The men’s hockey team took an early lead and were able to coast to a decisive 6-2 victory over the University of Alberta in their first game of the season Saturday night at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
Despite being outshot 34-25, the Huskies were able to capitalize when it mattered most. The Huskies’ six goals all came from different players, including points from 11 players, freshmen and veterans. The Huskies finally laid off the gas in the third period, coasting to a four-goal victory over the Golden Bears in a scoreless third period.
Started off strong, the first period ended with a 4-1 lead over the Bears. The Huskies’ first goal came from sophomore Patrick Russell just 44 seconds into the game after catching a pass in the slot from winger Patrick Newell.
Less than 4 minutes later, it was senior Joey Benik who capitalized for the Huskies after catching a saucer pass from teammate David Morley on a 2-on-1 fast break. Benik led the team with 39 points in the 2014-2015 season, finishing in the top five in the NCHC.
The Bears would make it 2-1 with 5:18 left in the first period after a cluster of shots resulting in a rebound goal from Kruise Riddick, narrowing the Huskies’ lead to one.
The Huskies went on to tally two quick goals in the final minutes of the period, including freshman Newell’s first career collegiate goal. Newell collected a rebound in the slot after a shot from Russell and made a move to his backhand to beat Alberta goaltender Marc Olivier-Daigle.
Huskies head coach Bob Motzko went on to add how Newell is very calm and comfortable as a freshman saying, “It took a lot of patience to make that play.”
With just over a minute remaining in the first period, Ben Storm extended the Huskies’ lead to three after a fortunate bounce off of a Bears defender.
Storm attempted to throw a pass to the front of the slot after it deflected off of the defender’s skate into the net. Storm was a winger last season, however coach Motzko believes his size and ability to take draws makes him a good fit for center.
St. Cloud State’s Blake Winiecki would start off the second period scoring at the 15:22 mark after putting in a rebound goal. However, the Bears quickly struck back after a goal from Dylan Bredo, assisted by Stephane Legault and Jayden Hart.
Motzko pulled Husky goaltender Charlie Lindgren midway through the second period and replaced him with senior Rasmus Reijola in an attempt to allow equal playing time for each. Lindgren finished with 10 saves, giving up two goals.
Later in the second period, the Huskies capitalized again, this time on the power play after a cross-checking penalty from Alberta’s Levko Koper. Captain Ethan Prow scored on a slap shot from the top of the point after catching a pass from Kalle Kossila. Benik was also credited with an assist on the play.
As the second period came to a close, Alberta’s Legault was given a 5-minute major and game misconduct penalty for checking from behind on St. Cloud State’s Niklas Nevalainen, the Huskies would carry that power play into the start of the third period. Navalainen did not return to the game.
Coach Motzko admitted that the passing was much better on the side of Alberta than St. Cloud State. Motzko went on to express excitement over the performance of the forward line, consisting of Nwell, Kossila, and Russel.
He also commented on the work done by the new players on the team saying, “I liked the freshmen. I felt like Jon Lizotte had a very good game on defense for us.”