Analysis: 5 reasons why SCSU is ranked # 1 in men’s hockey
As with any No.1 ranked team, there are a number of reasons the Huskies are where they are. Here are the top five reasons:
The referees separate the players from Minnesota State and St. Cloud during the third period on Friday, October 8, 2021 at the Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center in Mankato. From left to right, Nathan Smith of MSU-Mankato (8), Seamus Donohue of SCSU (3) and Kevin Fitzgerald and Julian Napravnik of the Mavericks. Jason Wachter / The Ice Rink Live
St. Cloud State swept St. Thomas in their opening weekend of the season, but the Huskies then faced off against then-top Minnesota State University-Mankato in a road series. The Mavericks have entered the series 47-4-2 at home for the past three seasons and 62-9-3 for the past four seasons. SCSU lost the opener 1-0, but came back for a 3-1 win for a series division. The Huskies went on to have a home and away game with fourth-place Minnesota to claim a 2-1 win at Minneapolis and a 4-3 overtime loss at home, which is close to a tie in the standings. PairWise.
The Huskies then took on Wisconsin in back-to-back home games last weekend. These road wins over the Mavericks and Gophers should tell everyone that the Huskies – if they stay healthy and avoid a collapse – should be a top-five-ranked team for the remainder of this season. .
St. Cloud State forward Kevin Fitzgerald (28) scores over St. Thomas University goaltender Peter Thome (1) in the first period on Saturday October 2, 2021 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Fitzgerald had two goals and two assists in the 12-2 non-conference win. (Jason Wachter / The Ice Rink Live)
It’s a huge help for a team if they win the special teams battle every night. The Huskies converted on an NCAA record (and unsustainable) 46.9% on the power play. Just for some perspective, Wisconsin led the nation on the power play last season at 31.6 percent. One of the main reasons for the odd number for the Huskies early in the game was 7-10 with the one-man advantage over the Tommies on opening night. If you throw this game away, St. Cloud State is at 36.4%, which is still a great number. More perspective: The program’s record for power play percentage is 31.1% in 2001-02.
On the other hand, the Huskies are 14th in the nation on a shorthanded penalty with 89.3% and lead Division I with three shorthanded goals. Last season, SCSU finished 18th in the nation shorthanded (82.6%). The program’s shorthanded one-season program record is 87.3% set in 2007-08 and there is no way the Huskies will come close to the program record for most shorthanded goals in one. season (14 in 1993-94).
Part of the reason for the early success of special teams is basically that everyone is back from the top two power play units from last season. Three veteran forwards (Jami Krannila, junior Jaxon Castor, who stops 31 of 32 shots in Game 2 against the Badgers) are aggressive killers who are also offensive threats and having seven veteran defenseman and fifth year goaltender David Hrenak has also been a great help.
St. Cloud State forward Easton Brodzinski (26) shoots Wisconsin goaltender Cameron Rowe (31) in the first period on Friday, October 22, 2021 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Jason Wachter / The Ice Rink Live
The Huskies lead the country in goals (31, 3.9 per game), but they don’t do it with a strong line or a player who got off to a ridiculous start. St. Cloud State has no one in the nation’s top 17 for goals, no one in the top 25 for assists, and no one in the top 21 for points.
But, they have four players tied for the team leader in goals (Easton Brodzinski, Kevin Fitzgerald, Jami Krannila and Nolan Walker), six players have four or more assists (Nick Perbix leads with 5; Seamus Donohue , Fitzgerald, Sam Hentges, Krannila and Veeti Miettinen with 4 each). There are 16 Huskies with three or more points.
For perspective, consider Arizona State, Denver and Lake Superior State tied for second in goals with 30 apiece. For the Sun Devils, one player (Matthew Kopperud, 7) scored 23.3% of his team’s goals. For Denver, Carter Savoie and Massimo Rizzo totaled 36.7% of the Pioneers’ goals. For Lake Superior State, Brandon Puricelli, Timo Bakos and Harrison Roy accounted for 46.7% of the Lakers’ goals.
OK, so you say, “what difference does it make how many different players score as long as they score?” The reason why balance is so important is if you are looking at NCAA playoff success for the long haul. If teams only have two or three players who are their main threats in scoring, they are easier to defend.
Which line aren’t you defending for St. Cloud State this season? Freshman Mason Salquist is tied for first on the team in game-winning goals with Krannila. Salquist has been a healthy scratch twice. Miettinen was an NCHC preseason pick after recording 11 goals and 24 points in 31 games last season. He scored one goal in the team’s first eight games.
The last Hobey Baker Award-winning forward to reach a National Championship game was Jack Eichel with Boston University in 2015. Eichel has led the country in assists (45) and points (71) this season. -the. The latest forward to win the Hobey Baker Award and a national title in the same season is Blake Geoffrion, who accomplished it in 2010 when he was third in the country in goals (28) and 11th in points ( 50) in 40 games.
St. Cloud State goaltender David Hrenak (34) catches a puck against Wisconsin in the first period on Friday, October 22, 2021 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Jason Wachter / The Ice Rink Live
This is perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Huskies at the start. At the start of the break, the Huskies are second in the country in save percentage (.947) and allow 1.4 goals per game. The only game St. Cloud State allowed more than one goal was the four in the overtime loss to the Gophers.
Hrenak is enjoying the best start to his career. He is fifth in goals against average (1.37), but the other four players in front of him have not played more than three games. He’s tied for eighth in save percentage (0.943) and second nationally in minutes (395) in seven starts.
However, the graduate student from Slovakia sustained a bone contusion to his hand on Friday and did not play in Game 2 against Wisconsin. Junior Jaxon Castor steps in and makes 31 saves in a 4-1 win.
These goaltending numbers will be difficult to maintain over a full season. But consider that the Huskies have those seven returning defensemen (including five who are in their fourth or fifth seasons with the Huskies) and much improved goals against numbers (2.71 per game last season) don’t seem to be ridiculous expectations.
St. Cloud State center Mason Salquist fought for the position with St. Thomas left winger Aaron Swanson on Saturday October 2, 2021 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
With the NCAA giving another year of eligibility to players who played last season, the Huskies have seen the majority of their roster decide to return. But there were new faces in the lineup and those who played contributed.
Micah Miller and Kevin Fitzgerald, have scored road winning goals at MSU-Mankato and Minnesota, spent time on special teams and have won 63.4% of his faceoffs. His level of competition and ability to play in the first high pressure games were impressive.
Jack Peart, the 18-year-old Grand Rapids defenseman, has four points, seven blocked shots and a plus-2 rating in seven games as Perbix’s defensive partner. Peart, a draft pick for the Minnesota Wild, has also become a regular role on special teams.
Salquist, a 21-year-old forward from Grand Forks, ND, has two points and a plus-1 in four games and has impressed the coaching staff with his tenacity, confidence and skating ability.
Peart, a Robert Morris’ Minnesota Wild draft pick, has an assist, has won 52.9% of his faceoffs and has a plus-2 rating in five games. He plays with a high engine and is ready to go into tough areas on the ice.
This team arrived with high expectations and a pretty tough non-conference schedule. So far, they have met these challenges.