St. Cloud State sweeps Minnesota

Mark Remme

Suddenly the top of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings look a bit more interesting.

Conference-leading Minnesota failed again to lock up the WCHA crown against second-place St. Cloud State, dropping a 5-3 decision at home and making the once unbeatable Gophers squad look vulnerable and quite human.

“We haven’t won anything yet,” coach Don Lucia said. “The bottom line is we need to play better.”

The Mariucci Arena sellout crowd of 10,216 did all it could to match the intensity at the National Hockey Center the night before, but the Gophers were unable to stifle a suddenly red-hot St. Cloud State team that looks more than ready for post-season play.

“I think we’re a dangerous team,” Huskies senior goaltender Bobby Goepfert said. “What’s unique about us is that we find ways to win.”

Goepfert steered away 39 of 42 Gophers shots on the night, keeping the Huskies in the game despite trailing 3-1 midway through the second period.

That changed with an even-strength goal by St. Cloud State junior forward Marty Mjelleli at 16:28 of the second. The goal cut Minnesota’s lead to one, but more importantly it took momentum away from a Gophers squad that would never get it back.

“We were getting our butts kicked,” Huskies coach Bob Motzko said. “We were going 45 (miles per hour) and they were going 72.”

But Mjelleli’s goal sparked the Huskies (20-6-6 overall, 14-6-6 WCHA) to four unanswered goals, a feat Minnesota couldn’t match.

The Gophers (25-7-3, 17-6-3) ended the year 0-2-2 against the Huskies, and have won just once against St. Cloud State since Motzko took over the Huskies last season last season – a span of seven contests.

And by failing to beat St. Cloud State again, Minnesota watched its conference lead drop to just three points heading into the final weekend of regular season play.

GAME SUMMARY

1st 2nd 3rd — T

Huskies 1 1 3 — 5

Gophers 1 2 0 — 3

SCORING

1st: UMN: Kaufmann-7 (Stoa-9, Okposo-18); SCSU: Kroenick-12 (Stephenson-16, Swanson-9)

2nd: UMN: Barriball-16 (Wheeler-19), Wheeler-13 (Barriball-20, Gordon-16); SCSU: Mjelleli-3 (Houseman-4, Raboin-7)

3rd: UMN: no scoring; SCSU: Houseman-4 (Brocklehurst-6), Raduns-6 (Lasch-21), Stephenson-2 (unassisted)