Series of the Week: St. Cloud State vs. North Dakota
In the final week of the NCHC regular season, the St. Cloud State Huskies will travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota to take on the scrappy North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
The Huskies enter the final week with a record of 21-6-5 while standing high at No. 1 in the USCHO Polls and No. 1 in the PairWise Rankings.
North Dakota enters this series against the nation’s best with a record of 14-11-9. They are sitting at No. 13 in the USCHO Polls and No. 14 in the PairWise Rankings.
After going 1-0-1 against Denver last week, the Huskies were able to lock up first place in the NCHC going into the conference tournament.
St. Cloud State enters the series averaging just a hair under four goals per game while holding its opponents to just under two and a half goals per game.
The Huskies are also extremely dominant when it comes to crunch time in the third period. They have outscored their opponents 54-27 and that is a major reason as to why they have been so successful throughout the 2017-2018 season.
Junior forward Robby Jackson leads the team in goals with 15 and his counterpart, Mikey Eyssimont, has tallied 14 goals this season. The two also have a combined 40 assists.
Forward Easton Brodzinski is quietly having himself a stellar freshman campaign as well. He has scored 12 goals while also dishing out seven assists. He is also a St. Cloud State legacy. His brother, father, and uncle all donned the Husky Cardinal, Black, and White.
Junior defensemen Jimmy Schuldt is third in points for the Huskies this season, racking up seven goals in addition to 26 assists. The smooth stick handler and game manager will be an integral part of the Huskies’ success this weekend and going into the postseason.
Freshman goalie David Hrenak and junior goalie Jeff Smith have both seen a lot of action in net this season.
The freshman net-minder Hrenak has started 15 games while allowing 30 goals, saving 394 shots, allowing 1.89 goals per game, racking up a save percentage of .927, and a record of 10-3-1.
Junior Jeff Smith has started 17 games while allowing 43 goals, saving 434 shots, allowing 2.62 goals per game, a save percentage of .910 and a record of 11-3-4.
For the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, they find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble and are in need of some quality wins in order to boost their résumé.
UND averages just under three goals per contest while surrendering just under two and a half goals per game.
Christian Wolanin leads North Dakota in points with 29. Those points consist of 10 goals and 19 assists. The Ottawa Senators draft prospect has been the most stable player throughout the 2017-2018 campaign.
Shane Gerisch leads the Fighting Hawks in goals scored with 11 and two other players besides Wolanin have 10 goals on the season. Austin Poganski and Nick Jones have also reached double digits for their respected goal totals in the 2017-2018 campaign.
In net, Cam Johnson has started 23 of the 34 games. This season, Johnson allowed 49 goals, averaging 2.15 goals given up per game, saving 480 shots, holding a save percentage of .907, and having a record of 9-7-6.
In addition to Johnson, Peter Thome has gotten the thumbs up to start 11 times. In those games, Thome has given up 27 goals, averaging 2.31 goals given up per game, saving 274 shots, holding a save percentage of .910, and having as a record of 5-4-3.
With the regular coming to a close, North Dakota currently holds the No. 4 spot in the NCHC and want to make that next step forward.
The Fighting Hawks are 0-1-1 against the Huskies this year. However, having the home ice advantage for this series may be a determining factor in how these two games play out.
There is no doubt that this is a pivotal series for both teams. However, St. Cloud State has the clear-cut edge because of their physical play and ability to wear teams down as the third period approaches.
Expect to see some extremely physical hockey from both sides in each of the games but St. Cloud State will show that they are No. 1 for a reason.
Prediction: St. Cloud State sweeps North Dakota.
Christopher Hess is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org