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Jaxon Castor, No. 4 SCSU shut out No. 1/3 Minnesota in front of sold-out crowd

Huskies get a goal from Aidan Spellacy and two goals in last minute to win Game 1 of nonconference series

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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

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — There were a number of unlikely things that came together on Saturday night at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

There was Jaxon Castor, a senior and former club hockey goalie, making 23 saves for his first career shutout.

With 17 NHL draft picks on the ice, it was undrafted 24-year-old forward Aidan Spellacy getting the game-winning goal. Spellacy, who was centering the fourth line, played his first 24 games with SCSU without scoring a goal.

And with two of the top seven offensive teams in NCAA Division I men's hockey playing one another, a defensive battle ensued.

In the end, it added up to a 3-0 win for fourth-ranked St. Cloud State over No. 1/3-ranked Minnesota before a standing-room only crowd of 6,051.

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"Jaxon Castor had a lot to do with that," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said. "He made a couple huge saves early to hold us in that game early. If they score on one of those, they might get some momentum and the game could've been different.

"I thought he was ready. I thought he competed throughout the game. Those two Grade A chances pretty early in the game and those two stops held us in there."

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St. Cloud State's Jaxon Castor (40) makes a save against Minnesota's Jimmy Snuggerud (81) with Huskies center Mason Salquist (16) defending in first period on Jan. 7, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Jim Rosvold/The Rink Live

Castor's gem

One of those huge saves had Castor was getting a toe out to stop Jimmy Snuggerud, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, on a 2-on-1 rush about two minutes into the game.

"It was a desperation, kick my leg out and hope it hits my leg," Castor said of the save. "He's a good player. I kind of figured he might make a move to his backhand. It was pretty lucky. Luckily, I got a piece of it."

Castor made 10 saves in each of the first two periods and then two of his three in the third period with the Gophers having an extra attacker on down the stretch to get the shutout.

"We were coming and we were getting better," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said of the third period. "We needed to get one through the wickets and I think we'd have won the game, but we couldn't get it through."

With 1:25 left in the game and the Huskies clinging to a 1-0 lead, Castor received a standing ovation from the crowd.

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"It's definitely fun beating these guys and I just go into every game trying to give my team a chance to win," Castor said. "Finally got that first shutout ... it definitely felt pretty good.

"That crowd was the best. That's what college hockey is all about, weekends like this. You couldn't see an empty seat in the stands ... it's awesome. They're the best fans in college hockey and tonight was pretty rowdy."

Spellacy said that he could sense that Castor was going to have a good game with the way he was practicing earlier in the week.

"He was in a zone and he had a great week of practice leading up," Spellacy said. "You could kind of tell he was in the zone to make those saves and he kind of baled us out a couple times and played great."

Saturday was the 10th game of the season for Castor, the most he has played since he moved over from SCSU's club hockey team to its Division I team. He improved to 8-2 with a 1.91 goals-against average and .926 save percentage with the shutout.

He has been splitting time with junior Dominic Basse. It sounds like the coaching staff is going to have a discussion as to who to start in Sunday's game after Castor's performance.

"We're going to meet about that and make some decisions regarding the lineup (Sunday)," Larson said. "Obviously, we've had a really nice rotation. But, obviously, like the rest of the lineup, it's something we're going to look at."

The two teams play again at 3 p.m. Sunday (Bally Sports North) at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.

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To give you an idea of how rare it is for an SCSU goalie to shut out Minnesota, consider that the last Huskies shutout win was by Scott Meyer (3-0) on March 16, 2001, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. SCSU's last shutout win over the Gophers at Mariucci was by Meyer (5-0) on March 3, 2000. SCSU's only other shutout win over the Gophers at the Brooks Center was by Brian Leitza (3-0) on March 4, 1995.

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St. Cloud State center Aidan Spellacy (8) plays the puck in front of the University of Minnesota bench during the third period of a nonconference game on Jan. 7, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Jim Rosvold/The Rink Live

Fourth line excels

Spellacy scored at 9:09 of the second period on a hustle play that had some smarts to it. Huskies junior right wing Joe Molenaar won a race to a puck behind the Gophers goal and threw a behind-the-back pass to the front of the net.

Freshman left wing Ryan Rosborough lifted the stick of a Gophers defenseman and the puck landed on the stick of Spellacy, who threw it past Justen Close for a 1-0 lead.

"Joe made a great play by driving to it well," Spellacy said. "Then he made a heck of a play to get it out front. Then Rosey made a great play on the stick lift and it just ended up on my stick. I was kind of in tight, so I had to put it up high."

Typically, fourth lines for college hockey teams do not see a ton of ice time, particularly in close games. But the Rosborough-Spellacy-Molenaar line saw a regular shift throughout the game Saturday.

"I just have a lot of trust in them," Larson said. "They play the right way. They play hard. We were matching lines, for the most part tonight. But if I got off the match or there was a defensive zone draw, I felt really comfortable putting them out there."

Spellacy went into the game winning 52.8% of his career faceoffs in 122 college games. He was 7-5 on Saturday in a game in which the Huskies won 23 and lost 26 faceoffs.

Spellacy's line also accounted for four of SCSU's 17 blocked shots and six of its 22 shots in the game.

"Everyone is a great player on our team and playing with those guys (Molenaar and Rosborough) is awesome," Spellacy said. "We simplify. We're not trying to do too much. We're kind of playing to our role of getting pucks deep, playing hard, be hard to play against. Not overcomplicating it, just playing simple."

READ MORE ST. CLOUD STATE HUSKIES COVERAGE:
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Senior forward Addi Scribner discusses her career, which includes playing in Kansas, and helping East Ridge High School make its first state tournament on this Huskies Hockey Insider podcast episode.
Ahcan is in his third pro season playing in the Boston Bruins organization after playing for the Huskies from 2016-20
Senior from Finland is up for National Player of the Month
Freshman forward from Calgary picked up his first college goal last weekend against Minnesota Duluth.
Huskies will be looking to rebound this weekend with a home NCHC series against Miami
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NOTES:

SCSU defenseman Jack Peart (Minnesota Wild draft pick) and all four Gophers who played for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship were in the lineup Saturday. The Gophers included freshman center Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes), freshman right wing Jimmy Snuggerud (St. Louis Blues) and freshman defensemen Ryan Chesley (Washington Capitals) and Luke Mittlestadt.

The Huskies added two late goals. Senior Kyler Kupka scored an empty-net goal at 19:11 of the third period to make it 2-0. Then with Close trying to get off for another attacker, fifth-year center Grant Cruikshank stole the puck, dove and swept the puck into the vacated net at 19:20 to make it 3-0.

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The Herb Brooks Foundation had a large group in attendance for the Minnesota vs. St. Cloud State men's hockey game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Those in attendance from the group included fans from the Twin Cities and St. Cloud.
COURTESY OF JON CHERNEY, HERB BROOKS FOUNDATION

No. 4 SCSU 3, No. 1/3 MINNESOTA 0,

Minn 0-0-0—0
SCSU 0-1-2—3

First period scoring — None. Penalties — UM, Matthew Knies (cross-checking) 8:56; SCSU, Josh Luedtke (hooking) 19:54.

Second period scoring — 1. SCSU, Aidan Spellacy 3 (Joe Molenaar 2) 9:09. Penalties — UM, Ryan Johnson (holding) 10:31; UM, Knies (tripping) 19:23; SCSU, Kyler Kupka (goaltender interference) 19:31.

Third period scoring — 2. SCSU, Kupka 6 (unassisted) 19:11 (en); 3. SCSU, Grant Cruikshank 13 (Josh Luedtke 2) 19:29. Penalties — UM, bench (too many men) 5:21.

Goalie saves — UM: Justen Close 13-3-3—19 (2 GA); SCSU: Jaxon Castor 10-10-3—23 (0 GA).

Penalties-minutes — UM 4-8; SCSU 3-6.

Power-play opportunities, goals (shots) — UM: 0-for-3 (1 shot); SCSU 0-for-4 (9 shots).

Faceoffs — UM 26-23.

Attendance — 6,051.

Referees — Daniel Dreger and Brandon Schmitt.

Linesemen — Justin Hills and Jeff Schultz.

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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