St. Cloud Faces Challenge After Major Injuries
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
ST. CLOUD, Minn. Coaches have stressed sweeping at home and splitting on the road as a recipe for success in the WCHA for years.
This weekend in Mankato against a feisty Minnesota State team, St. Cloud State accomplished the two points it sought. Consider it business as usual.
But for the Huskies, business as usual will need to be done the rest of this season seriously shorthanded. Of course, teams suffer injuries here and there. But in the span of two weeks, the Huskies lost arguably their top two players — and two of their three captains — to long-term injury.
It was reported by CHN Saturday night that junior goaltender Mike Lee will miss the remainder of the season after he has surgery Tuesday to repair an upper leg injury.
Last weekend, Drew LeBlanc suffered a horrific leg injury that will sideline the senior forward for several months.
"Coming into the year, forward and goaltending I think we going to be the strengths of our team," said Huskies head coach Bob Motzko. "Now, our depth at those spots is really going to be tested."
The job of filling Lee's skates will fall primarily on a pair of freshmen. So far, Ryan Faragher has answered the bell.
"He's been great," said senior forward Ben Hanowski — the lone remaining captain left healthy. "He's giving us a chance to win every night and that's all you can really ask of him."
Faragher, a native of Fort Frances, Ont., is not your typical freshman, however. At 21 years old, he's actually three months older than Lee. A veteran of two North American Hockey League seasons, Faragher led Bismarck to a Robertson Cup title in 2010. He says that experience has helped.
"Being an older freshman, I feel like I can help out the other freshmen at the same time," Faragher said. "But I definitely know my role. I can't be telling the older guys what to do all the time."
Given the opportunity to get into a groove, Faragher has shown the ability to play at a high level, ranking in the top five of the WCHA in both goals against average and save percentage.
Having a veteran in Lee back was important to Motzko because the Huskies have an extremely young blueline. Saturday against the Mavericks, SCSU started three freshmen in front of Faragher.
"Our D-core, that's been our biggest surprise," Motzko said. "They've done very well. Those guys have made great adjustments and they're going to be good players for us."
From a leadership standpoint, Motzko noted Hanowski and Travis Novak as a couple of guys that have stepped into that role.
Hanowski will be needed to help carry the scoring load too, something he's done his whole life. He scored a goal Saturday night against MSU and already has seven in 12 games this season.
"You can see Ben put this team up on his shoulders," Motzko said.
"[LeBlanc and Lee], those guys are heart and soul kind of guys," Hanowski said. "When they go down, it gets to you a little bit.
"One guy is not going to replace what we've lost with those two," Hanowski added. "Obviously, I need to pick up my game but I think everybody is going to have to. And so far, I think we've done that."