No Cloud Nine
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. Friday night at the Blue Cross Arena, St. Cloud State made its fifth NCAA tournament appearance since 2000 and its sixth overall. In those previous appearances, the Huskies had never managed to get a lead.
Friday, that changed with Justin Fletcher's goal almost four minutes into the opening period of St. Cloud's NCAA First Round game against Maine. But unfortunately for the Huskies, the 1-0 lead was short-lived, with Maine scoring three later in the period and adding a fourth to oust St. Cloud from the tournament.
All that was left for the Huskies was the disappointment of failing to make a big play to get themselves back in the game.
"That was a frustrating game for us, obviously," said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko, an alum who is in his second year with the team. "When we needed a goal in the second period to get back in it, we just couldn't do it."
In that second period, St. Cloud trailed 3-1, but the feeling on the bench was that they were still very much in the game.
Said Motzko, "We needed to make just one more play to get back in it [when it was 3-1]. We stayed out of the box, but we just couldn't pop a goal. Maine had a couple seniors to score a couple goals for them, and all of a sudden, 60 minutes are gone, and your opportunity seems wasted."
The 3-1 deficit was the result of three Maine goals within a seven minute span during the first period. Two of those three came on the power play. And while Maine boasts the top power play unit in the country, clicking at over 25%, Motzko felt that things could have — perhaps even should have — gone a little differently.
"We fought so hard this year," said Motzko. "And we were ready this week. We had a really good week of practice. Our spirits were great. We made a couple mental mistakes on the penalty kill in the first period."
And while Maine was able to go 2-for-5 on the man-advantage — with St. Cloud, meanwhile, failing on all nine of its power play chances — junior assistant captain Andrew Gordon agreed that their preparation certainly was not a reason for Friday's downfall.
Said Gordon, "We had a great game day skate today. We had great enthusiasm. It just was one of those things that wasn't in the stars for us."
While a win may not have been in the stars for St. Cloud on Friday, they do have reason to be optimistic. After all, only two years ago, the Huskies finished their season 14-22-3.
Said Motzko, "In the two years we've been together, we're not the most talented group, but we've come a long way. We've made a lot of noise in just two years.
"So the guys leaving our program, the seniors last year and this year, have a tremendous amount to be proud of, how they've raised the bar with our program and given us life."