St. Cloud State has the No. 2 power play in the country, scoring on 30 percent of its chances with an extra man. Friday night however, the Huskies used the Omaha Mavericks’ power plays to their advantage. The No. 3 Huskies scored their first two goals seconds apart from two Omaha power plays and St. Cloud went on to win 4-1 against the No. 11 Mavericks in Omaha.
Just 16 seconds after Jimmy Murray left the box following a slashing penalty served, Robby Jackson flicked a wrister that scooted past goaltender Evan Weninger’s stick side and into the net at 4:33 in the first.
The early lead was only temporary. At 9:12, Luke Nogard fired a shot that deflected near the net and Mason Morelli hammered home the equalizer.
Three minutes later, Jimmy Schuldt was called for boarding on a big hit to Tyler Vesel. The Huskies killed the penalty and 45 seconds later, Jacob Benson scooped a shot high on Weninger to put the Huskies back up again.
“The critical thing tonight was we killed the penalty and the Winiecki line goes out and scores,” said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko. “A little bit later, we kill another penalty, the next shift the Winiecki line scores again.”
Late in the first, Mikey Eyssimont was called for St. Cloud’s third penalty of the period when he collided with Weninger for goaltender interference. The hit sidelined Weninger for the rest of the period, but he later returned.
In the second, the Mavericks continued to get chances, but were on the penalty kill for the first time in the game when Joel Messner was called for elbowing. Omaha killed it and it would be their only penalty of the night. The Mavericks outshot the Huskies 12-8 in the period, as both sides skated into the second intermission without a second-period score.
In the third period, Omaha came out like a storm. The Mavericks opened up with an 11 to 3 shot advantage in the first 10 minutes.
“We can’t play much better than that,” Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “Obviously just some games you lose 4 to 1 and you look back and say ‘Gee, we played poorly,’ but tonight we didn’t.”
Despite Omaha controlling the momentum, St. Cloud managed to make the most of the period.
David Morley wheeled back behind the right point before passing it to Joey Benik, who scored top shelf to make it a two-goal game at 11:20. The Huskies weathered a few close scoring chances from Omaha, including a shot off the pipe, but goaltender Charlie Lindgren and the rest of the Huskies kept them at bay.
St. Cloud tacked on an empty-netter in the final seconds and handed Omaha the home loss, winning 4-1.
“Charlie Lindgren, he was strong tonight,” Motzko said. “He was the reason that he gave us a chance all night long.”
The junior goalie tallied 33 saves for the Huskies.
Despite being toward the bottom of penalty killing percentage execution in college hockey, due large in part to taking so few penalties, the Huskies both took more penalties than usual tonight and killed all of them.
“We don’t take many penalties and tonight, uncharacteristically, we took some bad penalties and our penalty kill had to be good,” Motzko said. “When you have Charlie playing the top of his game, that was the key to it too tonight.”
Blais felt that more credit to the Huskies was warranted than criticism to the way his team played.
“It’s the best game we’ve played in a couple of weeks for sure,” Blais said. “We didn’t get the results that we wanted with the loss.”
Motzko hopes the Huskies have shaken off the rust from their bye week and will come out sharper on Saturday.
“I’m hoping tomorrow we have much more crispness to our game,” Motzko said. “We caused a lot of our own problems tonight. We had to defend very well tonight, but we shouldn’t have to defend that much.”
Although not pleased with the results, Blais thinks his team playing where they need to be.
“We didn’t fold the tent and give up,” Blais said. “I thought we played better when we got down. We’ll be just fine.”