Article Written by Samantha Roering. Photo by Samantha Roering.
The Huskies needed a strong showing against the Miami RedHawks to open conference play. After facing adversity to start the season, a breakthrough series was necessary to get the team back on track. Picking up a 3-2 win in game 1, they looked to finish off game 2 with a victory.
What the team got was a dominant 6-0 win, giving Husky fans a lot to be excited about. Senior goaltender Dominic Basse recorded his second shutout of the season, stopping 15 shots. Several members of the team awoke from a goal drought as well, with goals from Jack Peart and Josh Luedtke.
Other players continued their hot starts, with Veeti Miettinen extending his goal streak to 4 consecutive games. The star of the game was none other than Joe Molenaar, who picked up his first collegiate hat trick in the win.
“The guys were really fired up for Joe. Joe has been a really good player for us for the whole time he’s been here, and just to see him break through like that, I could tell in the locker room the guys were genuinely really happy for him,” Coach Larson said.
Molenaar and the Huskies didn’t have the easiest path to victory on Saturday. The first period was a back-and-forth battle, with neither the Huskies nor RedHawks able to find the scoreboard. The Huskies saw some time on the power play to start the game and applied pressure to Miami’s defense. However, they wouldn’t be able to score, and the rest of the period would be uneventful for each team. Both sides played a hard game but struggled to create high-danger opportunities.
The RedHawks outshot the Huskies 7-5 in the opening period of play, though the momentum would quickly shift to St. Cloud’s favor as the game progressed. They’d come out in the second period and make the game their own.
“I thought that first period was as even as it gets. There was no space. The message in the locker room was expect hard every period. Expect it not to be easy. I was really proud of the guys for coming out and finding another gear,” Coach Larson said.
The team’s second half of the game looked completely different than the first. Each player seemed to be playing with a new spark. From Joe Molenaar’s opening goal to break open the scoring to his last goal to secure the hat trick, each time the Huskies scored, the energy seemed to increase.
They truly unlocked a new gear as the game went on, and different players slowly seemed to come to life. Of those players, Josh Luedtke and Jack Peart each finding the back of the net is one of the most promising signs. Though the two haven’t been bad to start the season, it’s evident that seeing the scoresheet gave them an extra burst of energy.
As a whole, it was one of the most encouraging games from the team. They were 76% on faceoffs and didn’t spend much of the game chasing. They also improved their power play to 22.2% As special teams found success, their 5-on-5 play began to thrive even more.
“We’re finally starting to play free. I thought all year it’s been so tight, and we’ve had those games where you just felt like it was coming,” Coach Larson said.
With six goals, there was a lot for the team to get pumped up about. Joe Molenaar’s hat trick was one of those things that got the crowd going. Stepping into the role of assistant captain, Molenaar has been a bright spot for the team both on and off the ice.
Through 8 games, Molenaar has earned six points, coming from five goals and one assist. His five goals this season already match his career-high of five goals.
“I’ve known that I need to step up. This team needs some veteran presence, and I’m doing everything I can every night to help this group succeed,” Molenaar said.
The team will travel to Western Michigan this weekend for another series of conference play. Western Michigan has gotten off to a 4-1-1 start and will be a difficult opponent for the Huskies.
The sweep of Miami gives the team some confidence before what looks to be another intense weekend of conference play. If they enter Kalamazoo with the same attitude they had this past weekend, the team has a chance to make it a series worth watching.
“That was the goal going into the weekend. Take care of business on Friday and then do the same on Saturday. As a group, it was big for us to feel that winning feeling,” Molenaar added.