St. Cloud State junior defenseman Nick Perbix scored the lone goal of the night Saturday at Amsoil Arena to give the Huskies a 1-0 overtime victory over Minnesota Duluth in the fourth game in eight days between the two NCHC rivals.
Making just his second collegiate start and appearance, freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal of Cohasset finished with 20 saves for the Bulldogs, while Huskies senior goalie David Hrenak stopped all 28 shots he faced.
“Another tough loss,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “I thought we did some things better tonight. I thought our 5-on-5 play was better tonight. Again our power play didn’t score and one of their best players, Perbix, scored in the overtime.
“Right now, we're not finding the puck luck or we're not finding enough to win hockey games.”
UMD and SCSU, who are scheduled to meet again at the end of February, began their four-game series to start 2021 tied for third in the NCHC behind both North Dakota and Nebraska Omaha.
The Huskies (9-4) took three of the four games and nine of the 12 league points from the Bulldogs (6-5-2) and now leave Duluth with a six-point lead over second-place UMD.
"Against a team as good as Duluth, to come in here and accomplish that feels pretty good,” said Huskies coach Brett Larson, the Duluth native and former player and assistant coach at UMD. "Five-on-five was so tight and Duluth was playing so well defensively, we weren't getting many looks. We needed that penalty kill to come through."
The Bulldogs power play finished 0-for-4 while the Huskies were 0-for-2.
UMD freshman defenseman Wyatt Kaiser left the ice late in the second period on Saturday, early in a late-period power play no less. The quarterback of the Bulldogs' top power play unit and half of the top defensive pairing did not return for the third period.
The Bulldogs also lost Kaiser’s defensive partner, senior Louie Roehl, late in the second period when he went back to the locker room. Roehl returned for the third and finished the game, however.
The Bulldogs are back on the road next weekend at Miami. With just 11 games left on the regular season schedule, captain Noah Cates said his team needs to find a way to win these tight games.
UMD is 1-5-1 in its last six games after a 5-0-1 start, and three of the four losses are by a single goal.
“Better effort from our group, we’re happy with tightening some things up defensively and being a little harder to play offensively,” said Cates, a junior center. “But we got to learn how to win these one goal games … we got to learn how to win these games for playoffs.”
- Photos: Minnesota Duluth vs. St. Cloud State Saturday, Jan. 9
- The Rink Live: Perbix scores in OT, Hrenak gets record-setting shutout for SCSU
- UMD men's hockey: Minus fans, Bulldogs lose 4-3 to St. Cloud State in return home to Amsoil Arena
Thumbs up to Zach Stejskal
Prior to Saturday, Stejskal’s only appearance in the Bulldogs’ net was the start he made Dec. 8, 2020, in the NCHC Pod in Omaha when he stopped 23 of 25 shots in a 4-2 win over Miami.
Sophomore Ryan Fanti has started the other 11 games for the Bulldogs, but after Fanti seemed to be fighting the puck Friday in the 4-3 loss at home to the Huskies, Sandelin gave the former Grand Rapids Thunderhawk another chance in goal.
“He was doing great, didn’t give up a goal,” Sandelin said. “There were some rebounds he probably wanted to clean up, but for the most part he was stopping the puck. That’s what you ask your goalie to do. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the last one.”
Stejskal’s save of the game came with two minutes to go in overtime against his old GRHS teammate Micah Miller, the Huskies junior wing. The two won a Class AA state high school title together in 2016-17 and Stejskal said he knew exactly what was coming.
“I’ve seen the shot too many times in high school to not know that was him,” Stejskal said. “I wasn’t going to let him score that because he’d have bragging rights over the next summer. He’s a good player, he’s got a good shot and I got a stick on it.”
Thumbs down to no offense
Stejskal’s performance was spoiled Saturday by a lack of offense in front of him.
The Bulldogs controlled the play 5-on-5 all night, generating 48 shots. Only 28 made it on net, however, as the Huskies blocked 11 and another nine missed the target.
The Huskies were held to 36 attempts with only 21 reaching Stejskal.
“I thought our 5-on-5 play was better. I don’t think they had a lot of 5-on-5 opportunities besides the power plays,” Sandelin said. “But you have to score more than 0. It was almost headed to a shootout.”
Cates said there are a number of things the team can do to generate more offensive chances and better ones, such as going low-to-high and using more off the offensive zone — like the back of the net — and not just one corner. The defensemen can pitch in as well working the puck better between themselves, and getting pucks through too, he said.
Everyone on the team needs to get more pucks on net, Sandelin said.
“I thought we did a better job of puck possession tonight, but we got to get shots through,” Sandelin said. “They blocked some shots. We have to get a little hungrier around there to try and create some second opportunities. Right now we’re squeezing it. Sometimes you try harder you do less.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal — He was 1:01 from picking up his first shutout, stopping 20-of-21 shots.
2. SCSU senior goaltender David Hrenak — With 28 saves and no goals allowed, Hrenak picked up his 10th career shutout to set a new program record at SCSU.
1. SCSU junior defenseman Nick Perbix — He made a great move to get by UMD senior wing Kobe Roth to score the game-winner in OT.
St. Cloud State 0-0-0-1—1
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-0-0—0
Saves — David Hrenak, SCSU, 11-8-8-1—28; Zach Stejskal, UMD, 6-9-2-3—20.
Power play — SCSU 0-2; UMD 0-4. Penalties — SCSU 4-8; UMD 2-4.