Series of the Week: No. 1 St. Cloud State vs. No. 5 Minnesota Duluth
As the second half of the college hockey season kicks into full swing, two traditional blue blood programs will be fighting for supremacy in the competitive National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
First-ranked St. Cloud State Huskies will be traveling two hours northeast to take on the defending national champion, fifth-ranked Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. These two teams have yet to meet in the regular season thus far.
The Huskies enter the weekend series with a 14-2-2 overall record and currently sit at the top of the NCHC with 21 conference points. For the Bulldogs, they are in third place with an overall record of 11-5-2 and 13 conference points.
Senior forward Patrick Newell leads the Huskies with 21 points. Newell is also the leading scorer with 11 goals so far this season while also putting up 10 assists.
Junior forward Ryan Poehling, a 2017 first-round draft pick for the Montreal Canadiens, leads St. Cloud with 14 assists. The gritty stick-handler is a true difference maker and a force to be reckoned with, alongside senior forward Robby Jackson and freshman Nolan Walker.
In net, St. Cloud State has two options to choose from: David Hrenak and Jeff Smith.
Hrenak was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Kings and has received the nod in net more than the senior Smith.
The sophomore netminder has allowed 26 goals with a goals against average of just over two and a save percentage of .903. In addition, the Huskies record is 10-1-1 with Hrenak between the pipes.
In their last six games, Minnesota Duluth is 1-4-1. However, the Bulldogs are a team that is notoriously known for turning up the intensity as the second half of the season begins.
Sophomore defensemen Scott Perunovich only lit the lamp twice so far, but he has 16 assists and leads the team with 18 points. The St. Louis Blues prospect had 25 assists in the 2017-2018 season and there’s no mistaking that he is an offensive weapon who also sets up other players for success.
Parker Mackay is Duluth’s leading scorer with eight goals in 18 games. The senior forward has played great hockey for the maroon and gold and he is easily one of the most experienced players on this team.
Senior forward Peter Krieger and sophomore forward Justin Richards each have 11 assists this season and they, too, are weapons when going on the attack.
In net, Hunter Shepard has been performing at an extremely high level and is currently seventh in the country for goals allowed per game, surrendering an average of just shy of two goals.
Shepard has a record of 11-5-2, giving up 33 goals and making 367 saves paired with a save percentage of .917.
The Huskies and Bulldogs are two shining stars in the college hockey world and have been for decades. When these two powerhouses meet, there seems to be a different type of energy in the air.
This series will definitely be an indicator as to who should be a one-seed and who should be a two-seed come tournament time. Look for both teams to assert physical play right from the puck drop.
These two teams will face off at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. on Friday. They will meet again in March at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Christopher Hess is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.