Entering Friday nights game at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud UND had the chance to leave the weekend holding the Penrose Cup. The award given to the regular season champions of the NCHC conference has resided at the Herb Brooks center the last two seasons and UND had the chance to take it backup I-94 with them. With wins and some help in Duluth, Minn. from Western Michigan this could have happened but the celebration will be postponed another week. UND tied and lost in their NCHC clash with missed opportunities and injuries looming.
In Friday night’s wild contest the game ended in a tie with St. Cloud State taking the extra conference point in the shootout.This back and forth, fast paced game was a joy to watch as these two teams played hockey resulting in many lead changes and big saves throughout the night.
UND’s Westin Michaud kicked off the contest scoring a short-handed goal in the first period assisted by Harrison Blaisdell who was replacing Gavin Hain on UND’s shutdown line for the third game in a row.
Jack Poehling of the Poehling family hockey dynasty led the way for the Huskies as he scored two goals and assisted on one with his brother Nick assisting on both of his goals. Both netminders had excellent performances as Peter Thome earned his sixth straight start and saved 27 of the 30 shots he faced. His highest save total since March 1 of last year when he stopped 31. Huskies goalie David Hrenak also had a great performance turning away 32 of 35 shots.
“I thought two good teams came in ready to play,” Westin Michaud said. “I thought that was a fun game out there, the way hockey should be played. You’ve got to give them credit. They played hard. We responded. Unfortunately, I think they got a little bit more puck luck than we did. It was a fun game to watch.”
With no scoring in overtime the game went to shootouts where SCSU’s top scorer Easton Brodzinski found the back of the net.
Going into Friday night’s game it was announced that the No. 1 team in the land would be without second leading scorer in the country and Hobey Baker candidate Jordan Kawaguchi, as he would be sidelined with an undisclosed injury. Kawaguchi is expected back next week but that was all the good new UND had to start Saturday night’s contest as three minutes into the game Shane Pinto was ejected for a check from behind. UND, now without their top two scorers on the season, failed to put the finishing touch on all but one of their 29 shots on the night.
The Huskies took the advantage early when Spencer Meier scored on the Pinto powerplay and maintained that lead until the second when Colin Adams put on in the back of the net to put him second on the team in points.
As the third period opened up tied UND unleashed numerous chances and outshot St. Cloud 13 to 5 in the final period but it was the Huskies that took the lead. Jack Poehling slapped it past Thome for the game winning goal. Peter Thome earning his first loss of the year in net turning away 17 of 19 shots.
Tempers flared following the final buzzer as a post horn shot from UND’s Matt Kierstad was not received well from Nick Poehling who put him in a headlock and wrestled him to the ground inciting both benches. The teams left the ice without the customary handshake. A moment sure to be remembered if these two teams meet in the playoffs.
With their first series loss since Minnesota State Mankato in late October, UND will likely fall out of their position as No. 1 ranked team in the country but has maintained their position at the top of the pairwise, a system which mimics the method used by the NCAA tournament selection committee. Looking to their final home stand of the season UND will host previously ranked No. 19 Western Michigan. A UND sweep, maintaining a six point lead over Duluth with four games left, would guarantee them winners of the Penrose Cup for the first time since 2016.