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'We looked sloppy,' SCSU coach says after Broncos power play dooms Huskies

Western Michigan scores three power-play goals on their way to a 4-2 win

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Western Michigan forward Jamie Rome (20) goes in to score on St. Cloud State goalie Jaxon Castor (40) in the first period Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Finding a positive for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team in its performance on Friday was a difficult task for coach Brett Larson.

"Not a lot of positives tonight," Larson said. "From top to bottom, I thought our discipline really took us out of any chance to win that hockey game. We looked young. We looked undisciplined. We looked sloppy.

Fifth-year defenseman from Sartell, Minn., has an upper body injury

"Then you add on that Western Michigan is a really good hockey team and that's not usually a recipe for success," said Larson, whose team is 2-7-1 in its last 10 games against the Broncos. "We've got to win some puck battles. I didn't think we played hard enough tonight. They wanted it more and outworked us."

Western Michigan scored three power-play goals to defeat St. Cloud State 4-2 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

It was the NCHC home opener for the fourth-ranked Huskies (1-2 NCHC, 8-3 overall) and the third straight win for the 17th-ranked Broncos (3-0, 8-4).

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The Huskies went into the game averaging 9.8 penalty minutes per game. St. Cloud State had seven penalties for 17 minutes and WMU was 3-for-8 with nine shots on the power play.

Aidan Fulp, Jamie Rome and Max Sasson all had power-play goals for the Broncos, who went into the game third in the nation in scoring (4.6 goals-per-game), seventh in faceoff win percentage (54.7), sixth in shots on goal (34.8 per game) and 10th on the power play (27.5%).

"When you play Western, they're fast, they're strong and they're heavy," Larson said. "You have to win puck battles to sustain pressure. And we didn't do that enough tonight."

The Huskies took four penalties and gave up two power-play goals in a 1:04 span in the first period to trail 2-0 going into the second. How bad was the period? The Huskies were outshot 10-1.

"Embarassing, for sure," SCSU fifth-year wing Micah Miller said. "We talked about being better, obviously, (after the period) and we have confidence in this group. We just can't keep starting like that and expect to crawl back into games."

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St. Cloud State forward Micah Miller (15) goes in to score on Western Michigan goaltender Cameron Rowe (31) in the third period Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

The positives for SCSU

A lot of Huskies had a tough night, but there were a few who had good games.

Miller scored short-handed goal at 9:48 of the third period to cut the deficit to 3-2. He stole the puck near the Broncos blue line, went in and scored on a breakaway for his second goal of the season. It was his first short-handed goal of the season and fifth in the last two seasons.

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"If there was a bright spot tonight, it was Micah Miller," Larson said of the wing from Grand Rapids, Minn. "Micah Miller was giving it all he had and leaving it all out there.

"Basically, he just won a race for a puck and powered through a guy," Larson said of his goal. "He was relentless and wasn't going to be denied. We need more guys playing like that tomorrow."

Jaxon Castor, a senior from Phoenix, Arizona, had 26 saves for the Huskies, including all 11 shots he faced in the second period.

"He played fine and it certainly wasn't on him," Larson said. "He made really some big saves tonight. That could've gotten ugly. He gave us a chance to be in there."

"He was great, kept us in it and bailed us out many times," Miller said of Castor. "We just hung him out to try too many times."

The other positive was fifth-year senior center Grant Cruikshank scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season at 7:14 of the second period on the power play for the Huskies' first goal of the game.

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Line shuffling out of necessity

A few of the lines remain works in progress for St. Cloud State. Cruikshank and Miller began the game with freshman Grant Ahcan on the left wing as the team tries to find a replacement for senior Kyler Kupka. Kupka is recovering from an appendectomy.

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The line listed fourth on the depth chart had sophomore Mason Salquist centering freshman Ethan AuCoin and junior Joe Molenaar. But AuCoin was called for a five-minute major and recieved a game misconduct for a contact to the head penalty at 7:57 of the third period.

But before that with the Huskies trailing, Larson moved junior Veeti Miettinen onto the line with Cruikshank and Miller.

"Just trying to get something going," Larson said. "I threw Veeti out there a few times with Cruikshank and Micah a few times, seeing if we could get a spark there. But the rest of the juggling was because we were getting caught out there killing (penalties). I'd have Cruikshank gassed or Micah gassed or Jami and I'd have to go a couple shifts to some makeshift lines to try to get back where we were tonight."

There may be more changes coming to the lineup for Saturday's game.

"It's kind of emotional right now," Larson said when he was asked if the team would shuffle the lines for Saturday's game. "You can make some emotional decisions because you're pretty ticked off. But we'll go watch the tape and try to figure out what our adjustments are and see if there's any different line combinations or maybe get some fresh guys in there who are hungry."

The two teams play at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Brooks Center (FOX 9+).

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St. Cloud State goalie Jaxon Castor (40) dives in a race for the puck against Western Michigan in the first period Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

No. 17 WESTERN MICHIGAN 2, No. 4 SCSU 2

WMU 2-0-2—4
SCSU 0-1-1—2

First period scoring — 1. WMU, Aidan Fulp 1 (Tim Washe 5, Luke Grainger 8) 18:38 (pp); 2. WMU, Jamie Rome 5 (Max Sasson 11, Carter Berger 6) 19:44 (pp). Penalties — WMU, Hugh Larkin (hooking) 7:12; SCSU, Grant Cruikshank (interference) 7:37; SCSU, Zach Okabe (interference) 8:18; WMU, Larkin (slashing) 13:23; SCSU, Jack Rogers (hooking) 17:31; SCSU, Grant Ahcan (charging) 19:14.

Second period scoring — 3. SCSU ,Grant Cruikshank 9 (Veeti Miettinen 7) 7:14 (pp). Penalties — SCSU, Ahcan (interference) :30; WMU, Larkin (hooking) 6:39; WMU, Zak Galambos (tripping) 10:04; SCSU, Zach Okabe (protocol violation) 20:00.

Third period scoring — 4. WMU, Max Sasson (Jason Polin, Ryan McAllister) 8:15 (pp); 5. SCSU, Micah Miller 2 (unassisted) 9:48 (sh); 6. WMU, Luke Grainger (Cole Gallant, McAllister) 13:06. Penalties — WMU, Chad Hillebrand (chargin) 4:15; SCSU, Ethan AuCoin (contact to the head, major, game misconduct) 7:57; WMU, Cole Gallant (interference) 9:48; WMU, Hillebrand (hooking) 17:39.

Goalie saves — WMU: Cameron Rowe 1-5-13—19 (2 GA); SCSU: Jaxon Castor 8-11-7—26 (4 GA).

Penalties-minutes — WMU 7-14, SCSU 7-17.

Power plays (shots) — WMU 3-8 (9 shots); SCSU 1-6 (8 shots).

Faceoffs — SCSU 40-29.

Attendance — 3,557.

Referees — Brian Hankes, Ryan Hersey.

Linesmen — Tony Aronson, Elliott Bucholz.

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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