"This is college hockey's near equivalent of a Buffalo, Minnesota Super Bowl."
- The Sicatoka; USCHO Message Board
Gameday has finally arrived and for Clarkson fans the NCAA first round has been not a thing a beauty for the past 11 years. Clarkson's last win in the big dance was 1996, a 6-1 win over Western Michigan. Coming off a disappointing finish in the ECAC tournament the Golden Knights will be looking to prove something the college hockey world and advance to the regional finals.
St. Cloud State comes into the tournament never having won an NCAA tournament game. The Huskies are 0-7 in tournament play and is coming off a 4-1 loss to Maine in last years regional semi-final. One team will change their losing ways this weekend, the other will spend another summer wondering, "what if."
Previous to 2006 the Knights and Huskies had met up 4 times, with the teams splitting. However in the past two season the teams have met up 4 times, with the Huskies holding a 3 games to 1 edge. The Huskies swept the Knights in 2006 in St. Cloud. The Knights split with the Huskies this season in Potsdam. St. Cloud took the first game 4-1 despite being out shot 33-13 and the Knights battled back on Saturday defeating St. Cloud 3-2.
The Saturday lost set the Huskies into a tailspin going 2-8 over their next 10. St. Cloud rebounded over the course of the WCHA season and finished 4th over all. The Huskies swept Wisconsin in the first round of the WCHA playoffs but fell to Minnesota in the play in game of the WCHA final five. The Huskies wrapped up their season 19-15-5.
St. Cloud and Clarkson shared only two common opponents this season, Harvard and Colorado College. The Huskies split their four games with CC and defeated Harvard 4-1. Clarkson swept Harvard and was swept by the Tigers in two games we'd rather forget.
Up front the Huskies are lead by three very talented underclassmen, Garret Roe, Ryan Lasch and Andreas Nodl. These three have tallied 141 points between them this season and account for about %40 of St. Cloud's offense. To use a cliche, "You can't stop these guys, you can only hope to contain them."
Containing them is what the Knights did in the second game at Cheel this season holding the trio to 2 points. However the Friday game is proof that if these guys get some room they will score. The three had five points in the Huskies win.
In net Jase Weslosky has put up a very solid .931 save percentage and a 2.12 goals against average. However he is prone to periods of inconsistency, however since their mid-season dip St. Cloud has only given up 3 goals two times. The second game of the first round of the WCHA playoffs and the play in game versus Minnesota. It would appear Weslosky and the defense have found their stride.
So there is the tale of the tape, which for what it is, gives an advantage to St. Cloud. Talent and speed wise, they are a better team. However the intangibles in this series are very near mind boggling. Imagine if Aaron Boone didn't hit the homerun, and if Moises Alou made that catch. These are the kind of paranormal forces working for this game. The fluke bounce off a ref redirected in for a goal. The misplayed clearing pass, the inadvertent whistle.
Following Clarkson hockey for 10 years now, I know, for a fact, something weird is going to happen tomorrow. And I can nearly guarantee, somewhere in the great state of Minnesota, someone is thinking the same thing. There are forces greater than we can imagine at work here, and when that play happens, we will either raise our arms in triumph or slap our foreheads in disbelief.
One team will leave the ice with one monkey off their back, but with a probable 800 pound gorilla in the room, wearing maize and blue. The other team will return home and gear up to do it all over again in October. No matter the outcome, we can't wait to watch it.