View From St. Cloud State

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It is another rivalry weekend for Minnesota, as the Gophers host St. Cloud State on Friday and then play in St. Cloud on Saturday. Minnesota is 1-1-0 against the Huskies this year, as each team previously won at home. We talked with Zack Fisch, who is the play-by-play announcer for the Huskies on 88.1 FM KVSC in St. Cloud. Fisch is in his fourth year covering the Huskies. KVSC is the student radio station at St. Cloud State, but is the FM Home of Husky Hockey. Games are available on 88.1 FM and and you can follow Zack and the crew on Twitter at @KVSCHockey.

GopherSports: Zack, how have the Huskies played since they split with Minnesota earlier this season?

Zack Fisch: After the thrill of topping the #1 Gophers in November in the Friday game, the 5-0 loss on Saturday to Minnesota was the start of a tough stretch of hockey for the Huskies. St. Cloud went on a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) and was swept at Nebraska-Omaha, only took one point at home against Bemidji State, and dropped the first game of a series to Denver. However, since the 5-1 win over Denver on December 17, St. Cloud has appeared to turn the corner. The Huskies have still not swept a series this year, but in their last four series, SCSU has earned a win over ranked opponents including Denver, Western Michigan, Colorado College, and North Dakota. Several of the losses were one goal games and overtime losses, and the Huskies have competed until the final horn in every game.

One facet of the game that has been improving is the penalty kill for SCSU. Additionally, Ryan Faragher has still be fantastic in goal, and the defensive pairing of freshmen Andrew Prochno and sophomore Nick Jensen has provided not only offense, but stability on the blue line. Head coach Bob Motzko believes the team is playing their best stretch of hockey right now despite being stretched thin with injuries.

GS: How have the Huskies adjusted to the departure of a couple key players?

ZF: No doubt, Cam Reid departing St. Cloud leaves a big hole in the lineup. Reid was getting top-six minutes, playing special teams, and having a nice year with 15 points. Luckily the Huskies brought in forward Joe Rehkamp in from Waterloo of the USHL over Winter Break after losing Mitch MacMillan who transferred to North Dakota. Reid's departure saw Cory Thorson take his spot on a line with Nic Dowd and David Eddy. Thorson appeared to be fitting in well, but he injured his shoulder last Saturday. Jordy Christian also left last Saturday's game with a lower body injury, leaving the Huskies exceptionally depleted at forward.

With Reid gone, captain Drew LeBlanc still recovering from a broken leg, and a rash of other injuries, goals will need to come from the other five players on the top two lines. The Huskies need the unit of Ben Hanowski, Travis Novak, and Jared Festler to keep putting up big numbers, and players like Eddy and Dowd will have to up their game even more. Everyone has to play right now, and despite losing players unexpectedly due to injuries and departures, the team continues to battle and compete.

GS: After watching the first two games between these two teams, what adjustments do you think SCSU will make this time out against the Gophers?

ZF: The answer to this question is easier said than done. The Huskies will need to contain Nick Bjugstad. The Gopher winger had a hat-trick against SCSU in game two, and finished with five points in the series. Minnesota has a potent lineup of NHL draft picks and fantastic players, but it all starts with finding a way to limit Bjugstad's time and space. Staying out of the penalty box and keeping Minnesota's power play, which scored three times in the series earlier this year, off the ice is key as well. St. Cloud will need two strong performances in goal this weekend as well. Faragher stole the show in game one last time out against Minnesota, and while he is not to fault as SCSU was shutout in game two, he did allow five goals. Goalie and team captain Mike Lee is slated to possibly return this weekend for SCSU and could see action. While Faragher has more than proven himself, Lee has won big games for SCSU in the past. Regardless of whoever gets the nod in the nets, the Husky goaltender will need to be strong from start to finish.

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