MINNEAPOLIS — Outshot by nearly double, St. Cloud State still came away with the NCHC playoff championship.
Mikey Eyssimont scored twice, and the Bulldogs, outshot 34-18, overcame Minnesota-Duluth 3-1 on Saturday in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff title game.
See the tournament bracket and get links to schedules and stories at NCHC Playoff Central.
“We didn’t start great,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “But we found a way to be very business-like to get it done.”
Before the NCHC tournament, Minnesota-Duluth was on the outside looking into the NCAA tournament. That desperation permeated through its performance in Friday night’s NCHC semifinal win against North Dakota and in the first period of the championship game against the Huskies.
The first period started out as a mostly even affair as both the Huskies and the Bulldogs were playing conservatively. Once both teams got comfortable, the ice opened up and Duluth’s offense started to click and broke up the scoreless tie.
With around seven minutes to play in the first, UMD defenseman Willie Raskob found forward Carson Soucy on a beautiful cross-ice pass for the first goal of the game.
From there, the game took a chippy turn as both teams illustrated why they don’t like each other. Late in the period, Duluth cost itself a chance at a power play when Soucy retaliated after Huskies forward Will Borgen was called for goaltender interference.
The animosity continued at the end of the first when UMD defenseman Neal Pionk rammed into Borgen as he was leaving the penalty box, resulting in another roughing penalty.
Even with tensions high, the second period mirrored the first in that it was a back-and-forth affair with UMD getting a majority of the shots. The Bulldogs outshot the Huskies 14-8 in the second period and spent a majority of the frame in St. Cloud State’s zone.
While Duluth was doing the shooting, St. Cloud State was doing the scoring.
Eyssimont, a freshman, continued his tremendous tournament play and made a huge impact for the Huskies.
At 8:59, Eyssimont tied the game at 1-1 off assists from Jimmy Schuldt and Kalle Kossila.
The highlights continued for the NCHC tournament MVP with about 35 seconds left in the second period. Eyssimont corralled the puck in front of the Duluth net and score off a backhand, falling-away shot where he wasn’t even facing the net to put the Huskies up 2-1.
The dagger came in the third period at 5:09 when SCSU sophomore Patrick Russell put the puck past UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo.
Just like Denver experienced the night before against St. Cloud, the Bulldogs had plenty of chances to get back in the game but missed too many opportunities in the last frame.
While St. Cloud State is pleased with the progress the team made in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, players and coaches both know this is only the first step in what they hope is a long postseason.
“We’ll be going into next week with some confidence, which I think is good,” goaltender Charlie Lindgren said. “But it’s back to work on Monday and just like coach said, we have to park this and move on from it and get ready for next week.”