SCSU's Ahcan receives celebratory helmet in Huskies' Game 1 quarterfinal win
ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Purple and gold are not any of the school colors at St. Cloud State.
But there has been something started with a Minnesota Vikings football helmet in the Huskies' men's hockey team's locker room that has brought some pride and smiles this season.
"It actually came from our house, but (captain Jimmy Schuldt) suggested it," Huskies junior center Ryan Poehling said. "We always wear it on Vikings game days, one of us throws it on. It's funny seeing somebody throw it on.
"It's not pretty, but you've got to throw it on. It's part of the deal. "
St. Cloud State defenseman Jack Ahcan had a goal, an assist, tied for the team lead with four shots on goal and was a plus-2 on Friday, March 15, to earn the honor of putting the helmet on. The top-ranked Huskies defeated Miami 5-2 in Game 1 of an NCHC best-of-three quarterfinals series before 2,210 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
The two teams play Game 2 at 6:07 p.m. Saturday (FOX North Plus). If the Huskies (28-4-3) win, they will advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals for the fourth time. If the RedHawks (11-22-4) win, Game 3 will be played at 6:07 p.m. Sunday.
Ahcan smiled broadly when asked about getting the plastic helmet. The player that won the honor the previous game awards it to the best player of the next game.
"It's like a nacho bowl from a Vikings game, but I'm not really sure," Ahcan said, laughing. "It's a plastic football helmet and it's getting pretty broken. The strap doesn't really fit anymore and it's getting worn down, but it's got a lot of character.
"The previous winner stands up and does a little speech after the game. It's a good, fun thing we end up doing after a good win. It's been great so far."
Ahcan, a junior and Burnsville High School graduate, had his hands in a couple key goals in the game. His shot from near the blue line was tipped in by Nick Poehling at 3:43 of the first period to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Later, Ahcan scored his fifth goal of the season at 3:57 of the third period to give the Huskies a 4-2 lead. Ahcan was carrying the puck near the Miami net, got slashed by Ben Lown, came around the back of the net and scored on a low shot.
"He could have had like four goals tonight," Nick Poehling said of Ahcan. "It was good for him to get that because he had it coming. He had a great game."
Ahcan, an All-NCHC second team pick, has a team-leading 27 assists, a career-best 32 points and is tied for the team lead at plus-29.
"He's unbelievable in the defensive zone and even better in the offensive zone," Nick Poehling said of Ahcan. "He's just an all-around good player. You just know that every time he's on the ice, good things are going to happen. It's fun to watch."
Going to the net
One of the keys to the win for the Huskies is that their first three goals came from a combined distance of less than 25 feet. Nick Poehling was standing in front of the net for his tip-in, Robby Jackson scored a power-play goal on a rebound from in close and Ryan Poehling scored on a tip-in from directly in front of the net.
"Something that we've been emphasizing lately has been getting one or two guys to the front of the net, get in front of the goalie's eyes," Nick Poehling said. "If you go to the net, I think you get rewarded for it."
Ryan Poehling, a first round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, has eight goals this season and 29 in his college career. It's fair to say the majority of those goals have come either on tip-ins or rebounds.
"I think I'm really good in tight with my stick and I have good hands," he said. "For me to get the puck in those areas, it's good for me. I actually had another one later in the game and it just went off the post."
Sophomore wing Easton Brodzinski had a goal and an assist Friday to give him a career-best 25 points on the season. Brodzinski also had four shots on goal and is third on the team in that category with 99 on the season.
Brodzinski, who is one goal away from tying his total of 14 from last season, has always been known as a good offensive player. But other elements of his game are beginning to show.
"Easton, for the last month-and-a-half, has been playing really good hockey," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "We've been really happy with how he's been playing. When he uses his size, his strength and his speed and not just his shot, he puts it all together and is a really effective player.
"He's been a big piece to whatever line he's on, creating some momentum for us. That happened again tonight."
Brodzinski was on the left wing with sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald at center and freshman Sam Hentges on the right wing Friday.
Deceptive 1st period
The Huskies led 2-0 after the first period, but were not happy with how they played.
"You can't correlate score with how you're playing and that really shows that," Ryan Poehling siad. "We haven't been playing the best first periods, particularly on Friday nights. At some point, it's going to bite us in the butt.
"At the end of the season, it comes down to one game and you've got to show up the whole 60 minutes. It's important for us to figure it out."
St. Cloud State won its eighth straight win, the Huskies are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games and they improved to 16-0-1 at home this season.