Thursday, October 06, 2005

WCHA Preview - 9. St. Cloud State Huskies

Thanks to Zach Landwehr, St. Cloud State fan and overall good person, for submitting the information for this entry. It was a bit late, but I'd rather have it a little late than not have it at all.

Last year: 14-23-3, 8-19-1 WCHA (9th). Lost to Colorado College in WCHA first round.
Coach: Bob Motzko, first season (interim coach)
Top returnees
Forwards: Joe Jensen, sr (12-14-26); Billy Hengen, sr (7-15-22); Andrew Gordon, soph (9-8-17); Matt Hartman, sr (6-8-14)
Defensemen: Justin Fletcher, jr (8-14-22); Grant Clafton, jr (8-9-17)
Goalies: Tim Boron, jr (10-18-3, 3.00, .904); Jason Montgomery, sr (4-5-0, 2.92, .886)
Top newcomers: Bobby Goepfert, G (transfer/Providence); Michael Olson, F; David Carlisle, D
Biggest losses: Dave Iannazzo, F (16-16-32); Peter Szabo, F (5-15-20); Matt Gens, D (3-14-17)

Assess the 2004-2005 season. What went right and what went wrong?:
Another dismal year in St. Cloud. There’s a joke amongst WCHA fans that the Huskies tend to “swoon” around Christmas break. That wasn’t the case last year, as SCSU swooned right out of the gate. Also, goaltending was hurting for the first time in several years. Tim Boron struggled, and when Craig Dahl brought in Jason Montgomery to replace him, Monty hadn’t played in so long that he had what I call “rink rust.” St. Cloud would give up goals early and have to play catch-up the rest of the game.

What are the overall strengths of the team?:
A young core of players. Freshmen got a lot of playing time last year, which should help their on-ice maturity. This, along with the infusion of new blood in SCSU alum and former Gophers assistant coach Bob Motzko, makes it seem as if there may be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow instead of a leprechaun to kick the Husky faithful in the shins.

What are the overall weaknesses of the team?:
Questionable defense. Husky defensemen being out of position as well as failure to keep the opposition out of the slot create too many scoring chances. Without high-powered offensive players like Mark Hartigan, Joe Motzko, and Tyler Arnason around, the Huskies need to rely on their defense and goaltending…or else it will be a long season.

Special teams also had their problems. Craig Dahl would parade out the same systems game after game, even though it would fail basically every time and SCSU ended the season with a PP percentage of 12.2, a far cry from the year with Hartigan where the Huskies led the nation in powerplay percentage.

Best-case scenario:
Top 5 finish in the WCHA along with a trip to the Final Five. I would accept an upset win in the first round.

Put your cowbell down and stop yelling at that poor goalie. Be as objective as you can possibly stand to be. Where will your team finish in the WCHA and why?:
Seventh. I see St. Cloud finishing ahead of Michigan Tech, Minnesota State Mankato, and Alaska Anchorage. Will the Huskies live up to the hype? There have been many players in the WCHA who came in highly touted. Some panned out. Others fizzled. It’s put up or shut up time in St. Cloud. A few players need to prove that they deserved that Division 1 scholarship.

Bruce's analysis:
Denver has veterans. CC has veterans. Even the Gophers have veterans. In a league like this, I just can't see a young team like St. Cloud accomplishing much, though a fresh start with Motzko might help down the road. In the end, the Huskies are too leaky on defense and not strong enough on offense to make an immediate improvement, though they'll avoid last place in the league.

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