Another Lost Opportunity for St. Cloud
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ALBANY, N.Y. The teams came in with a combined 12-game losing streak. Something had to give. Somebody had to win.
It was not, however, St. Cloud State, and as a result, the Huskies continue as winless in NCAA history — 0-and-8.
Like it or not, it's a burden the Huskies — who have brought many good teams into this tournament — continue to bear. And it will perpetuate further after losing to Clarkson, 2-1, at the NCAA East Regional in Albany, N.Y., on Friday evening.
"Our group together has been here twice. I don't think it had anything to do with it tonight," St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko said. "We came in and tried to get our 20th win tonight — a team we were familiar with —- some of these guys were probably 10 years old in these first (NCAA) losses."
It was the closest game of any of the St. Cloud State losses, and just the second time in the eight games that the Huskies had the lead. Although after taking a 1-0 lead last year against Maine, they allowed three goals before the first period was over and that was the end of that.
The best chance to date came in 2001, when the Huskies won the Final Five, and were a No. 1 seed in Grand Rapids, getting a bye. But Michigan, after squeaking past Mercyhurst, blitzed St. Cloud in the second round.
"It's a fact," Motzko admitted, searching for the best way to address it. "Our program though ... it's not that it's 0-for-8 now — we need to get a win to take it to the next level. ... We're not going to dwell on that. We've gotten here twice, it will be our goal to get back here and advance further. We didn't really feel that 0-for-7, and we didn't talk about it at all. ... I hope that's not the case."
It shouldn't be forgotten that just a couple of months ago, the Huskies were in ninth place in the WCHA. A late-season 7-2-2 roll got them up to fifth, and in position for a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs. But it's never been about having mediocre teams — St. Cloud State has had many good teams. This may not have been its best, but it was very good.
But it still lost — to a Clarkson team that hadn't won an NCAA game since 1996.
It was a Clarkson team that took advantage of the small ice sheet, its senior experience, and its two-week layoff after getting bounced from the ECAC playoffs in the quarterfinals — and manhandled the Huskies along the boards all night.
"Clarkson's seniority really came out tonight, and you could tell they wanted it bad," said St. Cloud defenseman Matt Stephenson. "Unfortunately things didn't go our way.
Most of all, the Golden Knights shut down the Huskies' power play, their bread and butter all season long. The teams played twice earlier this season, and clearly Clarkson went to school.
"I don't know. They must have went over a lot of tape," Stephenson said. "They definitely shut down Nodl on that one side, and pretty much shut down that side. And we were going to get shots through, but I think we were little hesitant."
The most disappointing thing for St. Cloud was the relative disappearance of its talented offensive trio — Andreas Nodl, Ryan Lasch and Garrett Roe. They combined for just six shots and just one assist.
"That's something we're real disappointed with," Motzko said. "Their youth showed up a little bit, because they really showed their frustration and you can't do that in a game like this. That's part of the process of an underclassman becoming an upperclassman. Those three have been outstanding from an offensive standpoint, but you could tell things were happening that frustrated them and they couldn't shake it. I thought in the third they got some chances, but their goalie stood up to it."
Motzko tried everything, moving Roe to the point in an umbrella, moving Nate Dey to the middle, moving Lasch around. Nothing worked. The power play was 0-for-6.
"We got a few different looks that we throw, and I think we threw them all out there," Motzko said. "They were taking Lasch away on a couple plays we like to make. But it was a frustration. We didn't get shots off we usually get off. Nodl set up our middle guy there and he just couldn't get it off on time. That's a play that usually goes in for us. And a couple times they stayed out for the whole two minutes, and that's uncharacteristic, but that's a sign of young guys. You have to stay out there for one minute and get off and have some energy for your next trip."
A bright spot was the play of sophomore Jase Weslosky, who made 38 saves. He stepped up all year for the departed all-American Bobby Goepfert. Weslosky did fight a couple long shots, which led to the first goal, however.
"He came in (Bryan Rufenach) and I knew he was going to try to take a shot and get a rebound, and I tried to direct it into the corner," Weslosky said. "But unfortunately it kind of popped out into the slot, and our guy was there a little too late, but still got a piece of it, and there was a ricochet somewhere. ... It was just one of those bounces I guess."
It was David Cayer who put in the rebound. Then Shea Guthrie scored the game winner, roofing a nice backhander after beating the defender, a goal Weslosky could do little to stop.
"He got a step and came around, and he's a right-handed shot and I knew he was going to try to pull it around to his backhand, which he did," Weslosky said. "Just before his shot, our defenseman got his stick on his stick, and I kind of thought he wouldn't be able to get a shot away, but he got the shot away."
And so went another NCAA game for the Huskies.