Sunday, January 22, 2012

St. Cloud State Recap

The Fighting Sioux took to the road looking to gain some separation in the chase for home-ice and came away with a split in what was a very entertaining weekend of hockey. St. Cloud State earned a 3-1 victory Friday night behind freshman goaltender Ryan Faragher, while North Dakota bounced back with an exciting 3-2 win Saturday. Here are some observations:
  • Friday night the play was a bit sporadic, but the Sioux came back Saturday with a complete 60:00 game. They had jump from the drop of the puck and didn't let up until the final horn, and that effort gave Dake Hakstol his 200th career victory behind the Fighting Sioux bench. He joins Gino Gasparini and Dean Blais as the only North Dakota head coaches with 200 or more victories. 
  • The goaltending this weekend was very solid for both teams. Ryan Faragher was masterful in making several brilliant saves, including a larcenous effort on Brock Nelson Saturday night. North Dakota's Brad Eidsness and Aaron Dell were also very good as they too had several big saves on the weekend. It will be interesting to see how the SCSU goaltending situation plays out down the stretch with incumbent Mike Lee soon to return from injury. The old adage says a player doesn't lose a job due to injury, but what Faragher has done in Lee's absence cannot be ignored. Expect a goaltender rotation until one of them is markedly better than the other and establishes himself as the number one guy. Perhaps we will see the same situation play out for the Fighting Sioux, as Eidsness' recent play certainly warrants more time in net.
  • Danny Kristo was the best player on the ice this weekend. Saturday night especially he was motoring all over the place in all three zones, and he seemed to have the desire to have the puck on his stick at all times with a willingness to do anything it took to get it there. His puck possession abilities are phenomenal. Corban Knight was also very sharp, as he appears to be getting closer to full-health.
  • It was great to see Michael Parks in the lineup. The way that he went into the corners and pressured pucks might not have been indicative of a player suiting up at less than 100%, but there were definitely  moments where his body language and facial expressions communicated his pain and discomfort.
  • Carter Rowney played a heck of a game Saturday despite not finding the scoresheet. Key to his performance was his shift with about 4:00 left in the game. He was all over the place in helping the Sioux maintain the offensive zone at a time when SCSU was really ramping up the energy and pressure in looking for the game-tying goal.    
  • In the Battle of the Walking (or Skating?) Wounded, it appears as though UND came out of the weekend without adding to their injury list. SCSU wasn't so lucky however. They had two players, Jordy Christian and Cory Thorson, leave and not return during Saturday's game.
  • The weekend results leave North Dakota sitting in sixth place in the WCHA standings with 18 points. The Sioux are one point up on both Michigan Tech and SCSU, with Tech having two games in-hand. Wisconsin is two points back of UND with 16, setting up for a key series this coming weekend at Engelstad Arena. Every conference point is critical at this stage of the season as fifth place (Denver) and ninth place (Wisconsin) are separated by just three points.
  • As always, it was great to see how well the Fighting Sioux faithful travel, as the cheers supporting the road team were much louder than any home team's fan base ever wants to hear in their own building. This was evidenced by Saturday night's third period roar after the officials overturned what would have been the game-tying goal. I did not see the referee wave off the goal following the review, and the response from the National Hockey Center crowd immediately led me to believe that the goal was going to stand. The roar, of course, was the large UND faction celebrating the no-goal.

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