Not What They Wanted
St. Cloud State Picks Up Pieces After Weekend Sweep
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
DURHAM, N.H. St. Cloud State entered the season with high expectations, but after getting swept by New Hampshire this weekend, the Huskies are left with a bunch of questions that need to be answered. In Friday's 5-3 loss, they were outworked for most of the game, failed to get shots through and had a few bad breakdowns that led to goals. They played better in Saturday's 4-2 defeat, but still suffered from mental mistakes that led to goals, including a bad penalty late in the second.
The Huskies fell behind, 2-0, late in the first period Friday night thanks to a pair of turnovers. The first came on a failed clear attempt that allowed UNH's Connor Hardowa to find Greg Burke alone in front before St. Cloud could recover. The second came in the offensive zone on a power play, leading to a shorthanded 2-on-1 and a Trevor van Riemsdyk goal.
St. Cloud battled back to tie the game in the second, but then UNH scored three straight goals in the third to put the game out of reach. On all three, the Wildcat scorer was able to find open space in the grade-A area.
If the breakdowns weren't enough to doom the Huskies, the inability to generate scoring chances was. Aside from the stretch late in the second when they tied the game, the Huskies consistently lost 1-on-1 battles, resulting in short possessions and easy clears for UNH.
"We got outworked, badly," St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko said after Friday's game. "You could tell (UNH was) determined tonight. We had a little charge there in the second. We did some things well early in the first, had a good second period. But for the most part, through 60 minutes, their guys were much more determined."
St. Cloud did a better job of matching UNH's intensity on Saturday, but the breakdowns were still present. The Wildcats' first goal came on a tic-tac-toe passing play that pulled the Huskies' defenders out of position and allowed John Henrion to get open right on top of the crease.
The Huskies stayed with UNH, though, and looked as if they'd be tied entering the second intermission for the second straight night. But then Taylor Johnson took a holding penalty right off a faceoff, and the Wildcats scored a power-play goal with just over a minute left in the period.
"We took just a devastating, selfish penalty at the end of the second there, and they got a power-play goal," Motzko said. "I thought we battled tonight. We played much better tonight than last night. But we had to give ourselves a better chance on the road. We went into the third 2-2 last night. We should've went in 2-2 tonight, without just a stupid penalty on our part."
While the Huskies aren't happy with the results or the mental breakdowns this weekend, they're also not ready to panic. They know they have work to do, but they also know that they can still become the team they want to become.
"It's the beginning of the season, and we're still trying to connect the dots on the ice here," said junior defenseman Nick Jensen. "Not everything was negative out there. We saw some things that we improved from yesterday, which was a good thing. We do want (wins) at the beginning of the season obviously. We've gotten out slow the last couple years. But right now it's about building our team and connecting those dots."
Perhaps the area where St. Cloud needs to do the most building is up front. The forwards looked sloppy for long stretches of play and scored just two goals on the weekend — defensemen scored the other three. At least to a certain extent, that was to be expected given that only three of the 12 forwards St. Cloud dressed this weekend have more than 15 career points. On top of that, two of their top three centers (Drew LeBlanc and David Morley) are coming off injuries that cost them most or all of last season.
"LeBlanc hasn't played since last November, and Morley hasn't played in a year," Motzko said. "Those are two forwards we're really going to count on, coming off injuries. It's gonna take them a little bit of time. They're real critical players for us. We have guys who are gonna get better. We'll find a way to fight back. I guarantee it."
The Huskies played better Saturday night and corrected some of their problems. Now they need to keep getting better and fix the rest of their mistakes.