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Roommates Kyler Kupka, Grant Cruikshank have 2 points apiece, Dominic Basse makes 27 saves in SCSU's 4-0 win

Jami Krannila adds a goal and an assist and Dominic Basse makes 27 saves in 4-0 win over Colorado College as Huskies reclaim sole possession of second place in NCHC.

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St. Cloud State forward Mason Salquist (16) and St. Cloud State defenseman Spencer Meier (9) try to work the puck past Colorado College goaltender Kaidan Mbereko (33) with Tigers Bryan Yoon (4) and Nicklas Andrews (37) defending in the first period Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Kyler Kupka missed the month of November after having an appendectomy.

Roommate/linemate Grant Cruikshank said that it has been good to have him back in the lineup. The Kupka/Cruikshank chemistry showed on Saturday as each picked up a goal and an assist and helped the penalty kill go 4-for-4 in a 4-0 NCHC win over Colorado College before 5,103 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

With the win, the No. 3/4-ranked Huskies (8-4 NCHC, 16-6 overall) moved back into sole possession of second place in the conference standings with a hard-fought win. The majority of the game, the Huskies were clinging to a 1-0 lead.

A couple of goals from close range proved to be the difference.

"That was the only way we were gonna score," Huskies coach Brett Larson said referring to the play of Tigers goalie Kaidan Mbereko, who made 23 saves. "Their goaltender was playing really well and you could see that he was locked in.

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"Tonight for us, it was get as many pucks and bodies to the net as we could."

That play down low in the offensive zone is where Kupka and Cruikshank do their best work.

The Huskies (8-4 NCHC, 16-6 overall) earned a series split with Colorado College (6-5-1, 10-11-1) and moved back into sole possession of second place in the conference race.

The first goal from close range was the lone goal of the first two periods. Senior wing Zach Okabe got a rebound goal from near a Tigers post at 13:28 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.

With the Huskies playing with a two-goal lead, Grant Cruikshank scored on a goal from near another post off a faceoff at 12:21 of the third period to make it 3-0.

Cruikshank also had a key assist in the game. He had a give-and-go play and got the puck in the slot to Kyler Kupka for a goal at 9:56 of the third period for a 2-0 lead.

"He made a great little kind of drop pass to me there and called for it and it was good to see that one go in for him," Cruikshank said of Kupka's career-best seventh goal of the season.

Then Kupka, a senior wing from Camrose, Alberta, won a battle off a faceoff, got the puck to Micah Miller, who got it to Cruikshank. Cruishank buried a shot from close range at 12:21 of the third period to make it 3-0 for his team-leading 15th goal of the season.

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"It's been great (chemistry) and I feel like it's been there all year," Cruikshank said of playing on a line with Kupka. "We live together and love to watch hockey and talk hockey together."

"As a coach, he's just your security blanket," Larson said of Kupka. "You feel good when he's out there."

Basse comes back with another shutout

St. Cloud State's Dominic Basse made 27 saves for his third shutout of the season and second this season against the Tigers, a team he played the last two seasons before transferring. Basse made 36 saves on Nov. 19 in a 5-0 win in Colorado Springs.

It was the third shutout of the season for Basse, who did not play in the second game of the series the previous weekend against the University of Minnesota. That was the first time this season that Basse had not gotten a start in the second game of a series.

"I just kind of stuck with it, went through practice and kept on working hard," said Basse, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick. "It's not about the success or failure that you're having in the moment. It's about where you're putting yourself for the future.

"If you're not doing well right now — or even if you are — it's kind of the every day activities that you're doing to make sure that, in the end, you're going in the right direction."

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St. Cloud State goaltender Dominic Basse (31) deflects a shot by Colorado College forward Hunter McKown (41) in the second period Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

With the win, Basse improved to 8-2 with a 1.61 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. He is second in NCAA Division I in both GAA and save percentage.

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"He looked really solid," Larson said. "He looked composed all night. Nothing seemed to rattle him. That was good start for him coming back.

"That just keeps that (goalie) competition get better and better."

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St. Cloud State forward Zach Okabe (14), center, celebrates his goal with St. Cloud State defenseman Ondrej Trejbal (5) and St. Cloud State forward Jami Krannila (13) against Colorado College in the first period Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

NOTES:

The win sets up a series between the top two teams in the NCHC standings. St. Cloud State plays host to Denver (10-2, 19-5) on Jan. 20-21 at the Brooks Center. The Pioneers are six points ahead of the Huskies with 12 conference games left.

With Saturday's win, the Huskies won the season series with the Tigers, 3-1. But Larson said that Colorado College could be dangerous down the stretch.

"I was really impressed with CC," Larson said. "They're defending very well. They're very structured in the neutral zone. They don't give you anything easy. We kept telling the guys on the bench, 'You're going to have to go earn the next one. They're not going to give it to you.'

"I thought our guys really did a better job tonight of sticking to our game for 60 minutes."

Cruikshank's 15 goals, nine assists and 24 points are all the best of his career. Cruikshank is tied for third in the nation in goals. Okabe's 13 goals are also a career-best.

Basse's third shutout of the season moves him into a tie for the fourth-best season total for SCSU in the Division I era. Scott Meyer (7, 1999-2000), Charlie Lindgren (5, 2015-16) and Grant Sjerven (4, 1993-94) are ahead of him.

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No. 3/4 SCSU 0, COLORADO COLLEGE 0

CC 0-0-0—0
SCSU 1-0-3—4

First period scoring — 1. SCSU, Zach Okabe 13 (Joe Molenaar 3, Jami Krannila 14) 13:28. Penalties — SCSU, Micah Miller (cross-checking) 14:13; CC, Logan Will (interference) 15:23; SCSU, Brendan Bushy (holding) 19:03.

Second period scoring — None. Penalties — SCSU, Mason Salquist (hooking) 8:54; CC, Noah Laba (holding) 8:54; SCSU, Micah Miller (tripping) 14:10.

Third period scoring — 2. SCSU, Kyler Kupka 7 (Grant Cruikshank 9) 9:56; 3. SCSU, Cruikshank (15) (Micah Miller 8, Kyler Kupka 9) 12:18; 4. SCSU, Krannila 11 (unassisted) 16:22 (en). Penalties — SCSU, Jack Rogers (tripping) 2:38.

Goalie saves — CC: Kaidan Mbereko 6-5-12—23 (3 GA); SCSU, Dominic Basse 6-5-16—27 (0 GA).

Penalties-minutes — CC 2-4; SCSU 5-10.

Power plays (shots) — CC 0-4 (1 shots); SCSU 0-1 (1 shots).

Faceoffs — SCSU 34-24.

Attendance — 5,103.

Referees — Mike Sheehan, Stephen Reneau.

Linesmen — Jeff Schultz, Eric Standke.

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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