Article Written by Luke Paider.

The St. Cloud State Huskies started fast and finished strong on their way to a Game 1 win over the Western Michigan Broncos. The Huskies are now just one win away from advancing to the NCHC playoff semi final held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The game was always going to be tightly contested, while St. Cloud came into the weekend with the home ice advantage after finishing 3rd in the NCHC; it was Western Michigan that held the higher national ranking. With both teams having everything to play for in a playoff atmosphere it was sure to be an exciting matchup.

The Broncos appeared to get the scoring started just under five minutes into the first period when Freshman Forward Alex Bump got a puck past Isaac Posch. But a challenge by St. Cloud Head Coach Brett Larson for a handpass earlier in the possession took Western Michigan’s goal off the board.

The Huskies would get the first official goal of the night on a deflection in front of the net by Forward Jack Rodgers. The deflection came from a shot from Josh Luedtke who along with Barrett Hall picked up assists on the goal. During the first intermission Jack Rodgers spoke in an interview about the importance of everyone continuing to play their role through the next 40 minutes.

The Huskies then came out in the second period and outshot Western Michigan 11-5 in the frame. They also had the advantage in the face-offs winning 11 of 17 total face-offs. The Huskies also added to their lead halfway through the period when reigning NCHC rookie of the week Tyson Gross scored a goal, increasing his goal streak to three straight games.

Gross got past Broncos Goaltender Cameron Rowe from the high slot with assists from Dylan Anhorn and Adam Ingram. The Huskies would finish the second period with a 2-0 advantage over the visiting Broncos.

Entering the third period the Huskies held the two goal lead but, Western Michigan had been here before. Everyone knew this game was far from over.

The Broncos looked to get the comeback started on a power play when Huskies Captain Dylan Anhorn was sent to the penalty box with over 14 minutes left to play. Despite being a man down it was St. Cloud’s special team’s unit lighting the lamp.

It started with a Tyson Gross face off win that sparked a three on two fast breaks for the Huskies that culminated in Veeti Miettinen scoring the shorthanded goal and pushing St. Cloud’s lead to three.

After that Western Michigan came alive. One minute and 31 seconds after the shorthanded goal the Broncos would bring the deficit back down to two with a goal from the man who had his goal called off earlier Alex Bump. Bump brought the game within one just two minutes later getting his 12 and 13 goals of the season in a big moment for Western Michigan as the game was now 3-2 with over nine minutes left to play.

The game went back and forth for the next couple minutes until Western Michigan Forward Chad Hillebrand was called for a five-minute major for hitting from behind on Joe Molenaar. The penalty was called with 5:39 left in the game so St. Cloud would be on the power play for nearly the rest of the game. That did not stop them from being aggressive even with the goal advantage.

Over the five minutes stretch the Huskies would score twice. First, from Mason Salquist and the second from Josh Luedtke. The Huskies, now with a commanding 5-2 lead, cruised to the final horn to get their first Friday night win at home since Dec. 29. The Huskies will had the opportunity to sweep Western Michigan in Saturday’s matchup.

In a postgame interview, Mason Salquist said one of the keys for tomorrow is maintaining the same energy they had in tonight’s win.

The Huskies are halfway to punching their ticket to the semifinals of the NCHC playoffs and continue to strengthen their resume in hopes of securing their spot in the national tournament.

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