Early Saturday afternoon, St. Cloud head coach Craig Dahl sat his Slovakian import down for a little chat before the Huskies rematch with Minnesota State at the National Hockey Center.
A year ago Peter Szabo was one St. Cloud State’s most reliable weapons, and was rewarded with a spot on the All-WCHA rookie team. But through the Huskies first nine games of the 2002-03 campaign, the sophomore has been held to just three assists.
Just hours after the conversation with his head coach, Szabo proved he does have a good grasp on the English language and responded by doubling that point total, scoring a goal and assisting on two others as St. Cloud bounced back from Friday’s 7-6 loss in Mankato with a 7-2 win Saturday to earn a split with the Mavericks in their home and home series.
“It’s amazing what happens when a guy works hard,” said Dahl, referring to what the two talked about before the game. “I had a little heart to heart with him and he knew he hadn’t been working as hard as he should have. He thought he was, but I said you got to trust me on this; I’ve been coaching college hockey for 24 years, and I said to him do you really think I would tell a kid he wasn’t working hard if he wasn’t.”
Dahl’s message was taken to heart by the whole team. Six different players scored goals, five had multiple point nights and they cut their penalty total nearly in half from the night before. Something that was also driven home by the coach after last night’s loss.
“There were only two penalties that we took that I had a problem with,” he said. “Which was much better than last night.”
St. Cloud scored four special teams goals, three of which came on a power play that is suddenly clicking at a 41.7 percent rate over their past four games.
After a scoreless first 20 minutes, Husky freshman Konrad Reeder notched his first collegiate goal, rifling a shot over Jason Jensen’s glove just over four minutes into the second. Joe Motzko and Jeff Finger then scored back-to-back power play goals a minute apart later in the frame to put the Huskies up 3-0.
Dana Sorensen got the Mavericks on the board with 3:55 to play in the second, but the Huskies responded by adding three more in first thirteen plus minutes of the third to put the game away. Motzko scored on a nifty shorthanded play 41 seconds into the third after Mankato defensemen Steven Johns’ stick snapped in two. Jonathan Lehun scored his fifth goal of the year on the power play and Szabo finished off a nice feed from Joe Jensen for an even strength tally to make it 6-1.
Grant Stevenson scored on a rocket for Mankato to cut it to 6-2, but Jon Cullen put the Huskies back up by five to close out the scoring and assure the Huskies of their first win on a Saturday night this year.
“All the time [the] coach is saying we have to come [both] Friday and Saturday night,” said Szabo, who had 33 points in his freshman season. “This season we kind of play good first period on Saturday and then relaxing and losing second period and then game … we weren’t ready to play.”
The Huskies put 38 shots on Jensen and matched their season high in goals, scored on half of their power play opportunities and killed off six of seven penalties in improving to 5-4-1 (3-2-1 WCHA). Mankato fell to 3-5-2 overall (2-3-1).
St. Cloud will play another home and home series next weekend, visiting Minnesota-Duluth Friday night before returning home for a rematch with the Bulldogs on Saturday. The Mavericks are idle next weekend and will return to action in two weeks when they go to North Dakota.