WeldieBlog: Huskies Impressive In Opener
The exhibition game Saturday gave Husky fans a first look to see if the freshmen can hold their own in the college game.
They did more than hold their own. They lead the way.
The Huskies utilized team speed and a deadly transition game to crush the University of Regina 8-0 for a shutout victory.
Freshmen Blake Lizotte and Easton Brodzinski combined for six points. Blake debuted with a hat trick while Brodzinski had a goal and two assists.
While Kevin Fitzgerald didn’t end up on the score sheet, he provided great energy and created a few chances. Will Hammer was solid and defensemen Luke Jaycox and Tyler Anderson didn’t look out of place at all.
The Poehlings were all on different lines and all were in tremendous form. Nick, Jack and Ryan all produced and combined for six points.
The Huskies were able to convert on many chances and showed a lot of chemistry on odd-man rushes. Passing was overall crisp and everything was done with pace. Most importantly: No one got injured.
The only player who didn’t suit up was Mikey Eyssimont, who has been battling and illness over the past few days.
The biggest difference in the game was the pace of play with these two teams. This Huskies team may be one of the fastest I’ve seen play in recent memory. All game, the Huskies were able to get around defenders on the wide sheet of ice.
That speed discrepancy was most apparent in the transition game. Of the eight goals, five of them were scored on odd-man rushes or breakaways. From the get-go, Regina couldn’t skate with us and it created problems all night for them.
Last post, I gave some notes on what to look for during the game. Let’s recap on those points and discuss my thoughts on them. Spoiler alert: Very well.
Judd Peterson Skating as Smooth as Ever
The first minute of the game saw a Husky player blow by one of the defenseman for Regina setting up a scoring chance. While they didn’t convert, the burst of speed was the most impressive considering it was from Judd Peterson.
That’s not to say Peterson isn’t a fast skater. Throughout his career, he has blown past plenty of defenders. But coming off a post-season surgery of a torn labrum in the hip, I didn’t expect this much jump from him. He has been vocal about being 100 percent and he certainly showed it.
Peterson didn’t factor in the score sheet, but he made lightning quick plays and created havoc for Regina all night. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the center position.
Defense Impresses, But Who Starts Next Week?
Coach Bob Motzko has been very vocal about how excited he is with this defensive core. Four returners got plenty of playing time last year and will probably be slated all year in the top four slots. Adding to that mix are freshmen who didn’t look out of place and two players who were with the team last season but didn’t get into game action.
It's easy to see that there is a lot to like.
Needless to say, there was a lot of energy on the blue line. The defense was engaged and played a major role in puck possession and keeping Regina hemmed in its own zone.
When this team clicks on all cylinders, the defense plays a key role in the offensive zone jumping up into the play. They were able to do that often on Saturday.
The two players who didn’t play last year were Clark Kuster and Mika Ilvonen. Kuster played most of his shifts on the right side, but showed the ability to play on both sides of the rink throughout the game. I didn’t think they would be paired together, but if they spent all last season paired together in practice, it would make sense that chemistry could transfer to a game.
Motzko is going to have some choices to make before next week’s showdown in Mankato. The dilemma: Who is the starting six on the blue line this Saturday? Usually, you’d like to get players a chance to get into the first series of the season and go from there. With only one game this weekend (the other during Hockey Day Minnesota in January), someone has to sit.
The easy pick would be to say both Kuster and Ilvonen would fill out the final pairing as a way to say ‘Thank you’ for sitting out last season. But you’d want to make sure the freshman get a chance at home during the Alaska series. You don’t want them sitting on the bench for much longer than that.
While Not Tested, Goalies Stood Tall
Motzko decided to give all three goalies a period, but Regina didn’t have many opportunities to score. Last year’s starter Jeff Smith was hardly tested in his period, but stopped all four of the shots that came his way.
Both Davids, Hrenak and Zevnik, were tested a little bit more than Smith. The two combined for 21 saves and each had a few tricky saves to make. Overall, the defense didn’t give Regina many opportunities to sniff the goal.
Shutouts are more of a testament to great defense over great goaltending, but it was nice to see the goalies stepping up when the time comes.
There is only one game on the docket for the Huskies next week in Mankato to face Minnesota State. Plenty of intrigue revolves around one of the most polarizing teams in college hockey. I’ll write about it later this week.