SAINT PAUL, Minn. - St. Cloud State forward Nick Poehling scored 1:47 into overtime to secure a 3-2 victory over North Dakota in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals Friday evening at Xcel Energy Center.
The win sends the Huskies (25-7-6) to the Frozen Faceoff Championship game for the first time since 2016. The win also dealt a serious blow to North Dakota’s NCAA Tournament hopes, threatening to snap North Dakota’s streak of 15-consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Friday's attendance of 11,983 fans set a single-day Frozen Faceoff attendance record in the tournament's debut at its new home.
While the Huskies will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament regardless of tomorrow's outcome, Poehling believes that these games are crucial to maintain their momentum.
“We just want to be our best every night. We know that we’re automatically in the NCAA Tournament, but the minute you start letting up, that’s when bad things start to happen," Poehling said.
It was the first game of the 2018 Frozen Faceoff and the first-ever NCHC Tournament game at Xcel Energy Center -- and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Poehling put the exclamation point on a back-and-forth, action packed 60-plus minutes when he picked up a turnover and beat Cam Johnson on the glove-side corner.
It was the third straight overtime game for the Huskies, who needed extra time to beat Miami and advance to the Frozen Faceoff last Sunday.
“At least you’re not nervous cause you’ve been there, you just went through two [against Miami] and we had been through one in North Dakota the week before that,' said SCSU head coach Bob Motzko. "A high percentage of games in the NCAA playoffs go to overtime, and to have lived a few, it can do nothing but help."
North Dakota (16-13-10) sent the game to overtime with a power play goal at the halfway point of the third, the first time that a Frozen Faceoff semifinal has gone to overtime. The Fighting Hawks hadn’t seen any success on the previous four power play chances throughout the game, but the fifth one was the charm. Nick Jones sent the puck across the slot to Trevor Olson, who fed it down to a wide-open Jordan Kawaguchi in a highlight-reel, tic-tac-toe tally. The goal swung momentum in North Dakota’s favor, as they garnered a handful of scoring chances over the subsequent minutes. Even so, SCSU outshot the Fighting Hawks over the final two periods 34-23 overall.
While North Dakota had an 8-6 shots on goal advantage heading into the first intermission, it was the Huskies who held a lead after the first period. Six minutes in, Huskies forward Patrick Newell opened the scoring with a one-timer in the slot. Defenseman Jack Ahcan skated across the UND zone, drawing three North Dakota players with him before passing to a wide-open Newell, who beat Johnson over the shoulder.
The Fighting Hawks battled back with a handful of scoring chances, but it wasn’t until the 4:39 mark of the second period that UND got onto the scoreboard, with a wraparound goal from Jones, who was the hero last week when he scored the equalizer and overtime winner last week to send UND to the Frozen Faceoff. The tie wouldn’t last for long, however, as Easton Brodzinski capitalized on a turnover and fired a shot through traffic to retake the lead for the Huskies at the game’s midway point.
If it weren’t for Johnson, the Huskies could have built a sizeable lead in the second period. He made 14 saves, including a pair of desperation saves sliding across the crease to keep the Fighting Hawks within reach. Overall, the senior made 30 saves in the loss.
“We came out after two periods and realized we weren’t playing our best hockey, and if it wasn’t for Cam [Johnson] it could’ve been a little different of a score there.That was the exciting part, we were down 2-1 and we still hadn’t played our best hockey,” Jones said. “I think we have to have a short memory. We have a quick turnaround with the early game. We don’t control everything, but we control how we play. We gotta treat it like its do or die tomorrow.”
Nick Poehling scores the OT winning goal against UND Friday at the Frozen Faceoff. Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn