Article Written by Brooklyn Purowit
For the second straight season, the Huskies and the Bulldogs would meet in the final regular season series and again during the first round of the playoffs. The Huskies would lose by a score of 4-3 on Friday while on Saturday, Zach Okabe would be the overtime hero, scoring with less than 15 seconds left of OT to split the series with UMD and pick up the win on senior night.
The following weekend, the Duluth Bulldogs would be welcomed back for another difficult series. The Huskies would win Friday’s contest by a score of 3 to 1 with the first goal coming from Josh Luedtke and the final two goals coming from Micah Miller.
On Saturday, both teams knew it would be an absolute dogfight with the Bulldogs taking home the bone in game two. While the Huskies and Bulldogs seemed to be playing an even game for the first 30 minutes, a bad turnover by SCSU in the second period led to back-to-back goals by UMD, and the Huskies were not able to catch up after. The Bulldogs would go on to score five unanswered goals, forcing a game three.
With players such as Micah Miller, Spencer Meier, Brendan Bushy, Grant Cruikshank, and Aidan Spellacy skating in their final game at the Brooks Center, Sunday’s contest would be an emotional one, no matter the outcome. However, these fifth years along with seniors like Jami Krannila, Zach Okabe, Chase Brand, and Jaxon Castor knowing it could be their final game at the HBNHC, there were a lot of players who wanted their last game to be a winning game.
While the seniors and fifth years had extra motivation, the young guys on the team were the difference makers. Mason Reiners, Ethan AuCoin, Grant Ahcan, and Cooper Wylie would all be in the lineup with Coach Larson saying he wanted to add some young energy into the lineup.
The first period would be an even one, with neither team able to find the back of the net. Duluth would open scoring just 38 seconds into the middle frame with Luke Loheit putting one past Jaxon Castor. Just over the 6 minute mark, Cooper Wylie would tally the second of his collegiate career, tying the game at one a piece. 14 seconds later, fellow freshman Adam Ingram would beat Stejskal to give the Huskies the lead for the first time in game two.
The Huskies did a good job playing from behind, but it was short lived as Grant Cruikshank would also find the back of the net in the middle frame, putting State up by two.
Cruikshank’s would be the last goal scored in game three of the battle of the bone, leading the Huskies to victory and sending them to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since the 2020-21 season when SCSU made their championship run.