Sluggish Start Dooms St. Cloud
Huskies Struggle After Falling Behind 3-0
by Scott McLaughlin/Senior Writer
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PITTSBURGH It didn't take long for Thursday's semifinal to start going downhill for St. Cloud State. Joey Benik got called for hooking 1:42 into the game, and Quinnipiac — whose one weak spot this year has been a lackluster power play — scored seven seconds into the man advantage when Jordan Samuels-Thomas won a puck battle behind the net and snuck a wraparound through Ryan Faragher's five-hole.
A little more than three minutes later, Samuels-Thomas won another 1-on-1 battle down low before feeding Ben Arnt for another goal. The possession battle wasn't as lopsided as the score, but St. Cloud couldn't find a way to beat Hobey Baker finalist Eric Hartzell.
The Huskies got some great chances to cut the lead to one on a power play midway through the first, but they still couldn't finish. The backbreaker came when Drew LeBlanc hit the post, then Quinnipiac scored again 15 seconds later to make it 3-0.
"I think we'd do anything to replay the first 10 minutes of the hockey game," said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko.
After the game, the Huskies couldn't explain why they started so poorly. Motzko gave all the credit to Samuels-Thomas for making two great plays and to Hartzell for coming up with some big saves. LeBlanc suggested that having the first semifinal go to overtime may have thrown them off, and that Quinnipiac may have handled that situation better.
There could be some truth to LeBlanc's theory, because Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said after the game that his team had talked about the possibility of the first game going to overtime, and that they were prepared for it.
"I actually thought it was great when the first game went to overtime," Pecknold said. "We had prepared for it. We had talked about it during the week. I thought we used it to our advantage. We talked as soon as the game went into overtime. ... We have great character, we handle adversity well, and we need to jump St. Cloud."
The Huskies did play well for the remainder of the game, but they were already in too deep of a hole. They didn't give Quinnipiac too many more grade-A chances, but Quinnipiac didn't give them many either. The Huskies pulled within two 6:25 into the second, but that was as closeas they would get.
"We weren't able to battle back with Hartzell in net," Motzko said. "We were trying to get back at 3-1. We did exactly what we wanted to do, score the next goal. We hunkered down. We only held them to limited shots there in the second period. We made just a crushing play when they scored their fourth goal. But when you bury yourself at this time, it's going to be difficult to get back."
Motzko pointed out that although those first 11 minutes decided Thursday's game, they didn't define St. Cloud's season. This team went further than any in program history, and it captured the program's first MacNaughton Cup.
"It's hard to do right now, but I think in the weeks and months to come, we'll be able to sit down and look at this," said junior Kevin Gravel. "Not many people get to this point. Four teams every year. A lot of guys play their whole career and never get to the spot we got to. ... Obviously it was a great year for us, but we came up two wins short."