St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, who always sounds genuine, was talking after his team's 5-1 loss to Michigan Tech on Saturday. He said his team played better than the night before, except for the first few minutes.

Oh, but those first few minutes decided the game.

Tech, the Huskies from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, scored three goals in the first 4 minutes, 23 seconds to take a 3-0 lead. Tanner Kero made it 1-0 at 28 seconds. Jujhar Khaira made it 2-0 at 3:51 and Riley Sweeney 3-0 at 4:23.

Saturday's loss -- after a 5-3 win the night before -- kept the Huskies, who joined the WCHA in 1990-91,  from clinching a share of their first MacNaughton Cup which goes to the regular-season champion. And now the Huskies have to go on the road to play surging Wisconsin in Madison. But now at the Kohl Center, at small Veteran's Memorial, which holds just over 10,000.

"Give Tech credit, they were much more determined [Saturday]." Motzko said. "You could tell right from the start. ... Their top players were outstanding."

Motzko said the Huskies' defense did not give sophomore goalie Ryan Faragher much of a chance.

And at 13:03 of the middle period, Tech took a 4-0 lead on David Johnstone's goal. Freshman Alex Petan, who also had two assists, made it 5-0 at 8:28 of the third.

Faragher was replaced after Tech's fourth goal. He only had 14 saves. Rasmus Reijola, his replacement, stopped eight of nine shots.

Freshman Jimmy Murray finally broke the shutout at 17:16 of the third period.

Jamie Phillips, a 6-3 freshman who had not started since Dec. 3, made 36 saves. Tech coach Mel Pearson said he played a hunch to put him in. Tech improved to 11-17-4 with the win, 7-15-4 in the WCHA.

The home Huskies, playing in retro uniforms, outshot Tech 37-27 in the second game but were 0-for-7 on the power play, Tech was 0-for-2.

St. Cloud State (20-13-1, 17-8-1) did clinch home ice for the playoffs, but the Huskies want more than that.

"We just couldn't make a play," Motzko said.

He said his players know the situation, how tight the WCHA is, but are trying to focus on getting wins first and foremost.

"We are figthing for home ice," he said. "We are fighting for the NCAA tournament, we are fighting to win a league title." Motzko said.

Announced attendance on Saturday was 5,037.

Said Murray, who scored the lone goal for SCSU: "It is pretty fitting it goes down to the last weekend of the year."

St. Cloud State built a 4-0 lead in Friday's game before the visiting Huskies got within 4-3 in the third by scoring three goals within 4:37. It was a sign of things to come.

Faragher made 42 saves, which allowed SCSU to build its lead. Freshman forward Kalle Kossila scored two goals. A lout cheer went up at the National Hockey Center when the Gophers' score on Friday was announced: Denver 2, Minnesota 0.

But things change quickly in the WCHA.

It was the Gophers' fans cheering the next night because of SCSU's loss.

The St. Cloud Times story on Saturday's game is here.

* Kassila now has 15 goals for SCSU.

* St. Cloud State is tied for 10th in the PairWise ratings, which mimic how the NCAA seeds and fills out its NCAA field. The top top 14 teams in the PairWise are normally in.

* Since a 4-2 loss to the Gophers on Feb. 8 at St. Cloud State, the Huskies are 3-3, splitting series with the Gophers, Colorado College and Michigan Tech.