Team of the Week: St. Cloud State
Huskies Can Top the Program's All-Time Best Unbeaten Streak With Wins This Weekend
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Last year, St. Cloud State changed coaches, and enjoyed a bit of a renewed enthusiasm in the program. But ask coach Bob Motzko who was most important, and it was another Bob.
Goaltender Bobby Goepfert.
"What Bobby has done, he's given our guys a chance to become better because he keeps you in a lot of games, which keeps the confidence high," Motzko said. "He's given this program a chance to get better in a hurry."
Motzko said even he was under a misimpression that the cupboard was bare last year when taking over. But the previous coach, Craig Dahl, didn't really leave things in too bad of shape, especially with Goepfert transferring in.
After an All-America season a year ago, Goepfert has been great again, even though the conventional wisdom was that he struggled early this season. And there's no denying that he did, somewhat. But Motzko believes that was a bit overblown.
"Bobby just got stung a little early in the year and made it look like he was struggling," Motzko said. "But he was on early, there were just four or five shots that handcuffed him somehow and you start thinking he's off, and he starts believing it. But that's all gone now."
Indeed, since starting the year at 1-3-3, Goepfert improved to 6-3-3 after a pair of wins at Michigan Tech last weekend. His goals against average was 3.33 after a home loss to Minnesota State, but since then, Goepfert has improved his GAA to 2.44.
Of course, it's not just him. The Huskies are on a nine-game unbeaten streak, making them and New Hampshire the hottest teams in the country next to Minnesota. If St. Cloud State wins two games at home this weekend against ECAC foe Colgate, it will snap a program-best 10-game unbeaten streak set in the 1999-2000 season.
This has made St. Cloud State this week's CHN Team of the Week.
St. Cloud State went to Michigan Tech and won a pair of games last weekend. In recent years, that may not have seemed like too big a deal, but Tech had yet to lose at home this season. Friday's game was a dominant win for St. Cloud State, but Saturday was a bit different, as it rallied and then won on a goal by Andrew Gordon with just 11 seconds remaining in overtime.
"We were due to come down a bit. We were fortunate that kids made enough plays," Motzko said. "We're making more plays this year through 60 minutes. A couple of guys have taken steps, and Andrew Gordon has developed, Nate Dey steps up."
The one setback has been an injury to John Swanson, a sophomore who had five goals in eight games this season before suffering a lower body strain in the weight room three weeks ago. He has been slow to recover, and is not expected back before the Vermont tournament after Christmas.
That meant Motzko had to shuffle up the lines, moving senior Nate Radens up to play center with super-freshman Ryan Lasch and junior Dan Kronick.
"Things are going really good, it seems like everything's clicking," said Lasch, a freshman. "We know our jobs aren't done. We have a whole other half of the season to go."
The other "scoring" line remains Dey with Gordon and Andreas Nodl, another freshman that's been a revelation, actually leading the team in scoring with 20 points. Together, two freshmen, Lasch and Nodl, have 17 of the team's 51 goals, or 33 percent.
Motzko said his constants have been his solid defensive unit, led by senior captain Casey Borer, Justin Fletcher and Matt Stevenson.
One nice surprise has been Radens, thrust into a role on a top line, and at center to boot. A 6-foot-3 winger normally, he has played a prominent role this year.
There's a long way to go, of course, and it starts this weekend with Colgate. Motzko is loathe to talk about the NCAAs with his team, but alas, these next four will be the last non-league games of the season, and they go a long way in the Pairwise.
"You're sure not going to win anything early in the season, but you can lose. So every weekend is important," Motzko said. "Everyone tries to guard for that. ... College hockey is (about) surviving the first half of your schedule, finding out what you've got and trying to get better.
"We sure never talked about anything, but as it played out at the end of the year, people thought we missed the NCAA tournament by one game. So guys are not looking ahead, but (they know) you can't take anything for granted because it does have implications."