Huskies Bite Back, Force Series Split with TOmmies

St. Thomas’ Mack Byers battles St. Cloud State’s Mason Salquist in the faceoff circle during a game Oct. 8 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Saturday’s season opener between St. Thomas and St. Cloud State was filled with penalties and power play goals with the Tommies eventually winning in overtime, 5-4.  

In Sunday’s rematch, penalties again were the story of the game, but the goals didn’t come as easy. There was only one and it came in the second period off the stick of Huskies center Adam Ingram. St. Cloud then held on the rest of the way to earn a 1-0 victory and force the series split.

“I think both nights were good college hockey games,” St. Thomas head coach Rico Blasi said. “Tonight, I thought our team got better as the game went along. They (the Huskies) did a really good job keeping us to the outside and blocking shots. We threw the kitchen sink at them there at the end, but sometimes you don’t get those bounces. That’s a good hockey team over there. That’s why they’re ranked in the top 10 and I think we went toe to toe with them. We’ve just got to continue to focus on that day-to-day process and continue to get better. I think the last two nights, we definitely got better as a team.” 

St. Thomas forward Jake Braccini brings the puck up ice during a game against St. Cloud State Oct. 8 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

The penalties started quickly in the first period as five total calls were issued, which kept both teams from generating any true offensive chances. St. Cloud had a couple decent looks with the first one coming on a shorthanded attempt by Ryan Rosborough and the other two coming on the Huskies’ final power play of the period. However, Tommies goalie Aaron Trotter made back-to-back saves to keep the game knotted at 0-0 heading into the second.  

“I feel like we did a really good job on our PK today,” Trotter said. “Obviously, we got caught not moving our feet a lot and then they capitalized last night on that. But I think overall, we battled adversity, and we held our own.” 

The penalties continued into the second with the Tommies getting a big opportunity with 17:15 remaining as Huskies forward Mason Salquist was handed a 5-minute major and a game misconduct. However, St. Cloud shut down passing lanes and kept the Tommies off the scoreboard.  

At the 10:36 mark, Ingram broke the 0-0 tie with a great individual effort. He stole the puck from UST’s Jake Ratzlaff at the blue line, raced down the left boards and beat Trotter on a breakaway to make it 1-0.

St. Thomas’ Lucas Wahlin delivers a check to St. Cloud State’s Jack Peart during a game Oct. 8 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

In the third period, St. Cloud appeared to go up 2-0 after Kyler Kupka snapped a shot over a sprawling Trotter with 14:46 left. However, after a long review, it was determined that the Huskies were offsides and the goal was waved off.  

With 2:09 remaining, the Tommies then looked like they’d found the equalizer as captain Lucas Wahlin roofed a shot over Huskies goalie Dominic Basse, but the goal was waved off due to UST being offsides. The Tommies pulled Trotter a few seconds later, but despite a flurry of shots in the final minute, they couldn’t tie it up.  

Some might see last night’s win, or the series split as a whole, as a big upset, but the Tommies don’t have that mindset.  

“Our culture has just grown so much from what it was last season,” Wahlin said. “All the guys are bought in. When we’re conditioning at the end of practice, we’re all bought in on working hard and not finishing last. It’s great. It showed tonight on how much we dominated them throughout the whole game. We outshot St. Cloud. Two years ago, we lost to them 12-2. It just shows that we’re here instead of what people think, Like ‘Oh, we’re an underdog,’ but we’re here.” 

St. Thomas’ Mack Byers tries to get the puck past St. Cloud State goalie Dominic Basse during a game Oct. 8 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Shannon Stieg)

The Tommies play a series against Minnesota next weekend with Friday’s game being played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with UST serving as the home team. It’s a big event overall for the program, but Trotter and Wahlin say it’s just another series.  

“I feel like each game, we just go in worrying about our thing and not really worrying about what other people think,” Trotter said. “Like what Lucas was saying, everyone’s gonna think that we’re underdogs, but we know we’re not.” 

“To build off that, yeah, we’re playing the Gophers, but it’s just another game for us,” Wahlin added. “We’re there to win, we’re there to compete and we’re gonna work our butts off every single second of that game.” 

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