January 18, 2007
Silver Lining as St. Cloud's Streak Ends

By Jess Myers

With the weather in Minnesota finally turning cold, the January gloom that brings about seasonal affective disorder setting in, and his team’s school-record, 12-game winning streak coming to a surprisingly sudden end last Friday, St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko was still able to maintain an upbeat attitude. The Huskies led Minnesota State 4-1 with less than 16 minutes to play in St. Cloud before giving up five unanswered goals in a 6-4 loss. The teams skated to a scoreless draw the next night in Mankato, leaving the Huskies in what their coach called a bit of a “January funk” as they prepare to host Minnesota Duluth this weekend.

WCHA Notebook

Ryan Lasch and his St. Cloud State teammates had a 12-game win streak and 15-game unbeaten streak snapped by Minnesota State last weekend,

National TV Schedule

“What’s surprising isn’t that we gave up five goals,” said Motzko of last Friday’s game. “The big surprise is that we ever had a 4-1 lead, because we were not playing well.”

After getting just one point out of the weekend, Motzko took an optimistic tack again, pointing out that his team had held Minnesota State to one goal for more than 110 minutes over the weekend, and only had 10 truly bad minutes.

The Huskies enter the final seven weekends of the regular season tied for second place in the WCHA standings and seemingly in good position to get one of the five coveted home ice slots, but Motzko’s quick to point out that there’s not much separation between second and ninth place, and the Huskies are far from clinching anything just yet. The injury bug stayed away from central Minnesota for much of the season’s first half, but the Huskies are suddenly dealing with assorted bumps and bruises.

“We’ve been very fortunate, because every team goes through some injuries at some point and now it’s just our time,” Motzko said, noting that defensemen Justin Fletcher and Aaron Brocklehurst both missed significant time last weekend.

Another recent change in St. Cloud is the adjustment über-talented freshmen Andreas Nodl and Ryan Lasch are having to make as they get into the meat of the conference schedule in their first college hockey campaigns.

“The second half in our league is a totally different animal,” Motzko said. “The first half is all about survival and positioning, and now in the second half, you’re in a fight for marbles.”

The coach said that glancing in the rearview mirror at both the winning streak and 15-game unbeaten streak – the Huskies were 12-0-3 from Nov. 4 to Jan. 12 – it kind of came as a surprise to a club that tries not to look forward or back, but to focus on the task at hand.

“The lesson we take from it is don’t look at what you did to get there, just take it week to week,” Motzko said. “That’s one of those boring coach statements.”

Even after a dozen consecutive wins, the second-place Huskies are closer in the standings to the teams a few spots below them than they are to the first-place Golden Gophers, who enter the weekend with a seven-point advantage. Motzko certainly isn’t talking about making a run at his old team in the race for the title, but he isn’t exactly conceding it just yet either.

“Right now, it’s Minnesota’s deal, but we’ll hang around and see what happens,” he said. The Huskies’ second-to-last WCHA series is a home-and-home with Minnesota on Feb. 23-24. If they can hang around enough to enter that weekend within three points of the Gophers, one would think that any remnants of a January funk in St. Cloud would be long gone by then.


Copper Country Anthem ... or Dirge?: In the copper mining town that has been home to Michigan Technological University for more than a century, long-suffering Tech hockey fans figured they’d found a vein of some precious metal on the weekend before Halloween. That’s when the Huskies swept Alaska Anchorage in Houghton to improve to a surprising 5-1-0. The opening game of the sweep was a 9-0 rout that, a few months later, has given the Huskies' coach some second thoughts.

“We don’t give up a whole lot of grade-A scoring chances, but flip that around and we don’t generate a lot of offense either,” said Jamie Russell. “It’s a pretty fine line between winning and losing for us. Looking back, instead of winning a 9-0 game I would’ve liked to have saved some of those goals for later.”

Tech is in Anchorage this weekend, prepared to face the Seawolves again and maybe looking for the same kind of boost they got from the October meeting. After that hot start, the Huskies went on a 3-11-2 run before sweeping non-conference Bemidji State last weekend. Tied for ninth in the WCHA heading into the series, Russell admits it’s been a roller coaster ride for the Husky Nation.

“We lose four in a row and it’s like the world’s ending, where earlier in the year they were ready to give us the national championship,” said the coach. “We’re coming off a sweep without getting any league points, but we’re definitely coming into this weekend with some confidence and some momentum.”

With both teams desperately in need of points if either are to factor in the race for home ice, Russell doesn’t see his team’s second series versus the Seawolves as any kind of rematch or measuring stick.

“Your team is judged every weekend in the WCHA, so I don’t know if this series is a measuring stick more than any other in this league,” Russell said. “It’s a huge series for both programs in terms of the standings.”

It seems as if the Huskies are just the latest in a long line of explorers who've headed to Alaska down on their luck, but seeking to strike gold, or something like it.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Denver at Minnesota (Fri.-Sat.)
Jewelers could have as much interest as hockey fans this weekend as the owners of four of the past five NCAA title rings get together in Minneapolis. This series might be the last best chance for anyone to catch the Golden Gophers in the race for the league title. DU trails by seven points, but could cut that margin to three with a sweep at Mariucci Arena. Of course, the Gophers haven’t lost a game there in more than a year.

While You're There: Saturday is the first Hockey Day in Minnesota, and Fox Sports will highlight three games during an all-day hockey broadcast. While the outdoor high school game being played between Lake of the Woods and St. Paul Johnson on a frozen river in Baudette, is a good six-hour drive from Minneapolis, fans with connections can enjoy a double-dip if they leave Mariucci a little early and head to St. Paul for the Wild and Stars at Xcel Energy Center.

Stick Salute

We may have overlooked a super sophomore by predicting guys named Oshie and Toews would lead North Dakota offensively this season. The WCHA has picked Sioux sophomore forward Ryan Duncan as its offensive player of the week twice already this month. The most recent honor came after Duncan had four points in NoDak’s win and tie over Alaska Anchorage. He leads the team with 27 points in 24 games.

Bench Minor

We love the idea of Minnesota following hockey-mad places like Michigan and Canada in having its own Hockey Day this year, and we realize that this is the first one. That said, there are five Division teams in the state. Having the event focus on just one (Minnesota) of the five is a disappointment that we hope is corrected in the future.


• One reason for the better-than-expected record put up by Alaska Anchorage so far (the Seawolves were picked for 10th by the league’s coaches, but are 10-11-3 heading into this weekend’s homes series with Michigan Tech) has got to be more shots and more goals. One goal this weekend by the Seawolves will give them 67 for the season, which equals their total for all of the 2005-06 campaign. And the Alaskans have outshot opponents in 12 of 24 games this season, after outshooting their foes just 11 times in the previous 113 games.

• Last Friday’s 2-1 Wisconsin win over Minnesota was notable not only because it snapped the Gophers’ three-month unbeaten streak. The victory was number 1,000 for the Badgers since the reinstatement of the Wisconsin hockey program in 1963. And, in continuing evidence that it might just be “one of those seasons” for the Badgers, they held the league’s most prolific offense (the Gophers) to just two goals for the weekend, and only managed a split.

• Colorado College goalie Matt Zaba had a relatively light night of work in last Saturday’s 4-2 win at Minnesota Duluth. The Tiger netminder faced just 19 shots, which was the third time this season that a CC opponent has been held below 20 shots on goal. Interestingly enough, the Tigers are just 2-1 in those games, having lost 3-2 to Bemidji State last month in a game where the Beavers had a paltry 14 shots on goal.

• Bulldog fans might shudder just a bit when they see their team get on a bus headed for a WCHA opponent’s rink. Minnesota Duluth heads to St. Cloud State this weekend having won just one of its past 14 WCHA road games. A 7-4 victory at Alaska Anchorage on Dec. 2 was the only bright spot in a 1-11-2 streak by Scott Sandelin and company.

• The WCHA front office can continue to taunt the CCHA office with the chant “Our Mavs are better than your Mavs!” On Tuesday, Minnesota State improved its all-time record versus Nebraska-Omaha to 12-5-3 with a 3-2 overtime road win. Jon Kalinski got his 11th goal of the season in the extra session, extending the purple-wearing Mavericks’ unbeaten streak against their red-clad counterparts to 11. After a dismal start to the season, Minnesota State is a respectable 5-3-1 in its last nine games, and is off this weekend.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at jess@insidecollegehockey.com.