ST. CLOUD, MINN. – It was the dog fight of the ages: No. 1 St. Cloud State University and No. 3 University of Minnesota-Duluth duking it out in the final regular season weekend in National College Hockey Conference (NCHC) play. Fortunately, it was St. Cloud State that came out on top, as the team defeated its NCHC rival 4-3 at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center Friday evening.
"We knew it was going to be a battle," head coach Brett Larson said in a postgame press conference. "Nothing came easy for us. We had to work for everything with two highly skilled teams going head to head, but we came out on top."
The Huskies kicked off the scoring early in the first period as Patrick Newell capitalized on a power play opportunity to give St. Cloud State a 1-0 lead 3:27 into the game. The Bulldogs, though, answered not two minutes later, as Jade Miller beat David Hrenak to even the score at 1-1.
Again, the Huskies struck in the first period, as a breakaway goal by Micah Miller regained a one-lead for St. Cloud State. Naturally, Minnesota-Duluth answered with its second goal of the game, evening the score at 2-2 in the dwindling seconds of the first period.
Neither team scored in the second period, but it was again the Huskies that scored the first goal of the third period. Nick Perbix gave St. Cloud State a 3-2 advantage with 10:32 left to play in the period. The 10:32 was enough time for the Bulldogs to tie it for the third time, as Riley Tufte scored a powerplay goal with 2:30 remaining in regulation.
A hard-hitting final 2:30 resulted in a five-minute power play for the Huskies at the start of overtime, which was exactly what they needed to win the game for good. After 2:44 of extra play, Perbix found the back of the net for the second time. Rather than a slapshot from the right circle, though, Perbix hit a beauty of a backdoor shot to secure the 4-3 win for the Huskies.
Perbix was named the First Star of the game after tallying two goals and an assist during the game. Miller was named the Second Star and Newell earned Third Star honors.
Hrenak faced 28 shots and made 25 saves in roughly 63 minutes of work. St. Cloud State also tallied 28 shots on goal in the win.
With the win, the Huskies overall record improves to 26-4-3 and they are now 18-2-3 in NCHC play. St. Cloud State also preserved its perfect record in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, as the team is now 14-0-1 at home.
BRACKETOLOGY: Minnesota teams dominate the No. 1-seed line
The Huskies will return to action on Saturday, March 9 when they host the Bulldogs in the series finale at 4:07 p.m.