Lee Comes Up Huge as Huskies Reach Finals
by Scott Stone/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. Wisconsin goaltender Scott Gudmanson was good today, but St. Cloud State’s netminder was just a little bit better.
Freshman Mike Lee came up huge in a 2-0 win against Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five semifinals, stopping all 38 shots he faced, including 20 shots in the third as the Huskies upended the Badgers to reach the title game.
“Overall I think the type of game we played was sound and was a hard fought playoff game,” Lee said. “Obviously they got their chances and so did we. The other goalie was on tonight too.”
Through two periods, there was an argument to be made that Gudmanson might have been the better goalie, but 20 shots stopped later by Lee, and one goal given up by Gudmanson, made the difference. Mike Eaves’ Wisconsin team noted that he liked the play of his netminder as well and hopes it continues.
“It’s the way he’s (Gudmanson) been playing and we hope he continues to do that.”
Both teams are headed to the NCAAs, and each could still be No. 1 seeds. St. Cloud State has never won an NCAA game.
The game was a mirror image of last night’s WCHA play-in game in which goaltenders from North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth battled to a low-scoring, 2-0 affair. Again, it was just a couple bounces that got one team the win over the other.
St. Cloud State got the eventual game winner with time running down in the second period on a goal that made some Huskie history. Senior forward Ryan Lasch netted a loose puck in the crease with St. Cloud on the power play with just 53 seconds to go in the second on a goal that ties him with Jeff Saterdalen for most career points, 179, in St. Cloud State history.
“It’s something special in which you can always look back and be very grateful for that,” said Lasch of the history-making goal. “It’s good being a part of kind of a big win here tonight and we get to play tomorrow night at 7.”
Outside of the history, the goal ended up being huge for the Huskies as Wisconsin came out firing in the third. The Badgers attempted 32 shots to St. Cloud’s eight and Lee had to come up large making several spectacular saves.
One that loomed larger than most was with 1:30 to go and the score still 1-0. Badger defenseman Brendan Smith took a pass from and found Lee down on the ice. The Hobey Baker finalist and WCHA defensive player of the year fired a shot that glanced off Lee and rang off the post.
“I got the pass and kind of and saw Lee coming over. I didn’t see it after I shot it but apparently it hit the post,” Smith said. “Close, but no cigar.
“I can recall a shot by McDonagh from the point that that just hit him. He didn’t see it,” Smith continued. “I think he played really well, but sometimes lucky is a part of being good.”
Lee came in such a highly-touted freshman, and he's had his flashes of greatness, and some struggles. Playing for the U.S. World Junior team this year, Lee played well at times, then was pulled in the gold-medal game, which the U.S. finally won.
So this is a measure of how far he's come since.
As they often do come playoff time, special teams played a big factor in this one. The nation’s second-best scoring offense in Wisconsin was held off the scoreboard and went 0-for-5 on the power play. St. Cloud got the game winner with the extra man.
“It was the key to our night tonight,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “Obviously Lee had to make the big saves but it was big.”
On a down note for St. Cloud State, senior Garrett Roe was taken off the ice on a stretcher after going head first into the boards. After the game, it was reported he was stiff and sore, but no major injuries, and is questionable for Saturday's final.