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SCSU notebook: Huskies sign 2-year deal for series with Michigan, Castor's big weekend

St. Cloud State will play Wolverines in series next season at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Minnesota will get back on SCSU's schedule.

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The University of Michigan hockey team talks at center ice during practice on March 24, 2022, at PPL Center in Allentown, Pa.
Mick Hatten / The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Replace one powerhouse program opponent with a big 'M' on the jersey with another.

The St. Cloud State men's hockey team has agreed to a two-year deal to play series against the University of Michigan. The Wolverines will play a nonconference series against the Huskies next season at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and then in 2024-25, the teams will play at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The series next season will replace SCSU's series with the University of Minnesota. Those two teams played to two sold-out arenas over the weekend. The Huskies and Gophers have played one another in three of the last four seasons since Bob Motzko left SCSU to coach at Minnesota with the lone year off because of COVID-19 restrictions.

For fans clamoring to see Minnesota and St. Cloud State play again, it sounds like they may not have to wait too long to see the rivalry renewed.

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St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson during the first period on Jan. 8, 2023 at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.
Jim Rosvold / The Rink Live

"There's been a lot of speculation about scheduling and I've talked to Bob and he's promised to get us back on the schedule as soon as he can," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "The speculation that this rivalry is over is overblown.

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"Probably won't happen next year, but (Motzko) definitely wants to get us back on the schedule in the near future. We definitely want that, too."

Each of the last two seasons, SCSU has picked up a win and an overtime loss to Minnesota in the series. In terms of PairWise Rankings , the Huskies came out of both series with more PairWise points than the Gophers. The PairWise tries to mimic the criteria used by the NCAA Division I selection committee to select the 16-team tournament field at the end of the season.

"It was two great hockey games between two really good teams," Larson said of the series, which featured two teams currently in the top three in the PairWise. "I thought it was great for the players, the fans and it turned into a great rivalry weekend."

While the Gophers may be off the schedule, the Wolverines will play the Huskies for the first time since 2002. The two teams have played twice and both times have come in the NCAA West Regional playoffs. Michigan beat SCSU 4-2 on March 22, 2002 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and 4-3 on March 25, 2001, in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Wolverines and Huskies nearly met again last season in the NCAA tournament. St. Cloud State and Michigan both played in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pa. SCSU ended up losing 5-4 to Quinnipiac in the regional semifinals, while the Wolverines went on to beat Quinnipiac 7-4 to advance to the Frozen Four.

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Castor's big weekend

A big part of the reason for the Huskies' success against the Gophers last weekend was the play of Jaxon Castor. The senior goalie from Phoenix stopped 51 of 53 shots, including 23 on Saturday for his first career shutout, in the series.

"Jaxon's save on (Jimmy) Snuggerud early in the game on Saturday could have changed the whole weekend," Larson said. "Had they scored there and got some mojo and jumped us on our own rink, the entire weekend could have been different. I thought the weekend-defining save.

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"We didn't give up a ton of chances over the weekend. But when we did, it was a good chance against very skilled players. Jaxon rose up and made the save when he needed to."

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St. Cloud State goalie Jaxon Castor (40) makes a save with Minnesota's Bryce Brodzinski (22) waiting for a rebound during the second period of a nonconference men's hockey game on Jan. 7, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Jim Rosvold/The Rink Live

It was the first time this season that Castor has started back-to-back games. He has been playing in the first games of series with junior Dominic Basse playing the second games.

Will the rotation return this weekend when the Huskies play host to Colorado College?

"We're going to go back to competing in practice this week to see who is playing on Friday," Larson said. "That is the message we gave to both goalies (Tuesday)."

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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