WeldieBlog: #1 Huskies Head To Denver
As far as rankings go, it’s tough to say there will be a bigger regular season match than the one this weekend.
The St. Cloud State men’s hockey team, ranked first in the country, will travel to Denver to take on the Pioneers who are ranked third. The Huskies remain undefeated on the season, following a sweep of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. The defending national champion Pioneers started the season well but stumbled last weekend in Kalamazoo, getting swept by Western Michigan. It was the first time the Pioneers have been swept in conference play since December 11th and 12th of 2015.
That opponent? St. Cloud State.
The trip to Denver is the first time this season the Huskies will travel outside the state of Minnesota. It’s a big reason why the Huskies are undefeated and one that is a little understated. The Huskies will pay for it at the end of the season with four of the last six series on the road.
This series has a special place for Husky forward Mikey Eyssimont. The Littleton, Colorado native grew up under ten miles away from Magness arena. He has found some success playing against the team he once cheered. In his career against the crimson and gold, he has three goals and four assists in seven games.
His homecoming comes at a good time for Eyssimont. After being ill and sitting out the first game of the season, it has taken him a few games to get up the speed of the college game and get his timing back.
That brings bad news for Husky opponents; he has looked terrific lately. He is currently riding a three game point streak, recording five points during that stretch. During the Saturday’s goal and assist performance, he made about a half a dozen moves with the puck that earned ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd.
With Eyssimont’s timing back and the added perk of being in front of family and friends, he is going be a key forward that will worry Pioneer defenseman.
The Pioneers started the season as the team to beat. Unlike many other defending national champions, the Pioneers didn’t experience much turnover. That speaks loudly to the culture coach Jim Montgomery has cultivated in just a short time.
On the other side of the rink, Troy Terry, Henrik Borgstrom, and Dylan Gambrell lead the Pioneers. The three have combined for 43 percent of the teams point production and were all three rumored to sign professional contracts during the offseason. Even Montgomery was a finalist for the Florida Panthers head coaching position. All decided to stay.
Suffice it to say, scoring is not an issue for this Pioneer squad. Even being on the wrong side of a sweep, they managed to put up nine goals over the weekend. It was how they lost that was the most surprising. In Friday’s tilt, the Pioneers allowed the game-tying goal with just 72 seconds left and the eventual game-winner 15 seconds later.
Saturday’s game was more of a head scratcher. Denver was up 4-2 in the third only to see Western Michigan score the next five goals. This lack of discipline is very uncharacteristic to Montgomery’s squad. No doubt that will be a point of emphasis, especially against the top scoring team in the nation.
A sweep by Western Michigan, especially after the amount of talent they lost from last season, was something that caught everyone off-guard. But the crazy thing about hockey is the randomness that can occur. Mental lapses can happen and often do during the game, but they don’t often cause the collapse the Pioneers experienced.
St. Cloud State and Denver can be compared in many different ways. I’m going to focus on two stats I found interesting. First, Denver is only 1-1-2 on Friday nights, but they’ve been able to rebound to a 3-1-0 record on Saturdays. Obviously, the Huskies are undefeated, but have had to come from behind in all three games on Friday and have had more convincing wins on Saturday. If that trend continues, Saturday’s game will be one you don’t want to miss.
Secondly, the goal differential per period really tells an interesting story. The Huskies have been able to roll all four lines and keep everyone fresh as the game progresses. That has paid dividends as the goal differential has increased each period as the game goes on (+3 in the first, +5 in the second and +11 in the third). The Pioneers have had the opposite luck, starting quick out the gate, but slowing down as the game continues (+6 in the first, +2 in the second, and even in the third). A big reason for that are the big collapses last weekend, but if those aren’t fixed, I don’t see a way the Pioneers come out victorious trying to compete with the depth of the Huskies.
No matter the outcome, just enjoy the series. It will be a back and forth weekend with two amazing teams. Series like these are the reasons I love college hockey.
I’ll be watching both games this weekend, which take place at 8 p.m. Follow me @MoarClappers on Twitter for my live thoughts.