SCSU Defeats Pioneers, 3-1 with Special Teams Edge

Veeti Miettanen’s game-winning power-play goal with 9:38 remaining in the game lifted the Saint Cloud (Minn.) State Huskies (6-3) to a 3-1 thriller over the Denver Pioneers (3-6-1) at Omaha’s Baxter arena on Sunday afternoon, Dec 20.  Miettanen beat DU goalie Magnus Chrona with a clean wrist shot from 20 feet-out for the game-winner, and the Huskies added an empty netter by SCSU’s Zach Okabe in the final minute for the 3-1 final score.

“It was back-and-forth hockey game,” said DU coach David Carle, “and [SCSU] was able to pull away in the third period…I thought [DU goalie] Magnus [Chrona] gave us a chance to win the hockey game. It was his best game of the pod.”

Indeed, the Huskies killed all three of Denver’s power play opportunities with their aggressive, league-leading 91% penalty kill, and converted once on their own power play, making special teams execution be the difference-maker in the contest, in a game where shots on goal were pretty even, 34-32 in favor of St. Cloud State.

With the loss, Denver exits the NCHC pod with a very disappointing 3-6-1 record to start the 2020-2021 season.

With Denver ranked #8 and Saint Cloud State ranked #9 nationally,  the game would feature hard skating, up-and-down momentum swings in both directions and many close-in scoring chances for both teams, and the two teams not disappoint in the pod finale.

“It was a battle from the start – both teams played great hockey today, said SCSU coach Brett Larson. “We knew it would come down to special teams, and we’re happy to get the win today.”

After a dead-even and scoreless first 28 minutes, DU had taken a 1-0 lead in the second period with great goal by Pioneer’s freshman phenom Carter Savoie, who beat Huskies netminder David Hrenak with high wrister from the hash mark at the 8:35 mark, completing a nifty play off the rush on a greet saucer feed from Cole Guttman, who had won a puck battle in the neutral zone and created the rush.

However the Huskies  equalized just over four minutes later, when DU’s Mike Benning turned over the puck in the neutral zone, creating an odd-man rush going the other way for the Huskies, and the puck was picked-up by Colgate-transfer Jared Cockerell, who whipped a cross-ice pass to teammate Kyler Kupka on the far post, who tapped the puck past a sliding Chrona  to tie the game at 1-1.

In the third period, the Huskies seemed to have the quicker legs with DU playing its third game in four days, but Carle downplayed game fatigue as a factor. “I didn’t think it made much difference,” he said after the game.

Both teams played with heart, grit and composure, but the Huskies’ special teams play was just a bit more special on this day, as the Pioneers were not able to convert on their three power play chances.

Fifth-place Denver leaves the pod and returns home to Colorado for a short Christmas break, followed by four straight games against rival Colorado College, one point behind the Pioneers in sixth place, starting January 1st, 2021.

Top Photo: NCHC Photo by Mark Kuhlmann. Carter Savoie had DU’s only goal in a 3-1 loss to St. Cloud State on Dec. 20. 

6 thoughts on “SCSU Defeats Pioneers, 3-1 with Special Teams Edge”

  1. Anon 659, I know where you’re coming from. Naturally comparing Carle to Monty, there is a natural drop off. We also don’t have a Terry, Borgstrom, or Peterson who can execute the Monty style of skating with the puck until there is a real likelihood of completing a pass.

  2. I’d like to hear more about your hypothesis, Anon at 6:59

    I am growing concerned about this team in multiple areas:

    1. Offense: DU’s offense is only scoring 2.3 GPG, which is 33rd nationally, well below where I expected them to be. Olischefkski (4p), Stapely (4p) and Barrow (2p) should be among the scoring leaders on this team as upperclassmen and have more far more points than they do through 10 games, and Jandric with only 1 point has been a disappointment to date. Slumps tend to end with greasy goals from hard areas and the Pios need to get to the net.

    2. Slow starts. DU almost always starts slower than its opponent. To me, it’s a sign that the team isn’t as motivated as its opponents are – coaches need to inspire!

    3. Face-offs: At 44% compared to 51% last year, it’s not yet where it needs to be. It seems to be improving bit by bit, though.

    4. Goaltending – Chrona’s play is slowly improving to .904 in Svs percentage, but it’s still a notch below the level where he was last year at .920. Kaczperski is at .857, which suggests he’s not at Chrona’s level against the NCHC level of play, although two games is a small sample size.

    5. PK – At 75%, it’s down 10 percentage points from last year’s 85% and ranked 37th nationally. Seems to be killing a bit more passively than last year. With DU’s speed advantage on most teams, I’d like to see a more aggressive approach up top like St. Cloud uses, where DU had very little set up time tonight. With a more aggressive kill, DU could get some shorties, too.

    6. Shooting – right now, DU is shooting about 7%, and that should be at 9-10% to win games. Need to be more accurate with shots.

  3. I’m not worried about coaching at all. We have won so many games for so long that I think some people think winning hockey is a DU birthright. I am just thankful we have something to watch and talk about during COVID-19. DU has a lot of new faces and misses Bobby Brink. David and his staff will get the boys right. And, CC should provide plenty of motivation.

    1. Complete choke of the bubble no offense means no talent 1 goal or less in 4 games Bobby Brink might help but ND will injure him again like last year.

  4. First off, give a lot of credit to SCSU. They are a very good hockey team and are 6-3 and tied for 2nd in the NCHC for a reason. They are well-coached, play hard, have plenty of talent, and seem poised to contend for another Penrose Cup. Impressive squad.

    Yesterday’s game was exciting and competitive, but the Huskies capitalized on the Benning turnover to tie the game and then sealed it with the better play on special teams to finish the game. Tough shift for Benning–he committed the turnover and then couldn’t quite get back to fully cover Kupka before Kupka’s tap-in goal.

    As for the Pioneers, they leave the Pod with an unsightly 3-6-1 record and a lot of questions. I don’t think anyone envisioned this team with only 3 wins in the first 10 games. As Puck Swami indicates, DU has a lot of areas to work on, and this team is far from a finished product. The numbers speak for themselves. I guess that’s the good news–lots of potential to get better. But it needs to happen sooner rather than later. It’s a short season, only 26 games, and nearly 40% of the schedule has been completed. Pios get a short break and then 4 games with CC and another two with UND. Doesn’t get any easier.

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