Broncs' SHG Crushes North Dakota, Gives St. Cloud NCHC TItle Outright
CHN Staff Report
A shorthanded goal during a five-minute major penalty by Western Michigan was the difference in St. Cloud State winning the first NCHC regular-season championship outright over North Dakota.
The goal, Colton Hargrove after Josh Pitt had gotten tossed for a hit to the head, gave Western Michigan a 2-1 win over North Dakota and allowed the Huskies to take the title with a 4-1 win over Colorado College.
“This isn’t a tournament where you have two great games and you come out with a championship,” SCSU's Nic Dowd told the St. Cloud Times. “This is something that takes all year to do and to accomplish.”
St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko was just happy his team played a better defensive game than in Friday's 7-4 win.
“I’ll tell you, it’s a relief it’s over,” Motzko told The Times. “You get in that race down the stretch and it takes a lot of energy out of you. “Our guys hung in there. We weren’t, by any means, playing our best hockey every week, but we played good enough hockey to get it done. We battled through some injuries this last week.”
The Huskies have been playing without standout defenseman Andrew Prochno and forward David Morley. Both are expected back for the playoffs.
Kalle Kossila and the red-hot Jimmy Murray scored early for St. Cloud. Dowd and Jonny Brodzinski scored in the second period.
Meanwhile, North Dakota, which had steamrolled through the second half of its schedule, just couldn't come up with the one more win that would've given it a share of the NCHC regular-season title — known as the Penrose Cup.
Not only did Hargrove score the shorthanded game winner, but he had Western Michigan's other goal as well.
"Sucks," North Dakota defenseman Nick Mattson said of squandering its chance. "Can't really sugarcoat that one. It was an opportunity that we worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in that spot."
The Broncos got 28 saves from goalie Lukas Hafner to get its first win ever over UND in nine meetings.
UND (20-11-3) will host seventh-place Colorado College in a best-of-3 first-round NCHC playoff series next weekend, beginning on Friday. St. Cloud State hosts Miami, and Western Michigan will play at Minnesota-Duluth.
"It's something that could really throw you off your season, throw your confidence away, if you really let it get to us," Mattson said. "It's tough. It's awful. But we've got to move on. We have the potential to do some big things."
Said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, "It's tough for those guys, you obviously want to have a different ending for (the seniors). At the same time, you have to look at the big picture, how good of a job the guys in the lockerroom have done, coming together, pushing hard, to become a real good team — and we are a good team."
* * *
Nebraska-Omaha locked up third place with a 4-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth. Michael Young, Josh Archibald and Jake Guentzel each had a goal and an assist while Ian Brady had two assists.
For Archibald, it was his 29th goal of the season, one behind national leader Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College.
* * *
Miami's Blake Coleman, who had two goals in a loss Friday, scored another pair of goals, including the game winner with 12:27 left in regulation as the RedHawks defeated Denver, 2-1.
The loss ruined Denver's chance at home ice in the NCHC playoffs. Instead, the Pioneers will play at No. 3 seed Nebraska-Omaha in a best-of-3 series beginning Thursday.
Denver will open the postseason on the road for the first time since 2002-03 campaign when it traveled to North Dakota for the opening round of the conference playoffs – a span of 10 seasons.
"I just want to say how proud I am of our senior class,” Denver head coach Jim Montgomery said. “Their (Miami) first line tonight is dangerous, and they played like it in the third period.”