St. Cloud State is the team to beat in college hockey

They've been No. 1 in the nation for the past four weeks.
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There's a new powerhouse in the State of Hockey at the collegiate level.

The St. Cloud State men's hockey team is firing on all cylinders this season. For the past four weeks, they've been ranked No. 1 in the nation by USCHO.com and are poised to make some serious noise come tournament time.

First-year head coach Brett Larson looks like a veteran behind the bench and has picked things up right where they left off under former coach Bob Motzko, who is in his first year at the University of Minnesota. 

Lethal offense

St. Cloud's senior class sets the tone for an offense that's averaging nearly 4 goals per game.

  • Patrick Newell: 15 goals, 17 assists, 32 points
  • Robby Jackson: 12 goals, 15 assists 27 points  
  • Blake Lizotte: 10 goals 15 assists 25 points  
  • Jimmy Schuldt: 8 goals 17 assists 25 points

Lizotte, a sophomore, is the only one on that list who isn't a senior. It's also worth mentioning junior Ryan Poehling, the Lakeville native who has 25 points in 26 games this season. Poehling was a 2017 first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens. 

Stellar goaltending

After David Hrenak and Jeff Smith split time last season, Hrenak has taken the reigns as the team's No. 1 goaltender in 2018-19. However, when he's been called upon, Smith has played well too.

  • David Hrenak 16-3-2, 2.21 GAA, .900 SV% 
  • Jeff Smith: 4-1-1, 1.88 GAA, .923 SV%

Typically, national championship teams have a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender but having the luxury of a solid backup is a nice safety blanket.

Special teams

The Huskies' power play is converting 23 percent of its opportunities. That's a solid number, but even more impressive is the Huskies' penality kill, which is fourth in the nation with an 87 percent kill rate. 

Comeback kids

On Feb. 9 at home against Colorado College, the Huskies were on the brink of being upset and dropping out of the top spot in the rankings. Trailing by two goals with four minutes to play, SCSU pulled off a miraculous comeback, first sending the game to overtime and then winning it.  

Even when they looked down and out they were still able to pull off an improbable victory. It's the kind of victory that shows opponents they fight till the end and can never be counted out.

Sour taste

Being at the top of the polls this season is not a flash in the pan. This same team was the No. 1 team heading into the national tournament last season and was upset in the first round by 16th-seeded Air Force.

Shortly after the loss, (four days to be exact), Motzko jumped ship to become the new coach of the Gophers as Don Lucia's replacement.  

The fact that this team has picked up right where they left off with a new coach likely has them motivated to prove they can make a run at a national championship.

And there's fewer things more dangerous than a motivated hockey team.

This year's Frozen Four will be held in Buffalo, New York. 

If SCSU can keep up its stellar play through the postseason, you can bet they'll have a chance to hoist the school's first Division I national championship trophy. 

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