A few notes and thoughts from tonight's game...
The officiating tonight was....quiet. There were two penalties called on St. Cloud in the first period, one called on Clarkson in the second, and two called on Clarkson in the third period. I've noticed in recent weeks that WCHA officials are starting to become a little more lenient in terms of calling penalties. It was definitely a bit of a culture shock for Clarkson, coming from the whistle-happy ECAC. I was sitting next to Clarkson's radio team, and they seemed shocked at some of the no-calls on plays which I haven't seen called in the WCHA all year. Clarkson coach George Roll said that the officials in the two leagues were "different in terms of what they let go" but diplomatically added that one wasn't necessarily better than the other, and that the officials were very consistent tonight.
The lack of penalties was one of the big reasons why St. Cloud was able to win so easily tonight. Clarkson has scored a lot of goals this season, but goalie Jase Weslosky noted that Clarkson is a big powerplay team, and said that the Huskies went over Clarkson's powerplay a lot in practice this week. Of course, one of the easiest ways not to give up powerplay goals is to not take a penalty in the final 44 minutes of the game like St. Cloud did.
St. Cloud is also probably thankful that the game didn't turn into a special teams battle because they struggled on the powerplay. They went 0-3, including a 5-minute advantage in the third period. Coach Bob Motzko said his team's powerplay was "not good" tonight, but gave credit to Clarkson's penalty kill, saying that they "played aggressive and took away passing lanes."
The duo of Andreas Nodl and Andrew Gordon had been in a bit of a mini-slump prior to tonight's game. Coach Motzko attributed that to the fact that they were playing between the faceoff dots too much, as opposed to playing below the faceoff dots. To fix this problem, Andrew Gordon said they worked in practice this week on just dumping the puck into the zone so that they could start their cycle. That back-to-basics approach paid big dividends. Both of that lines' goals came when a player dug the puck off the boards and fed it to a cycling teammate that broke away from a defender and into the slot.
Andreas Nodl was easily the best player on the ice tonight. I noticed that a scout from the Flyers organization was there, and he had to be pleased with what he saw from Nodl. The pass he made to Gordon for the second goal was absolutely sensational, and he always seemed to be hanging out in a prime scoring area ready to make something happen. It's not a question of if Nodl will leave St. Cloud early, but when, and if he keeps playing like he did tonight, that could be as early as this summer. Not that I think that scenario is likely, but I think it's at least possible.
He didn't show up on the scoresheet, but I thought Ryan Lasch was the next best player on the ice. He was always working hard and making things happen. The good news for St. Cloud fans is that I don't think he's a guy that they will have to worry about leaving early. Seeing how well these two freshmen played, it's scary to think about what St. Cloud will be like when they are a team made up entirely of Motzko-recruited players.
One nice thing for Clarkson about coming out west was the ability to go to video replay. David Leggio said he was glad there was replay on the disputed call in the first period, because there isn't video replay in the ECAC, and he was confident that the puck didn't go into the net.
In sort of a weird scheduling oddity, I just happened to be in attendance for both of Jase Weslosky collegiate starts. Obviously Weslosky has played great in both games, but I thought he looked even more confident in net tonight. About the only flaw I could find in Weslosky was that he left a couple big rebounds on long shots in the first period, one of which would have been a great chance for Clarkson, had the puck not jumped over the CU player's stick. But after that, I thought he even did an excellent with rebounds. Coach Motzko even noted his confidence in directly longer shots into the corner to help start a breakout, rather than holding onto the puck to get a whistle. He got caught looking over the wrong shoulder late in the third period, but was able to keep his shutout when the Clarkson player couldn't control the puck for a score. He made every other save look incredibly easy, even though at least a couple of the shots he faced weren't all that easy to save. In the long-run, I'd still take Bobby Goepfert, and I think Coach Motzko will do the same. I get the feeling that Motzko will likely avoid a goalie controversy because he'll stick to his original plan of only starting Weslosky sporadically. I also get the feeling that if the previous coach of St. Cloud was in the this position, he probably would have found a way to create a goalie controversy and shatter the confidence of his senior goalie.
I really liked Shawn Weller of Clarkson. On a night when Clarkson couldn't seem to get anything going, he seemed to be the only guy that was anywhere near effective. He had 8 of Clarkson's 24 shots on net. Of course, he also went -3 on the night(counting the ENG), but I didn't get a chance to see if he was the guy responsible for the defensive breakdown on the first two goals.
The biggest difference between the WCHA and ECAC that I can see is depth. Clarkson's top line of Weller-Zalewski-Beca was really the only line from Clarkson that could get the puck out of their own end and keep it at the other end. St. Cloud held a pretty sizeable advantage everywhere else on the depth chart.