Series of the Week: No.1 St. Cloud State vs No.10 Western Michigan
With No.1 St. Cloud State (23-4-3) already clinching the National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular season championship, the Huskies will look to add to their already impressive point total when they visit No.10 Western Michigan (18-11-1).
St. Cloud is fresh off of a beating of Nebraska-Omaha, whereas Western Michigan split with Colorado College, which included an 8-2 loss.
The Huskies’ offense ranks second in the nation averaging 3.66 goals per clip and is only behind Penn State, who averages a whopping 4.66 goals per game.
For the top team in the nation and potential frozen four favorites, senior forward Patrick Newell leads the Huskies in points with 35. Newell is also the leading scorer with 16 goals on the season, also accumulating 19 assists.
Junior forward Ryan Poehling, a 2017 first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, is second on the team in assists with 20. The hard-nosed attacker is a true difference maker and is a serious force along with senior forward Robby Jackson, senior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and sophomore forward Blake Lizotte.
Junior defenseman Jack Ahcan leads St. Cloud in assists with 22 and has been a steady presence on the back end throughout the 2018-2019 season.
In net, St. Cloud State has relied mostly on sophomore David Hrenak.
Hrenak was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Kings and has made appearances in 24 games.
The sophomore netminder has allowed 47 goals with a goal against average of 2.06 and a save percentage of .909. In addition, the Huskies are 18-3-2 with Hrenak between the pipes.
When looking at Western Michigan, they are almost a lock for the NCAA Tournament and want to be a spoiler even though St. Cloud already clinched the NCHC crown.
Western Michigan presents the sixth-ranked scoring offense in the country, averaging 3.45 goals per contest and much of that success a result of Hugh McGing’s high level of production.
The junior forward leads the team in points with 30 and is tied with John Passolt in the goals category at 16. McGing is also a 2018 fifth round selection of the St. Louis Blues.
Senior forward Colt Conrad has 28 points on the season, 20 of those points being assists.
The quartet of Ethen Frank, Austin Rueschhoff, Cam Lee and Corey Schueneman is extremely lethal. They provide a balance to an offense that really knows how to get shots on goal.
In the crease, senior Trevor Gorsuch has had himself a productive season with an overall record of 16-7-1.
The senior goalie has allowed 62 goals in 25 appearances, allows an average of 2.73 goals per contest, and holds a save percentage of .910.
The NCHC is a conference where anybody can beat anybody on any given weekend. With Western Michigan, just two points behind Minnesota-Duluth for the second spot in the conference, the stakes are high.
Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo will be the center of the college hockey world this weekend and the Broncos will look to avenge their 5-0 and 5-3 losses in mid-January when they visited St. Cloud.
Expect physical play throughout the entire series and do not be surprised if one of these games turns into a shootout. Both offenses know how to really light the lamp and this has the makings of an extremely intense bout.
Prediction: St. Cloud State sweep.
Christopher Hess is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.