Eleven games into this season, depth has been a key factor in the victories for the St. Cloud State men’s hockey team. No matter whom they put on the ice, the Huskies are a threat to score a goal.

Against the young Colorado College Tigers, the difference in depth between the two teams was a night and day difference.

The Huskies utilized its depth and swept the Tigers by scores of 6-1 (from six different scorers) and 5-1 (also from five different scorers) last weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Jeff Smith got the nod both games in net, got both wins and was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Week for his performance. Both goals Smith allowed were on the penalty kill.

Easton Brodzinski scored two goals and two assists on the weekend, earning NCHC Rookie of the Week honors.

Freshmen Blake Lizotte and Luke Jaycox notched the first of their career, while Will Borgen, Patrick Newell and Judd Peterson all scored their first of the year.

The Huskies were looking to cleanse its pallet after not getting any points in Denver against the Pioneers. They turned up the intensity in practice, and it showed on the ice. When it was 5-on-5, the game wasn’t close.

Shots-on-goal is a tricky statistic. Statisticians in different arenas can count shots differently and can even pad them to make it seem like the home team is getting more chances. It’s best to take them with a grain a salt in many situations. However, where there is a big discrepancy, that’s when they can tell a story.

The Huskies outshot the Tigers 22-5 in the second period of Friday’s game. The third period of Saturday’s game, where the Huskies scored four goals, they outshot the Tigers 16-6. The cycle game and puck control were fantastic all weekend. There were many stretches where the Tigers were hemmed into their own end.

That’s a stark contrast from the trip out to the Mile High City. Passes weren’t connecting. Nobody looked on the same page. Denver wasn’t giving the Huskies time to breathe, let alone time to do anything with the puck.

How can a team go from looking so bad one week to looking so good the next?

Now, obviously, there is a big difference in talent between the two Colorado teams. I really like how Mason Bergh and Nick Halloran played all weekend, but they aren’t jumping right to the NHL ranks like Henrik Borgstrom and Troy Terry will be.

The bigger reason is time and space. They go hand-in-hand. The Huskies did a wonderful job controlling the play because they were given much more time and space with the puck.

The Huskies couldn’t adjust to the pressure the Pioneers put on them all game. Denver was more physical and didn’t let the Huskies do much in the offensive zone. Any shot the Huskies were able to muster; it was steered aside by Tanner Jaillet.

Let’s expand to before this past week. The Huskies didn’t have trouble with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in a 5-0 victory. Even in the Boston College and Alaska series, the Huskies had no problems finding the time and space to create chances outside of a couple of isolated periods.

The main reason? Home ice. But more importantly, Olympic ice.

The Herb Brooks National Hockey Center is 100 feet wide. That is 15 feet wider than the NHL standard and the size many other college hockey rinks. That width allowed for more room on each side of the ice.

The Tigers also play on an Olympic sheet. They are used to the dimensions and the angles. However, they were still able to control a majority of the possession because the depth was too great.

Before I go any further, I want to dispel a major misconception regarding a wider ice surface. It does not increase scoring. Any statistic regarding a rise in scoring because it is playing on an Olympic size is flawed, mostly due to big discrepancies in the talent of countries. No kidding a Canadian team is going to blow out Kazakhstan. That has very little to do with the width of the ice surface.

The reason it doesn’t increase scoring is because systems and defenses use the lines and dots to know where to be. Proportionally, the lines are all in the same distance from the net and the end boards. But by the boards, it’s just seven-and-a-half feet of white ice.

(Fun Fact: Ice is painted white. It’s a special type of paint mixed with the ice that is biodegradable so it can just melt. Since white is the worse color for television, I wish it was a shade of light blue like in NHL ’94. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t look awesome.)

The misconception lies in that since there is more surface area in the offensive zone, which leads to more time and freedom to move in the zone. While you do have more time and space, it is all in non-prime scoring areas. The prime scoring area is always in front of the net and those areas are always the same in every arena. It’s the fundamental aspect of hockey and it will never change.

If games were played on Lake George, should that increase scoring? No way. It’s a lot of ice away from where goals are scored. If the ice was short, that would be a different story. Before Amsoil Arena, the Bulldogs played at the DECC, which was about 190 feet instead of 200. I don’t think it’s a coincidence they have the most Hobey Baker winners. It was like playing hockey in a pinball table.

People will also say it’s because it’s easier to enter the offensive zone on a wider sheet. That’s true, but it’s also harder to hold the zone for the same reason. It’s a wash.

When playing a majority of your games on the wider surface, you get accustomed to working away from the net. The game slows down the further away from the net you are.

Denver didn’t let the game slow down. Players are much closer together and Denver plays an aggressive game, so the Huskies were caught off-guard.

This isn’t to say the Huskies can’t cycle in a smaller rink. That’s asinine. I’m saying that having six games in a row on a wide sheet where you have time and space in the offensive zone, to the defending national champion’s rink where they were aggressive and always on top of you takes a little bit of an adjustment. An adjustment the Huskies couldn’t make. Having so many home games has been good for their record, but they will need to spend a lot time at the MAC getting used to a smaller sheet.

This will be my only entry this week since the Huskies are off. Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving.



This blog is the opinion of Travis Weldon, College hockey fan and frequent guest of Granite City Sports. You can read more from Travis on Twitter @MoarClappers. 

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