Article Written by Samantha Roering.
In their 17th NCAA tournament appearance, the St. Cloud State University Huskies hockey team matched against the Minnesota State Mavericks. The Mavericks finished the season 25-12-1 with a win in the CCHA tournament, while SCSU went 24-12-3, winning the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
The first period of play began in favor of the Mavericks. The Huskies got outshot 10-4, spending most of the period in their defensive zone. That was largely due to poor puck handling and cheap turnovers in their own zone. Luckily, they were bailed out by senior goaltender Jaxon Castor, who would make saves on all shots faced.
The second period would start with the momentum in favor of Minnesota State University again. SCSU’s penalty kill got tested as Jami Krannila was sent to the box for two minutes due to a slashing penalty. The Huskies would successfully kill the penalty and be sent to a power play of their own when Brendan Furry got called for holding.
They’d capitalize on the power play with a wrist shot from Veeti Miettinen, giving the Huskies the first goal. The assists went to Grant Cruikshank and Adam Ingram, with the momentum shifting in SCSU’s favor.
Shortly after the goal, SCSU’s Josh Luedtke and MSU’s Lucas Sowder got sent to the box on offsetting minors. That’d mean two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. The Huskies would control the puck for most of that time, generating some scoring chances in the process.
While nothing would come of the 4-on-4 play, the energy continued to tilt in SCSU’s favor. They’d create more scoring opportunities, handle the puck better, and look like a complete team. That was evident when defensemen Jack Peart picked up the second goal for the Huskies. The shot, from just inside the blue line, was assisted by Jack Rogers and Grant Ahcan. It’d extend the Huskies’ lead to close out the second period.
They’d start the third with some of that same energy they closed the second on, generating opportunities and defending well. That’d be interrupted, as a tripping call against Mason Reiners would send them to a crucial penalty kill. They escaped unscathed, not allowing a shot on goal, thanks to shot blocks from Kyler Kupka and Brendan Bushy.
Jaxon Castor would continue to impress as the Mavericks tried to rally late in the game. MSU’s efforts would fall short, and the Huskies would add an insurance goal. Veeti Miettinen would miss his shot, and Aidan Spellacy would be unsuccessful with the rebound. The second rebound, however, would be put in the net by Zach Okabe, putting the Huskies ahead 3-0.
The Mavericks started to get desperate and pulled their goalie, Keenan Rancier, from the net. They’d create a few opportunities with the extra man, but ultimately fall short.
Grant Cruikshank would seal the Huskies’ win with an empty net goal, assisted by Micah Miller. With 3:16 remaining on the clock, Keenan Rancier would return to the net, finishing the night with 17 saves on 20 shots.
The Huskies would win it 4-0, with all three stars of the game belonging to SCSU. The first star, Jaxon Castor completed the shutout with 34 saves. The second star, Veeti Miettinen, finished the evening with a goal and an assist. Lastly, the third star belonged to Jack Peart, with a goal and +/- of 2 for the game.
For the sixth time in program history, the Huskies have advanced to the Regional finals, where they will attempt to secure a spot in the Frozen Four. They’ll face off against the #1-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers, who won their Regional semifinal 9-2 against Canisius College. The showdown between the two Minnesota teams will occur at 5:30 p.m. Central time on Saturday.