ST. CLOUD, Minn. — St. Cloud State played well enough defensively, won the special teams battle, got good goaltending and a timely goal to beat top-ranked North Dakota 2-1 in a hard-fought NCHC game Saturday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
Oh and nearly every player on both rosters seemed to be squared off after the final buzzer for a couple minutes.
Not a whole lot came out of the roughhousing that was ignited when North Dakota's Matt Kiersted shot the puck after the game was over.
The two players who appeared to come closest to an NHL-styled fight were St. Cloud State's Jack Poehling and North Dakota's Jasper Weatherby. Poehling was doing a lot of yelling with his helmet and gloves off, but no real heavy blows were landed before the officials separated them.
"Things get heated and (Kiersted) shot the puck after the whistle and Nick (Poehling) went after him and, at that point, you feel like you have to get in there," Jack Poehling said. "Luckily, nothing escalated too bad. Big scrum, but other than that, but I don't think any big punches were thrown.
"Part of the game. I get caught up in a lot of the emotions in the game and I need to work on that. It is what it is."
He admitted that he was trying to get something more going than what happened.
"That was just me being dumb. I shouldn't be doing that," Jack Poehling said. "I'm just happy we got the win and can move forward."
Big play started in defensive zone
Jack Poehling, oh by the way, also scored the game-winning goal. The play started in the Huskies' goal line with defenseman Nick Perbix getting the puck and rushing it to the North Dakota blue line. He passed it to Nick Poehling, who passed it to Jack Poehling, who blasted in a slap shot from near the faceoff dot to the right of Peter Thome at 5:54 of the third period.
"(Perbix) had a heck of a weekend and played like a man this weekend," Jack Poehling said of Perbix, a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick. "It's something he's been looking to do and good to see.
"Obviously, I put my head down and took a clapper," said Jack Poehling, who had three goals in the series. "I had one (goal) like that earlier in the season and it's something I'm used to. Hopefully, it keeps working."
The Huskies played a lot of defense in the second period and in the first five minutes of the third period before going ahead on the goal.
"The No. 1 team in the country is not going down easy," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "We thought the first period was our best period of the weekend and then they made a major push and we got off our game a little bit.
"They were coming really hard. I actually thought we did a good job defending the danger areas. We were in our zone a lot, but we didn't give them a lot of second and third opportunities around the net. For the most part, David was able to see the shots and make the saves when we needed to. I think David really calmed us down there."
Hrenak, a junior from Slovakia and a Los Angeles Kings draft pick, made 25 of his 30 saves in the last two periods to pick up the win.
"It was a pretty crazy finish, but I trusted our team for the whole game and I think we were fully confident that we would battle and get through that," said Hrenak, who stopped 61 of 65 shots (.938 save percentage). "I'm really, really proud of our team.
"They are a really good team and playing against good team, you have to play in every area, play right away and make ... not many mistakes."
St. Cloud State scored the lone goal of the first period. Spencer Meier, a sophomore defenseman from Sartell, Minn., scored from about the same spot as Jack Poehling did on a wrist shot off a pass from below the goal line by Chase Brand. The goal at 6:46 came after North Dakota standout Shane Pinto was called for a checking from behind major that also resulted in a game misconduct.
St. Cloud State also went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and held North Dakota to seven shots on those power plays.
"Winning the special teams battle was huge," Larson said. "We knew it would probably come down to that.
"Us getting going (offensively) on the power play and then our penalty kill did a really good job. I think that was the biggest difference in the game."
North Dakota went into the series at 22.5 percent on the power play, but the Huskies were 7-for-8 in the series and picked up five of the six possible points. But it should be noted that the Fighting Hawks did not have two of their top power-play unit forwards for any of their power plays.
Pinto was booted from the game before UND's first power play and Jordan Kawaguchi, the team's leading scorer, missed the game because of injury.
Home playoff picture
Speaking of those five points, the results helped the Huskies (9-9-2-1, 12-12-6 overall) move up to No. 21 in the PairWise Rankings, which try to mimic the criteria the NCAA uses to pick the 16-team Division I national tournament field.
The Huskies are back to .500 overall for the first time since Nov. 9, but appear to have made up no ground in their hunt for the last home playoff spot for the conference playoffs. The top four teams in the NCHC will play host to a best-of-three series after the regular season.
St. Cloud State looks like it will be four points behind Denver going into the last four games of the season. The Pioneers were beating Miami 5-0 after two periods on Saturday.
But, the Huskies play Denver at home on Feb. 28-29 at the Brooks Center.
"Going into this weekend, if you told us we would get five of six points, we'd take it any day," Hrenak said. "It shows that we're going in the right direction and I think it will gives us confidence, especially against top-ranked teams. This weekend can be really big.
"We can enjoy it tonight, but from tomorrow on, we've got to prepare for another week."
Denver, which was in the Frozen Four last year, is No. 4 in the PairWise.
SCSU 2, No. 1 NORTH DAKOTA 1
First period scoring — 1. SCSU, Spencer Meier 4 (Chase Brand 7, Jami Krannila 8) 6:46 (pp) Penalties — UND, Shane Pinto (checking from behind, major, game misconduct) 3:11; SCSU, Jake Wahlin (interference) 8:40; UND, Jonny Tychonick (tripping) 11:38; SCSU, Sam Hentges (roughing) 17:18; UND, Cole Smith (roughing) 17:18.
Second period scoring — 2. UND, Collin Adams 11 (Ethan Frisch 3) 12:32. Penalties — SCSU, Hentges (hooking) 6:49; SCSU, Easton Brodzinski (hooking) 15:44; SCSU, Hentges (tripping) 19:49.
Third period scoring — 3. SCSU,m Jack Poehling 9 (Nick Poehling 16, Nick Perbix 9) 5:54. Penalties — UND, Matt Kiersted (unsportsmanlike conduct, misconduct) 20:00; UND, Jasper Weatherby (roughing, misconduct) 20:00; SCSU, J. Poehling (roughing, misconduct) 20:00; SCSU, N. Poehling (roughing, misconduct) 20:00.
Goalie saves — UND: Peter Thome 7-6-4—17 (2 GA); SCSU: David Hrenak 4-12-13—29 (1 GA).
Penalties-minutes — UND 8-43; SCSU 9-34.
Power plays (shots) — UND — 0-4 (7 shots); SCSU 1-3 (5 shots).
Faceoffs — 24-24.
Referees — Geno Binda and Nick Krebsbach.
Linesmen — Dana Penkivech and Jeff Schultz.
Attendance — .5,775