St. Cloud, CC limp into big WCHA series

by Tim Nichols

Regardless of what Gophers fans might think, one of the more important series in the WCHA this weekend will not be played in Denver.
Up the road from Minneapolis at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, the St. Cloud State Huskies (9-8-1, 5-7-0 WCHA) play host to the hurting Colorado College (14-5-1, 9-3-0 WCHA) for a critical series for St. Cloud State.
“When you have 20 players who work hard in practice [and] give you three periods in a game, you get better and that’s all I ask,” Huskies coach Craig Dahl said. “The guys have been doing a nice job, and the morale has been high. We’ve been making steady progress.”
A large part of the Huskies’ improvement is the recent play of freshman goaltender Dean Weasler.
The Rosemount, Minn., native has been solid since returning from a concussion he suffered Oct. 24 against the Gophers, posting an overall record of 6-3-0 with a 3.65 goals-against average. And as Minnesota fans might remember, Weasler played the entire game, even though he says he doesn’t remember some of it.
“He kept trying to play,” Dahl said. “His peripheral vision was gone, which is why he let some goals in.”
It seems Weasler might be the resident tough guy on the team. But he says it wasn’t always this way.
“It was difficult (when I first started here),” Weasler said. “I came in overweight and out of shape. I had to lose 10 pounds and 4 to 5 percent body fat. I wasn’t working hard enough. When I was playing juniors, I didn’t have to do anything.”
But when he came to St. Cloud State, he realized he needed to step up his game after Dahl had a sit-down with all of his goaltenders after the series against Minnesota.
Dahl singles out Weasler and sophomore Scott Meyer as “stepping up” in practice. But Meyer will not be available this weekend because he suffered a concussion in a game against Minnesota State.
“You don’t like to see your goaltenders get hurt,” Dahl said. “If a St. Cloud State player takes an opponent into our goalie, that’s one thing. If the goalie comes out, and a player is sweeping in from the side, he can’t go after the goalie. He can’t go around a St. Cloud player into the goalie. Those goalies are in a very, very vulnerable position and the referees have to protect them.”
Having players hurt is something Colorado College is all too familiar with as they hobble into this series.
The Tigers are coming off a couple of poor performances, losing to New Hampshire and tying Maine. But Colorado College might be more concerned with keeping players healthy than the win column.
“We lost Chris Hartsburg to a shoulder separation in the first shift of the Maine game,” Tigers coach Don Lucia said. “We’re not too concerned with wins or losses right now, we’re just trying to keep our head above water.”
But even without the freshman winger and junior forward K.J. Voorhees, the Tigers will still have point machines Brian Swanson and Darren Clark, who have scored an overall 74 points combined.
For the Huskies to have a shot at a possible split or sweep, Weasler will have to come up huge.
“This is big for us,” Weasler said. “We’re going to have to control Brian Swanson and those guys. If we split or sweep, they’ll see that we’re serious.”