WeldieBlog: SCSU Hockey Impresses In Opener
If you needed any reason to see why Bob Motzko is so excited about this defense, Saturday’s game against Minnesota State is the perfect example.
The defense accounted for two goals and two assists in route to a 4-0 win in front of 5,030 fans in the Verizon Wireless Center.
In an earlier entry, I wrote about how shutouts are more of a testament of great defense instead of great goaltending. The top four defensemen were nothing short of amazing.
Jimmy Schuldt opened up the scoring one a beautiful one-timer that snuck just under the crossbar. He also sprung a 2-on-1 with Ryan Poehling and Jacob Benson in the third that put the game out of reach. He ended the game +4.
Jon Lizotte added a goal and was a +3 on the night. The Huskies are at their best when the engage the defense in the offensive zone. Freshman Kevin Fitzgerald gets his first point of his career when we found Lizotte streaking in from the point, made a nice deke and buried it.
Will Borgen added an assist on the empty netter. Minnesota State was caught on a delayed offsides, so Borgen just held the puck to kill some time. Once the Mavericks cleared the zone, he made an amazing pass that bounced off the boards directly to Jack Poehling for the goal.
Jack Ahcan didn’t factor in the scoring, but made a couple of nice plays and a big hit in the first that gave the Huskies some momentum.
The defense can do much more than ‘chip-in’ offensively, which is what you hear from many other teams. That is a tremendous asset to have. The old adage of “keeping opponents off the board and anything extra is a bonus” doesn’t apply to this core. Not only do opposing teams have to worry about the talented forward group, but they also have to worry about a defensive core with a lot of experience that knows how to bury the biscuit. That’s scary.
Shutouts are more of a team statistic. But make no mistake about it: Jeff Smith played outstanding.
The poise Smith showed between the pipes was something I don’t remember seeing at all last season. He made about one or two highlight-reel saves. Usually, when you see Smith getting a 42-save shutout, you’d think he stood on his head. That wasn’t the case. That’s key to his positioning in making saves look easy.
The box score doesn’t really indicate how close this game actually was. On a quick glance, box scores like this can imply Minnesota State dominated the game, but just a few breakdowns the Huskies were able to cash in on.
It wasn’t like that. I feel the shot count was a little misleading. That doesn’t take anything away from Smith and his performance, but shots on goal is a very subjective stat and really changes from arena to arena. I do feel like Minnesota State controlled more of the play in the third period (when you have a three goal lead, you have that luxury to go into a shell), but 16 shots seemed a little heavy from my standpoint.
Maverick forward Charlie Gerard got the third star of the game. I guess being credited for eight shots and not being on the ice for a goal against is worthy of being a star. If the staff for the three stars isn’t going to take it seriously, just stop doing it. Atrocious.
There were only two power plays in the game; one for each team. It was interesting because the referees usually have their barking orders from the league to eliminate the obstruction (hooking, interference, etc.) in the game (that the refs usually ignore by February). I didn’t see that many calls on either team that should have been penalties, either. Overall, it as a very clean game.
The Huskies ability to convert on chances was the biggest difference in the game. Jacob Benson scored on a beautiful feed from Ryan Poehling coming down on a 2-on-1. Maverick defenseman Daniel Brickley was in the right position, but moved his stick to try to disrupt a potential shot. Once Brickley’s stick moved into that position, Ryan didn’t hesitate and delivered a perfect pass to Benson.
It’s easy to forget Benson had 11 goals last season, which was tied for third on the team. Him, along with Ryan and Robby Jackson, was listed as the team’s third line. That is going to create very tough line match-ups for opposing teams. Ryan is a playmaking center and Benson and Jackson both have a knack for scoring.
Mikey Eyssimont didn’t play again due to illness. He also missed the exhibition game due to the same reason. I don’t know what the illness is, but its odd that it kept him out for two weeks. It may have been a precaution since it was only a one game series and if there was a lack of practice time, they want him to be fully ready before having him suit up. He was the Huskies leading scorer last season, so they should be extra careful. I’m sure we will hear more about it during the coaches’ show. Once an illness gets into the locker room, it is very hard for it to get out.
It’s going to be interesting to see who sits when Eyssimont returns to the lineup. You have to have last year’s leading scorer on the ice when he gets healthy. He plays on the left side, which means he will be taking either Jack Poehling, Jake Wahlin, Blake Winiecki, or Jackson’s spot.
Winiecki played center much of the year last year, so you have a little more flexibility with what you can do. Eyssimont healthy on the left, Winiecki centering and maybe Fitzgerald sits. That would be a bummer, since I thought he played a very good game. But that’s what happens when you are a freshman.
Yep, look at all the hard decisions that will have to be made because of the depth.
It’s going to be a fun year.
The Huskies will battle University of Alaska this weekend for the home opener. The Nanooks lost and tied Air Force in Fairbanks last weekend. I’ll look into that series later in the week.