Team of the Week: St. Cloud State
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
St. Cloud State came storming out Friday, behind a lot of emotion, at home, and blitzed the first-place Minnesota Gophers for a nice, satisfying win.
But when the Gophers tried to return the favor Saturday, just to remind the Huskies who were the bosses this year in the WCHA (if not most years), they couldn't finish the deal. Instead, the "Not in Our House" mantra that enabled St. Cloud State to prevent Minnesota from clinching the McNaughton Cup on Friday, turned out to be "Not in Your House Either."
The Huskies rallied from down 3-1, and from getting swarmed by the Gophers, got their legs, and went on to a 5-3 win that was even more impressive than the one the night before.
"It was not looking good," Motzko said. "There were a few penalties in there — they took some, we took one, and it got it off the momentum there. It's still a two-goal game. And when Marty Mjelleli, with a little neutral zone transition, pops one in, it really changed at that point. It gave us life again.
"We felt it right on the bench when it happened."
Senior Gary Houseman added a goal in the third to tie it. Between he and Mjelleli, they had five goals between them when the game started. Another senior, defenseman Nate Raduns, scored the game winner on a nifty move and shot, his sixth of the year.
And then there's Bobby Goepfert.
Behind 39 saves from the senior goalie (OK, country, you can now start recognizing Goepfert as a Hobey Baker Award candidate), the Huskies officially went from "Nice story" to "Whoa, look out!"
"We just want people in our state to think we're a program on the move," Motzko said. "You can say it all you want, but when you have wins like that, it's a nice statement that we are doing nice things.
"(Goepfert is) where it starts. (And) we have a mixture of older and younger kids. I don't know if we're outstanding — I know we're not — but we're just a solid team and we have great team chemistry. And that's been here for two years. We're in a lot of tight games and we have an ability to not get rattled by it."
Mjelleli missed five weeks with a knee strain, but has returned to be the same kind of effective role player he was last year. And adding the goals from the two seniors, Motzko was thrilled with that kind of combination, in a season where freshmen Ryan Lasch and Andreas Nodl have often carried the offense.
"We've relied heavily on freshman," Motzko said. "But in crunch time, your veterans have to pull you through tough nights. ... We've had that a few times recently."
The Huskies' resurgence is credited to Motzko, rightfully so. But the impact of the senior class, like last year's, shows that former coach Craig Dahl left a positive impression on the program.
"We've gone with what we've had and they're good," Motzko said. "Every time I've had to talk about it I've said that you come into a job and have some success, obviously we took something over that had something there. He didn't leave the cupboards bare."
St. Cloud State has Minnesota's number over the last couple of seasons, especially this one. Motzko, who used to be an assistant at Minnesota, may know some secrets that helps his team against the Gophers. But if he does, he's not sharing them.
"I'm not going there," Motzko said. "In the seven times we've played (in the last two years), there's been some crazy stuff. Maybe it's just in the water between these sets of players here."
What he might share, though, is a chat every now and then with Minnesota coach Don Lucia — especially if Motzko wants help deciphering the Pairwise, something Lucia is expert at.
If he has that chat, he'd see that, as it stands, St. Cloud State has basically already qualified for the NCAAs. And, in fact, sitting at No. 4 in the Pairwise now, it may be bulletproof as far as a No. 1 seed is concerned, even if it loses the next four games.
"I know the least of the Pairwise. I just listen to Don," Motzko said.
"We started talking about (the tournament) last week. We've done some nice things, and we want to protect what we've built. There's not pressure to win out, but we want to protect what we've done."