Article Written by Samantha Roering. Photo by Samantha Roering.
After splitting a series with Alaska Fairbanks, SCSU’s men’s hockey team had a crucial bye week to refocus before beginning conference play. They started the season 2-4, taking two of those losses in overtime fashion. Tight games where the team couldn’t finish it off led to these frustrating losses, leaving players with a sour feeling.
The team had some time to process that feeling and make adjustments before they opened a big series against the Miami RedHawks. The start of conference play gave the Huskies a blank slate and a chance to show they could be a competitive team in the NCHC. Getting a win against their first conference rival was what they needed, and it’s what they were able to accomplish on Friday.
They pulled ahead in a 3-2 win where they made noticeable improvements in many aspects of their game. Scoring the goals for the Huskies were Mason Salquist, Veeti Miettinen, and Verner Miettinen. For Verner, it was his first collegiate goal, something that had been on his mind for a while.
“It felt amazing. My first goal in my seventh game. I kind of had a monkey on my back, so it’s such a relief to get it over with,” Verner said of his goal.
Verner Miettinen is one of eight freshmen who joined the program this season, and he’s already made an impact. In his seven games with the Huskies, he’s picked up three points from two assists and one goal. He’s not afraid to shoot the puck and has generated 15 shots through his first few weeks of play.
His stats on the scoresheet don’t tell the complete story either, as he’s already become one of the most dependable guys on the team. He’s seen the ice in pivotal make-or-break moments for the Huskies, including on both the penalty kill and power play.
Currently playing on a line with his brother Veeti, and 5th-year forward Zach Okabe, Verner’s skill and reliability have been noted by other teammates. From captain Dylan Anhorn to top-line center Mason Salquist, everyone has had nothing but praise for the young Finn.
“He’s on the ice in every situation, that’s for sure. He’s really good on faceoffs and plays a full 200-foot game. He kills penalties and also finds the back of the net,” Mason Salquist complimented.
Verner isn’t the only Miettinen who’s been successful this season. His older brother Veeti, a difference-maker in his previous three seasons, continues to showcase his sharpshooting ability. Veeti leads the team in goals, with four, and has scored goals in three consecutive games.
Like Verner, Veeti finds himself on the ice in many situations. He’s a key factor in the team’s power play, often lining himself up for a chance at a perfect snipe. While both brothers can put a puck in the back of the net, they aren’t afraid to block a shot or two. Each picked up key blocked shots in Friday’s game, with the team as a whole blocking seven.
“That was awesome. They both blocked huge shots. They both played great at both ends of the rink. It’s fun to see two brothers out there playing like that,” Coach Larson said.
Despite being linemates, there’s still an element of rivalry in their relationship. Both of them scoring goals and blocking shots in the same game adds to it. Though teammates like Salquist are hesitant to chime in on who the better brother is, Verner had no problem making his case.
“I actually have a better shot than him,” Verner quipped.
Regardless of who has the best shot, the team, and fans are grateful to have the Miettinen’s on the ice this season. With both contributing to the win, it’ll be exciting to watch their line continue to grow as the season goes on.
Another line with success in Friday’s win was the top line of Kyler Kupka, Mason Salquist, and Joe Molenaar. Salquist scored his seventh career goal and was incredible on faceoffs. He went 21-5, with the team going 42-20.
Dominic Basse collected the win in net for St. Cloud as he saved 21 of 23 shots he faced. It’s the fifth time this season that he’s gotten 20 or more saves in a single game.
All around, the effort was there for the Huskies. Special teams showed improvement, and their 5-on-5 play also got better. They’ll look for the sweep against Miami on Saturday.
“I thought Miami played really well, which made it a tough game. I was happy with our guys for sticking with it,” Coach Larson said.