ST. CLOUD, Minn. – No. 8 St. Cloud State (18-11-1, 15-6-1 WCHA) continued its hold on first place in the WCHA with a crucial 4-3 victory against No. 1 Minnesota (19-5-4, 11-5-4 WCHA) on Saturday in front of a standing room only crowd of 6,140 at the National Hockey and Event Center.
The victory pushed SCSU’s league point total to 31 on the season, while North Dakota ranks second with 28 points on the season. Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha both stand in third place in the WCHA with 26 points after this weekend’s games.
The Huskies and Gophers battled to a scoreless tie through the first period before SCSU gained a 1-0 goal lead early in the second period. At 2:39 of the second, SCSU’s Joey Holka teed off on a bouncing, loose puck in front of the UM net to score his third goal of the season. Linemate Garrett Milan and goalie Ryan Faragher each had assists on the play.
This was Milan’s second assist of the season and it was also Faragher’s second assist of the season and his fourth career helper at SCSU.
The Huskies stretched their lead to 2-0 at 17:48 of the second period with an even-strength goal by Nic Dowd. Jimmy Murray and Kevin Gravel both added assists on the goal, which was Dowd’s 13th goal and 30th point of the season.
Minnesota broke the SCSU shutout in the closing minute of the second period with a 5-on-3 power-play goal by Nate Schmidt, which was assisted by Erik Haula and Zach Buddish.
In the third period, SCSU charged back to take control of the game with a goal by Jonny Brodzinski three minutes into the period. Nick Jensen and Dowd each contributed helpers on the play. The goal was Brodzinski’s team-leading 14th of the season, while Jensen now has 20 assists on the year for the Huskies. Jensen now ranks second among Division I defenders with 20 assists this season and Brodzinski ranks third among Division I rookies with 14 goals.
Drew LeBlanc moved his season goal total to 10 as he scored the eventual game winner at the 6:40 mark of the third period, which helped the Huskies get out to a commanding 4-1 lead. Kalle Kossila and Gravel each coined assists on the play.
The goal was LeBlanc’s 40th point of the season and he is one of just four players in all of DI this season with 40-plus points. The assist was Kossila’s 15th of the year and it was also Gravel’s eighth assist of 2012-13. Kossila currently ranks fourth among DI rookies with 27 points in 2012-13.
The Gophers relied on another power-play opportunity to close the score to 4-2 with a goal by Nick Bjugstad at 10:53 of the third. Haula and Kyle Rau each had assists on the play. UM continued its rally at 14:26 with a goal by Nate Condon to make it 4-3.
In the closing minute of play, Minnesota pulled its goalie for the extra attacker but a Gopher penalty at 19:25 helped ice the win for the Huskies.
In the net, Ryan Faragher charted his 17th win of the year with a 36 save effort. During the weekend, Faragher chalked up 74 saves in the two games against Minnesota.
On the power play, SCSU was 0 of 2 and the Gophers were 2 of 4 in the game.