Strong Tournaments for St. Cloud, Minnesota State, Bemidji
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
In what was a good weekend for teams like Wisconsin and North Dakota, it was a championship one for three Minnesota squads looking to make second-half runs towards home ice in the WCHA playoffs. Both Minnesota State and St. Cloud State went south and brought home trophies while Bemidji State quietly took home the Mariucci Classic title in Minneapolis.
The Huskies took home the Florida Classic crown with a pair of stirring victories over national powers Cornell and Miami. Things looked bleak for St. Cloud in the opening game Thursday, as SCSU fell behind 3-0 late in the second period. But a Ben Hanowski goal with 2:08 left in the middle frame got things going for the Huskies and Cam Reid and David Eddy tied the game midway through the third period. Reid scored the gamewinner 2:21 into overtime to cap the comeback win.
The win in game one begs the question: Is that the kind of victory to turn the Huskies' season around?
"That's just another one of those cliches, you know?" said Huskies coach Bob Motzko. "I just like to think that we played some pretty good hockey down in Florida. We were down 3-0 in that game but I thought we were playing pretty good. I give our kids a lot of credit; they hung in there. That was a huge win for us."
For Reid, a freshman from Delta, British Columbia, the weekend in Florida was a bit of a coming out party. After score nine points in his first 17 games, Reid added a pair of assists in Friday's 4-3 win over the RedHawks to give him a four-point weekend. Fellow freshman Nic Dowd also had a four point weekend, scoring the game winning goal against Miami and adding three assists.
"We have a couple of really talented freshmen in Cam and Nic who are really starting to play good hockey for us," Motzko said. "Both of those guys have worked hard and are playing on the top couple of lines. It was nice they both were able to get off to good starts here in the second half."
The tournament also marked a return to the lineup for sophomore forward David Eddy, who also added a pair of assists Friday to give him three points in his first two games after sitting out the first half of the season with academic issues. Combined with Hanowski and upperclassmen like Drew LeBlanc and Garrett Roe (who has struggled early on), the return of Eddy and the emergence of Reid and Dowd might be enough to spark a second half resurgence for SCSU — provided one of either Mike Lee or Dan Dunn can also get on track in net. Much of the Miami game was played in Lee's end, with the RedHawks owning a 31-11 shot advantage.
"I thought David played really well against Cornell," Motzko said. "He played with a lot of emotion. He's a big, strong kid."
The other difference for SCSU in their win over the RedHawks was special teams. In the team's first two meetings earlier this season, the Miami was a combined 3 for 7 with the man advantage. Thursday, St. Cloud went 2 for 7 on the power play while shutting out Miami.
"We were able to turn the tables on special teams a little bit and I think that was key," Motzko said.
The victory over Miami also cleared a big mental hurdle for St. Cloud. The RedHawks had scored four wins over the Huskies in the last two years, including a sweep at the National Hockey Center back in October.
Minnesota State steals the Shillelagh
Meanwhile, the Mavericks blew into the Windy City and stormed out with an unexpected (at least to the experts) Shillelagh Tournament title, beating host Notre Dame 4-3 Saturday and Brown in Sunday's championship.
Both victories were comeback wins, including the championship, where the Mavericks overcame tired legs early on and scored four second period goals in a 7-3 victory over the Bears. The wins evened their record at 8-8-4 and launched the Mavericks into the Pairwise picture (tied for 23rd) for the first time this season.
"There is two months to go before that really matters, but it is a great way to start the second half of the season," said Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting. "To beat a team like [Notre Dame] in their own tournament, a tournament where they haven't lost and won the previous two championships, it's a big win for us that will hopefully be an added bonus for us towards the end of the year."
It was a homecoming of sorts for three Mavericks, including goaltender Phil Cook, who was named to the all tournament team. Cook stopped 34 shots Saturday against the No. 12 Irish, getting goals from Rylan Galiardi late in the second and Michael Dorr with under 30 seconds left in the third to get the win.
That was just the start for Dorr, who tallied an assist on the first goal that day. He also added a goal and an assist in the Mavs second period against the Bears and added an empty netter to secure the championship, capping a five point weekend and grabbing tournament MVP honors.
"We need Michael to score for us," Jutting said. "Obviously, that's an area we have struggled with this year, so the fact that, not only did he score five points, but three goals, that's big for us. He's been a scorer, he's scored his whole life, so hopefully this weekend will give him some confidence."
Junior defenseman Cameron Cooper, also an all tournament pick, had one of the best weekends of his career, scoring a goal each night and adding an assist against Brown for the first three point weekend of his career. His three points this weekend matches the total he had over his first two seasons in Mankato combined.
"Cameron's not ever going to be a big scorer for us, but he's really having an extremely good year defensively, in terms of being a responsible, reliable defender," Jutting said. "I'm happy he had the weekend he did. He's really taken his game to another level and has become someone we can put on the ice in any situation."
Bemidji wins twice at Mariucci Arena
Finally, the Beavers went to Minneapolis and quietly took home the Mariucci Classic crown, overcoming a wide shot disadvantage in a 3-2 win over Ferris State in the tournament opener Friday before closing out No. 12 Union in Saturday's championship.
For Bemidji, it was just their second sweep of the season after having seven a year ago. Obviously, the WCHA competition is much better than what the Beavers were used to. But with a veteran team back and a bunch of NCAA Tournament experience, the Beavers have struggled more than perhaps some had thought over the first half. Now winners of five of their last seven, however, BSU may be finding a bit of a rhythm.
"We did get swept at Wisconsin before break, so who knows," said Beavers head coach Tom Serratore. "We've really struggled scoring goals so far this season and over the last seven or eight games, I think we've done a better job of that and I think we're winning more games because of it."
Dan Bakala was fantastic both nights for the Beavers, especially in the victory over Ferris. The Beavers grabbed a 2-0 lead after two periods thanks to goals by Matt Carlson (first collegiate goal) and Jordan George. The Bulldogs put 19 shots on Bakala in the third, but thanks to a goal by former Gopher Drew Fisher (his first collegiate goal), the Beavers headed to the championship game.
"We use the term 'secondary scoring,' and I think once you start getting some of that secondary scoring, everybody's world becomes a lot easier," Serratore said. "You can take a lot of pressure off your go-to guys and that's what happened in that Ferris State game."
The Beavers got a pair of goals from a more familiar source Saturday as Matt Read buried his eighth and ninth tallies of the season in a 3-1 win. Bakala stopped 30 shots in that win, his sixth of the season. After a rocky start, in which he allowed less than three goals just once in his first five games, Bakala has been superb of late, allowing three goals just once over his last seven outings and allowing one or fewer four times.
"Your goaltender needs to be the best player on the ice and he's been that for us over the last seven or eight games," Serratore said. "It's going to be tough to maintain this over the rest of the season, but he's really seeing the puck well and controlling his rebounds right now. Combined with some increased offense, hopefully that will translate to some more wins."
With only six games remaining at home, the Beavers will have to make second half hay on the road. With a veteran team and a hot goaltender, BSU may be able to do just that."
"It's unfortunate we didn't do better at home at the beginning of the year and be in a better position," Serratore said. "If we want home ice, we're going to have to go take it on the road."