College Hockey Series of the Week: No. 2 St. Cloud State vs No. 4 Minnesota
The college hockey season has begun and there already has been a lot of storylines, from upsets to big games between the top teams.
This weekend is no different, as there is another top-five showdown in the state of Minnesota, as No. 2 St. Cloud State faces No. 4 Minnesota in a home-and-home series.
The first game is set for Friday at 7 p.m. from Minneapolis, while game two is on Saturday and puck-drop is at 5 p.m. from Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Starting it off with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, they’re coming off an impressive season. Bob Motzko’s squad went 24-7 in 2020-21 and won the Big Ten Championship before falling, 4-0, to Minnesota State in the Loveland Regional Final.
Minnesota opened its season over the weekend with a sweep over Mercyhurst, winning game one, 7-4, and game two, 5-3.
The Golden Gophers lost two of their top scorers from a year ago in Sampo Ranta, who notched 31 points, and Scott Reedy, who tallied 28. However, they still have a majority of their production back and they’re already off and running.
Senior Blake McLaughlin leads the team with five points, while juniors Ben Meyers and Bryce Brondzinski each have four. Captain Sammy Walker, is coming off a 29-point season and has three points to start the year.
Minnesota also boasts a strong group of defensemen, headlined by Jackson Lacombe and Ryan Johnson. Last year Lacombe led defensemen with 21 points and has one point so far, Johnson had 14 points and currently leads Gopher defensemen with two points.
Down in the blue paint is the biggest strength for the Gophers in reigning Richter Award winner Jack LaFontaine. He’s coming off a year where he went 22-7 with 1.79 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and five shutouts.
LaFontaine is 2-0 so far but wasn’t great posting a 3.52 goals-against average and a .852 save percentage against Mercyhurst.
Switching gears over to No. 2 St. Cloud State, who made it to the national championship a year ago, but got blanked by Massachusetts, 5-0. The Huskies currently sit at 3-1, after heading to Mankato for a date with No. 1 Minnesota State.
The Mavericks took game one, 1-0, before St. Cloud State responded with a win in game two, 3-1.
Brett Larson’s squad is one of the most experienced and deepest teams in college hockey. It only lost a pair of players from a season ago, and returned its top point getters from a season ago.
In the forward group, Finnish-born Veeti Miettinen and senior Nolan Walker were tied for the team lead with 24 points. Both have three points so far, with each of them picking up a goal in St. Cloud’s win over Minnesota State.
The current leader in points on the team is senior forward Kevin Fitzgerald, with five. Last year Fitzgerald posted 18 points on nine goals and nine assists.
Similar to Minnesota, the Huskies have a fantastic group of blueliners, headed by captain Spencer Meier and senior Nick Perbix, long with the addition of the 2021 Minnesota Mr. Hockey winner, Jack Peart, from Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
Perbix led St. Cloud defensemen in points with 23, seven goals and 16 assists. As for Meier, he was second in points for Husky defenders last year with 15.
So far this year, Meier and Ondrej Trejbal are tied for the lead in points for defensemen with three, Perbix has two. Meanwhile, Jack Peart picked up his first career points with a pair of assists against St. Thomas to start the year.
Finally, in between the pipes for the Huskies is David Hrenak. Last season he went 17-10 with a 2.66 goals-against average, a .904 save percentage and two shutouts.
After some inconsistency last year, Hrenak is off to a strong start in the net for St. Cloud State. Through four games, Hrenak is 3-1 with 0.84 goals-against average, a .967 save percentage and one shutout.
Another week, and another top-five series with this weekend being the NCHC against the Big Ten. Both St. Cloud State and Minnesota are off to a strong start, so look for these two to split the weekend, don’t be surprised if we get an extra period with these two.
Game 1: Minnesota 3, St. Cloud State 2/OT
Game 2: St. Cloud State 2, Minnesota 0
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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