA contest.