Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Motzko: St. Cloud State survived booby trap, now it's time for Gophers

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey, St. Cloud State Updated: February 5, 2013 - 2:05 AM

St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko was worried about last weekend's series at Bemidji State, he said on his weekly radio show on Monday on 1450KNSI.com

"It was a big weekend for us," he said. "We had a couple of emotional series against Denver and North Dakota, and everybody last week was already talking about the Gophers series."

The Huskies, sitting in first place in the WCHA, play the Gophers on Friday and Saturday at the National Hockey Center/

SCSU avoided what he called the "booby trap weekend" against the Beavers by beating them 4-0 and 4-1 in their owd den..

Motzko said the Huskies older players like Drew LeBlanc and Ben Hanowski, his senior co-captains and junior Nic Dowd did a terrific job of making sure the rest of the team did not overlook Bemidji State.

He also said the goaltending of Ryan Faragher was great and the defense was terrific.

He said the Huskies won the special teams battle, adding "we were not called for a penalty".

 Faragher made a big stop at 30 seconds of the opening game after a SCSU turnover. He said if that point-blank shot gets in, the game and series might have been different. As it was, "we did not let their power play get out on rink and we were able to score first."

He said the Huskies played a little bit different defense against the Beavers. "Bemidji like to throw bomb passes," he said. "So we kept players back behind the play. ... We wanted to play a patient series."

FRESHMAN EXCITED FOR U

"It feels good, it feels right," said SCSU freshman forward Jimmy Murray of the Huskies being in first place in the WCHA.

 He expects a cool, exciting atmosphere for the Gophers series from everything he has heard from older teammates.

Murray has three goals and seven assists for 10 points this season, and said he is trying to be better on defense because he is not scoring that much.

But what SCSU as a team is doing does not surprise him. "I was telling everyone last year when I committed that we would be a top 15, top 10 class," he said.

He said the freshman class has been awesome, especially what Kalle Kosilla and Jonny Brodzinski have done. Kosilla has a team-high 13 goals, Brodzinski 12.

As for the Gophers, "we know they have a really good power play, are a real good team. They have been ranked No. 1 for a couple of weeks," he said. Actually it's six weeks now.

MOTZKO KNOWS ALL ABOUT U

Said SCSU coach Bob Motzko of the Gophers series, "There are not a lot pep talks that have to be given out this week. The guys will be ready. Actually, we have to tone it down. It will be crazy in the building. There is no question.

He said there should be a  great college atmosphere, adding "We've got to have a good week of preparation."

He said the series could turn into a real defensive battle: "They are a great skating team, a great power-play team. We have to know our assignment and stick to our assignments."

That said, he said the Huskies will try to skate with the Gophers. "To play Minnesota, you have to go up and down the rink with them," he said. "You try to defend them, you got out and try to have a defensive scheme, you will lose the hockey game.

"You have to go up and down the rink. You have to make as many plays as they make. You've got to take it at them. It's the only way to play this sport. And that's why I do like this series because I think the ultimate game is still our 8-7 game" in a Final Five with the Gophers.

Motzko said he has watched four of the Gophers' game -- they were idle last weekend -- on tape. He said they have tremendous passing and catching skills on the power play. "No matter where the puck went, it just stopped on a dime on their tape," he said, "and they were able to release it to the next guy.

"That's why you have to have proper postioning and you have to have great sticks, and deflect sticks out of the lanes and not let them get in there. And maybe get in their head a little bit. Maybe make them shoot more pucks rather than just try to make fancy plays," Motzko said. "We've got to do the little things well, a little thing for example, is our faceoffs. We are a little bit of Jeckyl and Hyde on it. But we have to have a strong weekend on faceoffs where over 50 percent of the time we are starting with the puck."

The Huskies know all about the Gophers' top players like Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, but Motzko also worries about another forward.

"Erik Haula has been their top offensive player now for two years in a row," Motzko said. "I am not sure if it was a broken hand or a  bruised hand, it was something in the upper body area, but he is going to be completely healthy now."

Haula got hurt in the Gophers' holiday tournament, missed several games, then came back and played wing as his injury healed more. Expect him to be back at center versus the Huskies. The Gophers were off last weekend.

"Nate Condon -- he's another kid who can really skate," Motzko said. "Probably  one of faster skaters in the league, one of the best penalty-killers in the league and timely offense from a guy like that.

"And then their defensive corps. They have a great puck-moving defensive corps. ... They play very strong defense and they can defend. A couple of years ago, that was one of their downfalls. But hen they brought [assistant coach Mike] Guentzel back, they really shored that up again."

Motzko was on Lucia's staff in the early 2000s along with Guentzel. He knows both Lucia and Guentzel well. He said he talked to Lucia on Monday morning.

He said Lucia joked that Motzko should tell his players the Gophers are a nonconference team --- which they will be next season.

"We struggle nonconference," Motzko said.

That they do. SCSU is 14-5-1 in WCHA games, 3-5-0 in nonconference games.

"Maybe we are not quite as amped up as we get for league play," Motzko said. "But we need not worry. Every game we play worry every game we play from here on in is league play."

Next season the Gophers and St. Cloud State will meet only once, in one of the two opening games in a yet-to-be-named tournament of four Minnesota teams at Mariucci in 2014. In the other first day game, Minnesota State Mankato will play Minnesota Duluth. Bemidji State will be part of the tournament rotation in 2015.

Motzko's last words on the Gophers: "They are going to be a handful."
 
* In WCHA games, St. Cloud State is first on the penalty kill at 86.5, the Gophers are second at 86.0. It's the reverse on the power play. The Gophers are first at 26.5, the Huskies second at 22.0.



 

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