After beating the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in St. Paul in overtime on Friday, the St. Cloud State Huskies were unable to relish up enough power to win against Denver University in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game on Saturday.
The Huskies fell short to Denver University with a final score of 4-1 and the game didn’t go the way the Huskies had hoped.
“We wanted to win the trophy, but we didn’t capitalize on our chances [and] we didn’t really get anything going until that last five minutes of the game,” junior forward Robby Jackson said. “Denver is defending National Champions for a reason.”
However, even with the loss in the NCHC championship, the Huskies are still the number one ranked Division I Men’s hockey team. Saturday night’s loss was merely a small black mark on the Huskies, and it’s a loss they’re not going to let bother them for the NCAA tournament coming up on March 23.
“We wanted to go [to the NCHC championship] like our freshman year and win it, but at the end of the day, that’s not our end goal. We had a [heck] of a year and won the Penrose cup,” junior forward Mikey Eyssimont said. “It would have been nice to get some hardware, but we wanted everyone to be healthy and ready to go for this weekend.”
The Pioneers jumped on top of the Huskies right away as freshman forward Kohen Olischefski put in a goal just under five minutes into the first period.
The Huskies and Pioneers went back and forth with power plays and shots on goal, and St. Cloud was hoping to go into the first intermission only down by one goal. Nevertheless, things didn’t fare well for St. Cloud as Denver squeezed another goal past freshman goaltender David Hrenak late in the first period with only 5.3 seconds remaining, digging the Huskies into a 2-0 hole after one period of play.
“We played our game, I think we just had a couple of mental lapses that cost us in the second night, but those are just areas that we can clean up in practice this week,” Eyssimont said.
The Pioneers came out of the locker room hungry for more as they didn’t waste any time, scoring just two minutes into the second period thanks to freshman forward Ryan Barrow. With the score reaching 3-0 this early into the game, Head Coach Bob Motzko decided to change things up on the ice, making the call to pull Hrenak from the net for junior Jeff Smith.
After playing two complete periods down by three goals, the Huskies needed to figure something out in order to stay in the game. The championship game continued to be a back and forth battle as Smith kept the Pioneers out of the net and allowing SCSU to score a goal late in the third period at 15:54 by sophomore forward Ryan Poehling, closing the gap to a two-goal deficit.
However, this 3-1 score only lasted for about a minute as Denver answered with the final nail in the coffin against the Huskies making the final score 4-1 and crowning themselves as the NCHC Frozen Faceoff champions.
The Huskies’ loss on Saturday acted as an eye-opener to the team for the upcoming weekend in the NCAA tournament and Jackson admitted they should have worked harder in the NCHC tournament against both North Dakota and Denver to stay in shape.
“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call. We’ve known we were in the NCAA tournament pretty much as soon as we won the Penrose Cup, so we’ve been playing desperate teams that are fighting for their lives and we’re kind of just floating along, waiting until we have something to play for I guess,” Jackson said.
Despite getting runners-up in the Frozen Faceoff, the St. Cloud State Huskies had a selection show viewing party at Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday morning where ESPN announced the rankings for the NCAA tournament.
The Huskies first NCAA game will be on Friday, March 23 at 3 p.m. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota against Air Force Academy, which means they have under one week to prepare.
“We’re going to watch a lot of film, we’re gonna get our rest this week, we’re gonna do what we’ve done all year and just prepare,” Eyssimont said.
Photos courtesy of St. Cloud State Athletics.