Lindgren set the tone for the Huskies’ sweep
Considering the season trajectories of Miami and St. Cloud State heading into last weekend’s series (Miami had won 9 of 12 heading in; SCSU had won just 4 of 13), it was hard to imagine that St. Cloud would become the only team this year to score 3 goals against the RedHawks in back-to-back games. Sure, there were plenty of highlights for the Huskies — among them, Joe Rehkamp making the most of a new opportunity to play on the top line with Jimmy Murray and Jonny Brodzinski, and a strong weekend performance from David Morley. On Friday night, Morley’s 5-on-3 goal kicked things off for St. Cloud, and on Saturday night, his exceptional pass from behind the net set up Patrick Russell for a power play goal in the closing stages of the first period.
But almost lost in all of that may have been St. Cloud goaltender Charlie Lindgren’s performance in the first period of Friday night’s game, when Miami players accounted for 10 of the game’s first 12 shots. The RedHawks ultimately outshot the Huskies 17-8 for the period — a common trend for a team ranked in the top 5 nationally in shots on goal per game. Miami’s 17 shots was its most in a period since putting up 24 in the second period of a Nov. 8 game vs Colorado College. Lindgren was able to stop all 17, and his dozen or so saves in the first 10 minutes of the game clearly propelled his teammates to a successful Friday night. After a busy evening for the Lakeville, Minn., native, it was backup netminder Rasmus Reijola who earned his first win of the season on Saturday night as St. Cloud completed its first weekend sweep so far this season.
Not McKay’s year?
Last season, in obviously a ‘down’ year for both goaltenders, Ryan McKay seemed to outplay classmate Jay Williams down the stretch, starting all of Miami’s postseason games and turning in a memorable NCHC semifinal performance, a 32-save shutout, to lead the RedHawks to an improbable tournament title game (ultimately losing to Denver). McKay, who had a strong freshman season before that, has plenty of talent, and (as usual) having two No. 1 caliber goaltenders is a good problem that Enrico Blasi has enjoyed, for the most part, over their careers. But for whatever reason, McKay hasn’t found the same results this year that his counterpart Jay Williams has. McKay has just one win in six appearances, while Williams (tied for the NCAA lead with four shutouts this season) is fourth nationally in win percentage (.812) with a 13-3-0 record. McKay got the start on Friday against St. Cloud, a 3-1 loss, before Williams (who had a shutout streak of over 120 minutes heading into the game) started Miami’s 3-2 defeat on Saturday. McKay has started two consecutive Friday night games now, having won at Rensselaer the previous week.
We’ll see if Blasi sticks with the rotation or rides the hot hand in Williams for the rest of the winter. If indeed Blasi does continue to play McKay, the clear fact is that RedHawks defense will have to limit opponent shot opportunities more than they have thus far this year. A curious stat, noted in the league’s release this week, is that McKay has been in goal for each of the four instances this season when Miami has allowed 30 or more shots in a game. The RedHawks are 0-4 in those games. And the difference isn’t entirely rebounds, either, as McKay has been strong in that area.
No love lost
In a pair of games in Duluth last season, UMD and North Dakota combined for 88 penalty minutes, so by comparison, Friday night’s 4-1 win for the Bulldogs, with just 12 combined penalty minutes, seemed tame. The two former WCHA foes, now in a real battle for both league and national positioning, more than made up for it on Saturday though. After all the goals were scored in North Dakota’s 5-2 come-from-behind win, paced by Brendan O’Donnell’s hat trick, the final 10 minutes included five different mini-brawls that produced 52 combined penalty minutes. And really, it could have been much more, with officials Derek Shepherd and Todd Anderson opting for a slew of roughing and slashing calls instead of game misconducts (or, if they had interpreted some of the action in those scrums as punches, major penalties and game disqualifications). The takeway point, though, from all that action, is that each team knows that the other is a legitimate challenge standing in the way of accomplishing a series of attainable goals — on one side, a North Dakota squad that seems intently (and intensely) focused on returning to the Frozen Four to complete last year’s unfinished business, and on the other a Minnesota Duluth team that has been rolling since the beginning of November, led in terms of leadership by a senior class that came to Duluth as freshmen just a few months after the Bulldogs won a national title. There are no more scheduled game between UMD and UND this season, but a postseason meeting is certainly possible. Still, after the dust settled last weekend, both teams found themselves looking up at Nebraska-Omaha, sitting in first place in the NCHC heading into this weekend.
Coming soon: Check CHN before the weekend’s games. We’ll have features in the next few days on what lies ahead for Colorado College, and on Omaha’s Austin Ortega, who leads the country with eight game-winning goals.