WeldieBlog: Bring On The Bulldogs
It’s the week of Halloween, so it’s fitting the St. Cloud State men’s hockey team kicks off NCHC play against Minnesota Duluth in the House of Horrors.
During the last 12 years, the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center has been like a scene out of a scary movie. However, the victim has switched as of recently.
From 2005 to 2014, the Huskies held a 10-0-2 regular season record over the Bulldogs at the Concrete Cathedral. Going nearly a decade to St. Cloud and not winning a game had to be aggravating to all Bulldog fans. I loved it.
There never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to why Minnesota Duluth had so much trouble winning here. They were just fine in Colorado Springs, so the Olympic ice size wasn’t at fault. The Huskies had a few down years during that time. Even though Highway 23 can be a pain, it’s not a difficult road trip by any means. The Bulldogs just couldn’t win.
Enter Kasmir Kaskisuo.
Kaskisuo was the freshman goaltender for the Bulldogs when he made his start in St. Cloud almost exactly three years ago. He turned in a marvelous performance, stopping 33 of 35 shots earning a 3-2 overtime victory. He followed that up with a 3-1 win to complete the sweep, the first sweep for the Bulldogs in St. Cloud since 1999.
Since that day, the House of Horrors set its eyes to the cardinal and black. The Huskies have dropped the last six at home against the Bulldogs. The 'Kurse of Kaskisuo' has hung in the rafters and placed a painful curse on the home team. None have been more painful than the games last season.
Also played the first weekend in November, the Bulldogs swept the Huskies by identical 5-3 scores. Robby Jackson put the Huskies on the board in the first minute of each game. The Huskies were up 3-2 going into the third period of each game. The Bulldogs scored three in the third to win in each game.
That series was a key series for the Huskies. That Bulldog team would end up making it to the national title game and the Huskies were very close to putting them away both nights. The lack of experience in putting games away would be a recurring theme that haunted the team the rest of the year. We didn’t know it yet, but it was a precursor to the heartbreaking losses the Huskies would suffer.
So far in this young season, St. Cloud State has learned its lesson. The Huskies are outscoring opponents 12-3 in the third period. They look unflappable when getting down, even by multiple goals. I wrote in an earlier entry how the opening game against Minnesota State should be a statement game after how the Mavericks dominated the Huskies. They responded with a convincing 4-0 win. This weekend, they need to do the same. Exorcise the demons and make a statement to one of the top teams in college hockey.
The Bulldogs are coming into this series a little banged up. Minnesota Duluth will be without freshman Nick Swaney, who is tied for the team lead in points. Both Joey Anderson and Jarod Hilderman are listed as doubtful with upper body injuries. Senior forward Avery Peterson is questionable.
Anderson is no stranger to the score sheet in St. Cloud. He had five points in the series last season. He was on the Under-18 team two years ago that won 7-6 in overtime and had four points that game. He is a big key for the Bulldog offense and will suffer a big blow if he doesn’t suit up this weekend.
The key for the Huskies this weekend will be staying disciplined. The Bulldogs have been successful on the power play, currently clicking at 27 percent. When a team is down some key players, the last think you want to do is give up more chances.
Sophomore goalie Hunter Shepard will probably get the nod for both games. He is coming off an impressive weekend that saw him only allow one goal in two games in Maine. Much like St. Cloud, goaltending is a big question mark for Minnesota Duluth. After a strong weekend, it would be foolish for him not to start.
In the other crease, I have no clue what Bob Motzko is going to pick. Originally, I’d assume Jeff Smith will get the nod on Friday, but David Hrenak has been getting the crease on Saturdays this season. A lot will depend on Friday’s game.
And it will depend on which team the House of Horrors favor.
- Reminder: Saturday’s game time has been moved to 4 o’clock. I think the school has done a good time getting the word out, but I guarantee there will be someone on Twitter complaining that they didn’t know about the time change.
- The NCHC conference play kicked off with Colorado College splitting with North Dakota. The Tigers are 5-3 this season, very impressive for a team that won just eight games last season.
- Surprisingly, the Big Ten Conference has the best out of conference record at 27-12-3 (.679). The NCHC is second at 29-13-6 (.667) but is 5-3-1 against teams in the Big Ten. If the Big Ten continues this trend, it can be a big help in swinging the Pairwise in those teams’ favor. The only team the Huskies will face from the Big Ten is the Minnesota Golden Gophers in early January.
- As always, follow me @MoarClappers for my hockey opinions and analysis.