Minneapolis, MN – When the hockey playoffs begin the ice appears to get smaller and time and space is at a premium. Teams play a more defensive style of hockey and you have to bury your opportunities when you get them.
Tonight, one team buried its opportunities, another didn’t. To be fair, there weren’t a lot of offensive chances on either end of the ice, but the Huskies cashed in when it counted.
“There’s not a lot of that pretty stuff available,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “When it is there, we have to execute. There are two or three times a game where those opportunities will present its self. You have to generate offense with simple plays, but also with emotion in the offensive zone.
“A lot of second opportunities are critical and we didn’t get many of those tonight,” Hakstol said. “Again, I don’t think we were in our mindset of getting to the blue paint and finding some of the second opportunities.”
UND almost unbeatable when scoring first
Coming into the game, the University of North Dakota hockey team was 19-0-1 when they scored the first goal. UND would score the first goal at the 15:04 mark of the first period with a nice goal by sophomore defenseman Keaton Thompson. That lead would last exactly 4:52 seconds. St. Cloud State would score two goals (off UND miscues) by David Morley and Joey Benik 20 seconds apart. And just like that; SCSU was leading 2-1 after one period of play..
For those keeping track at home, UND is now 2-7-1 when they’re down after one period of play. Sometimes the only stats that matter are wins and losses.
Huskies were the hungrier team
As I mentioned earlier today, the Huskies came into the game fighting for their season. The Huskies needed to win at least one game this weekend to make the NCAA tourney. That mission was accomplished. It appears that SCSU will make the NCAA tourney, they’re currently ninth in the Pairwise Rankings.
The Huskies were hungry and beat UND to loose pucks. They were on the UND defense all game long. UND had won the last three games of this series and the Huskies made sure they didn’t run that streak to four games.
“Give St. Cloud a lot of credit,” Hakstol said. “They played hard and hungry tonight, in all three zones. First, I would give them a lot of credit. I didn’t think we were very sharp or single minded in what we were doing, getting through the neutral zone or getting on enough pucks. Again, I thought we turned the corner a little bit in the second half of the game.
“By then you’re down by one goal – at playoff time – one goal is critical. It’s a tough deficit. We worked hard to get back into it. They played well and kept things to the outside and we didn’t get a lot to the net. We certainly didn’t get to any rebounds in critical areas.”
Tonight, SCSU beat UND at their own game, head coach Bob Motzko explained his game plan for beating UND.
“They play so strong,” Motzko said. “It’s their calling card. They’re such a good hockey team. They want to come out and dictate it (the game) early, get a lead, and then smother you. You’ve got to meet that challenge. You’ve got to respect that. They raise it at a real high level to get started. Their coaching staff does a tremendous job, year in, year out. To do that. We have got to counter that. You’re not going to be able to do that every time.
It’s playoff time
While UND is already in the NCAA tournament, don’t tell coach Hakstol there wasn’t anything to play for. After the game, coach Hakstol was not pleased with his team’s efforts and at the post-game press conference, the head coach was agitated.
“We had a lot to play for, it’s playoff time,” Hakstol said. “It’s playoff time! Everyone is playing for an awful lot here. Teams play a real good defense.”
The head coach wasn’t the only one that was upset with the results today. The players were frustrated with the game against the Huskies.
“Like coach said, I think that St. Cloud played a really good game,” senior captain Stephane Pattyn said. “They played hard. They were hungry. They played simple. I think that was something we should have started off early – just getting momentum and getting a grind going.
Pattyn continued, “On our first goal that was the key, just getting a grind going, getting their D tired. We need to get pucks to the net with a lot of traffic, if we roll of that we will be more successful than we were tonight.”
If I had to make a prediction, UND will have a better effort tomorrow night. With the loss, UND falls to 27-8-2 and is relegated to the consolation game and will play the Denver Pioneers. With the 3-2 victory, SCSU advances to the championship game of the Frozen Faceoff