UMD Football on Road in Semifinals

    The undefeated Minnesota Duluth football will be on the road for the NCAA Division II semifinals Saturday in California, Pa. The Bulldogs (13-0) upset top-ranked Grand Valley State 19-13 in double-overtime on the road and has the best record among the four semifinalists, but the NCAA has chosen to put the Bulldogs on the road for their next game against California. Pa.


CALIFORNIA (Nov. 30) – The No. 7 Califronia Vulcans will host No. 6 Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, Dec. 6, at Adamson Stadium. The NCAA Division II Football Semifinal Game will be a national ESPN Classic telecast at 11 a.m. CST.

     The California University of Pennsylvania football team (12-1) is coming off a thrilling 27-24 road victory over Bloomsburg University in the Super Regional One Championship Game. UMD (13-0) posted its biggest win in program history, claiming a 19-13 double-overtime victory over Grand Valley State University, the No. 1 team in the nation.

The Vulcans are appearing in their second-straight NCAA Semifinal game, while the Bulldogs have advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history in their trip to the NCAA Playoffs.

In the other NCAA Division II Semifinal Game, No. 3 Northwest Missouri State University (12-1) hosts No. 5 University of North Alabama (12-1) on Saturday at 4 p.m. with the contest airing nationally on ESPN2.

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St. Cloud Times: Huskies Save Worst

       This is the Sunday St. Cloud Times game report from Kevin Allenspach on Saturday’s 5-1 Minnesota Duluth win over St. Cloud State:

DULUTH — The first time the St. Cloud State men’s hockey team played Minnesota-Duluth this season was the Huskies’ worst of their first 13 games.

Saturday night’s rematch was no improvement.

Pleading for power-play goals all season against WCHA opponents, 18th-ranked SCSU finally got one, but it was Jordan Fulton’s even-strength goal midway through the game that put the Bulldogs ahead for good and Mike Connolly’s 4-on-4 score midway through the third period broke the Huskies’ spirit in what turned into a 5-1 loss at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

The score was identical to the first half of this “road” series, played Nov. 1 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“We were good at times and we were bad at times,” said Huskies captain Garrett Raboin, whose slap shot on the man advantage late in the first period tied it at 1-1. “They capitalized on our mistakes … we didn’t score nearly enough goals and we didn’t even have nearly enough chances.”

They totaled a season-low 20 shots – half of which came in the second period. Unlike in the first meeting, when the Huskies trailed 4-0 through two periods, this one was close on the scoreboard until the Bulldogs blitzed SCSU goalie Jase Weslosky for three goals in the final eight minutes. Bulldogs goalie Alex Stalock made 19 saves and has 49 on 51 shots in the series this season.

“At least we played in spurts tonight – but we sure didn’t like our third period,” said Huskies coach Bob Motzko, whose team is 2-5-0 against UMD after winning his first seven matchups after coming to SCSU. “We didn’t like parts of the other periods, either. Duluth played very sound, smart hockey. We had very few chances on (Stalock). I don’t think he even broke a sweat.”

Justin Fontaine, a sophomore winger who made a visit to St. Cloud before deciding on Duluth, scored the first goal and assisted on two others – including the game-winner by Fulton, who scored twice. Fulton’s first goal came when he deflected in Fontaine’s centering pass – fighting off Nic Rioux while standing right in Weslosky’s breezers.

“We came out with the mentality that we had to be physical and we did that,” said Fontaine, who is from Bonnyville, Alberta.

The biggest play, however, was Connolly’s goal – when Huskies forward Ryan Lasch failed to cover the slot after the defensemen rotated. Connolly took a feed alone in front of Weslosky and made it 3-1 at 11:20 of the third.

“That was the biggest goal of the game,” said Fontaine, who has 18 points – already more than MacGregor Sharp’s 17 last season as the team scoring leader. “We pushed it after that and no one was playing scared. We’re a skilled offensive team and we’re relying on our forwards more than we did last year.”

The Huskies, conversely, haven’t been able to rely on theirs as much. Lasch, goalless since the season opener, was the only player in the game to go minus-4. He was out when Fulton made it 4-1 at 17:10, and was on the power play when Kyle Schmidt scored his first college goal, short-handed at 19:53.

“It was a big letdown,” Motzko said of Connolly’s 4-on-4 goal. “It’s a 2-1 game and you’re looking for a crack and you give ‘em one back. That’s what ended it.”

“We have to come back after one of those,” Raboin added. “There still was plenty of time left in the game, but we folded up and they were able to get a couple more on us.”

The Bulldogs scored first after Oliver Lauridsen had a rough shift. First, he iced the puck — though it was a close call as to whether play should’ve continued. On the ensuing faceoff, he took a penalty for cross-checking. The Bulldogs kept the puck in the zone and Justin Fontaine cleaned up a rebound 14 seconds into the man advantage.

Lauridsen indirectly helped the Huskies tie it in the final minute of the period. He made a pass to Jordy Christian that left the latter extended and in dangerous position to get drilled by Sharp. Christian avoided being decapitated and Sharp wound up with a tripping penalty. Sixteen seconds into the power play, Raboin blasted a shot that hit the stick of a Bulldogs forward and the change-up fooled Stalock.

The goal snapped SCSU’s scoreless streak at 89:13. It also was the second power-play goal of the season for the Huskies in a league game. They had been 1-for-45 (2.2 percent) coming in.

“It was close for awhile, but our forwards didn’t work hard enough to make it entertaining,” Motzko said. “We were milk-toast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We have nights where we’re really good and nights where we’re really bad.”

“We earned our spot in ninth place.”

That makes sweeping Denver seem a long time ago.

“We’ve been here before this year,” Raboin said. “We’re going to have to find our way back again."

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UMD 5-1 Final

     A Saturday sweep of ranked opponents was within the grasp of the Minnesota Duluth men’s team at the DECC.

     Earlier in the day, the No. 6-rated football team beat No. 1 Grand Valley State in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals, and the No. 7 women’s hockey team beat No. 3 Dartmouth to sweep a home series.

      The UMD men held up their end of the deal with a 5-1 victory over No. 18 St. Cloud State in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game in front of a crowd of 4,412. It completed a home sweep of the Huskies, which began with a 5-1 win Nov. 1 at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

     Three third-period goals open a 2-1 game for the Bulldogs (6-4-4 and 3-4-3 in the WCHA).

     “We knew that to get back in the [WCHA] race we needed to have this game,” said UMD sophomore winger Justin Fontaine, who had a goal and two assists. “We wanted to be physical and not let St. Cloud State have space or time. We were skating, creating turnovers and gaining confidence.”

    A fast-paced game, with only five penalties through the first 2 ½ periods, was up and down, although UMD never trailed. St. Cloud State (8-6 and 3-5) came into the game ranked No. 4 in Division I in offense with 3.69 goals a game, but was outshot 36-20.

      The Huskies had won five of their past six games, including a home sweep of No. 9 Denver, while outscoring the opposition 23-7. UMD is 2-0-1 the last three games overall and goalie Alex Stalock has allowed four goals total in that stretch.

     “[UMD] played a very sound, smart game,” said St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, who has lost four straight games to UMD. “We had very few chances on Alex. I don’t think he even broke a sweat.

    “They trapped us all over and we kept turning the puck over. Our forwards in the offensive zone were like Melba Milquetoast.”

      After holding a 2-1 lead after two periods, the Bulldogs connected in a 4-on-4 shift with 8:40 to play. It deflated the Huskies. Freshman winger Mike Connolly got his fifth goal of the season, tucking the puck behind St. Cloud State junior Jase Weslosky from the left edge.

     Winger Jordan Fulton followed with his fifth goal of the season, and second of the game, with 2:50 remaining. Fontaine had gotten in the way of a St. Cloud State clearing pass and got the puck to Jack Connolly, who relayed to Fulton. Sophomore Kyle Schmidt put an exclamation point on the game with a shorthanded breakaway goal, for his first point of the season, with 18 seconds left.

     “I thought we outplayed them for most of the game,” said UMD defenseman Evan Oberg. “The biggest thing was our forecheck. We didn’t let them out of their zone. In every aspect, it was a more complete game than when we played them the first time.”

    The teams exchanged power-play goals in the last five minutes of the first period. Fontaine converted a Josh Meyers rebound into an empty net for his team-leading seventh goal of the season. It was UMD’s only power play of the game..

    UMD looked to get out of the opening period with a lead, but St. Cloud State defenseman Garrett Raboin’s drive from the high slot with just 28 seconds to go tied it. Fontaine got a pass to Fulton in the slot midway through the second period for a 2-1 lead.

     “We defended the rush very well and defended the blue line as well as we have this season,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin, whose team is 4-1-2 at home. “It was the first game we’ve been able to roll four lines on a regular basis and we got into a nice rotation that matched the pace of the game.”

     After a five-game home stand, UMD is on the road this Friday and Saturday at No. 3 Colorado College.

 St. Cloud State………………. 1-0–0—1

Minnesota Duluth………….. 1-1-3—5

       First period — 1. UMD, Justin Fontaine 7 (Josh Meyers, Evan Oberg), 15:31 (pp); 2. St. Cloud State, Garrett Raboin 4 (John Swanson, Garrett Roe), 19:33 (pp). Penalties — Oliver Lauridsen, St. Cloud State (cross-checking), 15:17; MacGregor Sharp, UMD (tripping), 19:16.

  Second period — 3. UMD, Jordan Fulton 4 (Fontaine, Jack Connolly), 9:28. Penalty — Fontaine, UMD (boarding), 18:49.

  Third period — 4. UMD, Mike Connolly 5 (Sharp, Meyers), 11:20 (4×4); 5. UMD, Fulton 5 (J. Connolly, Fontaine), 17:10; 6. UMD, Kyle Schmidt 1, 19:52 (sh). Penalties — Michael Gergen, UMD (tripping), 11:01; Raboin, St. Cloud State (tripping), 11:01; Andrew Carroll, UMD (roughing), 19:36; Lauridsen, St. Cloud State (roughing), 19:36; Gergen, UMD (boarding), 19:36; Chad Huttel, UMD (double-minor roughing), 19:52; Roe, St. Cloud State (double-minor roughing, cross-checking), 19:52. 

  Shots on goal — St. Cloud State 4-10-6–20, UMD 10-14-12–36. Goalies – Jase Weslosky (6-5), St. Cloud State (36 shots-31 saves); Alex Stalock (6-4-4), UMD (20 shots-19 saves). Power plays – St. Cloud State 1-of-3; UMD 1-of-1. Referees – Timm Walsh, Peter Friesema. Linesmen – Jerome Kreiger, J.B. Olson. A – 4,412.


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Falcons Fly High

     Ouch. No. 3-ranked Colorado College was outplayed at No. 11 Air Force Academy on Friday night, losing 4-1 in the Colorado Springs, Colo., match up. Minnesota Duluth is at Colorado College next weekend. Here’s part of Kate Crandall’s story in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

They’re for real.

The 11th-ranked Air Force Falcons manhandled No. 3 Colorado College in the annual meeting between the Colorado Springs rivals, winning the clash for the first time since Nov. 9, 1985.

Air Force not only snapped a 25-game losing streak to CC with its 4-1 win in front of a standing room-only crowd at Cadet Ice Arena, it also extended – and brought legitimacy to – its 13-0 record, which until Friday hadn’t included a victory over a team with a winning record.

"It shows the rest of the hockey world how serious we are and how good we are," right wing Jeff Hajner said. "This was no fluke. And if people think it is, we get another chance (tonight) to show them."

The Falcons take on No. 10 Denver tonight at Magness Arena, while CC looks to rebound against Colgate at World Arena.

For the Tigers, long the premier Division I program in town, the loss reiterated what has become a puzzling pattern, especially on Friday nights.

CC, which dodged a shutout with a third-period goal from left wing Bill Sweatt, has averaged only 1.38 goals on Fridays and has a 2-4-2 record to show for it.

Against Air Force, the Tigers’ offensive woes weren’t for lack of chances. CC had nine power plays – amounting to more than 20 minutes on the man-advantage – to the Falcons’ four.

"Other than the first 7 minutes, I felt like they took it to us virtually the entire game," CC coach Scott Owens said. "I knew they’d be fired up, skating hard and winning battles.

"But I didn’t think they would out-compete us as hard as they did tonight. I thought we’d have a little bit more than we did."

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St. Cloud Times: LeBlanc

      Kevin Allenspach of the St. Cloud Times catches up with St. Cloud State freshman forward Drew LeBlanc of Hermantown in a Saturday story. The Huskies are at the DECC vs. Minnesota Duluth at 7:37 p.m. Saturday:

DULUTH — Drew LeBlanc was the last one on the ice for practice the other day.

The rink attendant came by and opened the Zamboni doors a good 20 minutes after the other players went to the dressing room. LeBlanc was still piling pucks into a five-gallon bucket.

It’s tradition with many college hockey teams that freshmen fulfill such menial tasks. Though there are seven other rookies listed on the St. Cloud State roster, it’s usually LeBlanc who lugs the pail because he logs so much ice time.

Only the venues have changed since he grew up in Hermantown, a couple of miles up the hill from the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. The last time he played here, LeBlanc helped his high school team win its section final en route to the 2007 Class A state title.

Tonight, when the Huskies play Minnesota-Duluth to complete a road series that began with a Nov. 1 game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, LeBlanc will be back again.

His father, Guy, has requested Drew try to come up with 11 unused tickets from among his teammates. His uncle has already purchased 20. It’s a far cry from not that long ago when anyone could see LeBlanc as much as they wanted — as long as they were willing to stand outdoors on packed snow.

"At Hermantown, we had four freshly Zambonied outdoor rinks right outside our arena," LeBlanc said. "The guy there treated me really good. He’d do the rink I was on all the time. Hopefully, he’ll get to come and watch the game on Saturday.

"All the little kids would be out there, and my two brothers and my dad and I would rink-rat all the time. We’d start games with whoever was there. It’s a way for us to kind of bond in a way that’s unique."

Some days LeBlanc would participate in high school practice, then skate with the junior varsity, then go outside for some more.

On weekends, when the Hawks’ schedule provided, he’d organize outdoor games, separating a center-ice pile of sticks into two teams before dropping a tennis ball between the designated goalies.

When it was too cold to draw much of a crowd, LeBlanc would still be there — moving from rink to rink on the cold, crisp ice. Those nights are one reason he has gone on to play every game this season, scoring two goals and four points — mostly as a third-line center.

"There are rink rats and then there’s Drew," said Nathan Hardy, a goalie from Hermantown and also a freshman at St. Cloud State. "He took it do a different level. But all that time he spent outside, that’s where he got his stickhandling ability. It was that kind of dedication that got him where he is. He put in as much work or more than anybody."

LeBlanc parlayed that approach into a 199-point high school career that didn’t even include a senior season. His last game was a 4-1 championship win over Duluth Marshall, with Hardy making 32 saves, and Hermantown finished the 2006-07 season 29-0-2.

After winning state, LeBlanc joined the USHL’s Chicago Steel and stayed there last year. He lived with his coach, former NHL defenseman Steve Poapst.

Not coincidentally, LeBlanc learned to play better without the puck. After going minus-12 with five assists in his 14-game trial at the end of his junior year, he wound up plus-27 (third in the league) with 54 points in 58 games in 2007-08.

"He taught me to play a lot better defense, but he let us play freely offensively," LeBlanc said. "That was nice because it’s what I was used to in high school. I just needed to learn to work hard and bear down and get tougher. I think that’s what juniors is all about."

Points haven’t come as fast and often at SCSU. He had an assist against Mercyhurst and a tap-in power-play goal at Minnesota. He set up the game-winner Nov. 14 against Denver, and scored on a rush a week later against Wisconsin.

It hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

"He’s always the first one to the rink and the last one off," said Huskies freshman Jared Festler, LeBlanc’s roommate. "He leaves at, like, 1:05 (p.m.) to get down to practice and most guys arrive about 2. I don’t know what he does, if he sits and tapes his sticks or soaks in the ambience or what."

Festler, who practiced on LeBlanc’s wing for the first time this week, has known LeBlanc since they were about 10. They played summer hockey with the Minnesota Northern Wings, traveling to tournaments in the U.S. and Canada. They later were high school and USHL rivals.

"He’s a different player," Festler said. "He’s got great vision. It’s like he has eyes in the back of his head sometimes. But he’s also a bit bigger (6-foot, 185 pounds) and can protect the puck. It’s hard to take it away from him."

Just the sort of skill you’d expect from a rink rat. And LeBlanc’s looking forward to getting back out there in the cold as soon as he can. His brothers, Brian (a freshman hoping to make the Hermantown varsity) and Jack (a fifth-grader) will be waiting. So will Guy LeBlanc, a former St. Scholastica forward who couldn’t play last winter because he underwent hip replacement surgery.

"At Christmas break I’ll have to go out there and dangle a little bit and show him a few things," Drew said.

Guy LeBlanc is a teacher who has inspired his son to pursue a math degree. The importance of a victory over the Bulldogs to offset what may have been the Huskies’ worst game — they lost 5-1 at the Xcel Energy Center — is easy arithmetic. Especially for a ninth-place team that started its WCHA schedule with three straight losses.

"There’s a huge difference to me between 3-5 and 4-4," LeBlanc said. "We need to get back in the hunt."

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Team Player

The puck was coming straight at Kyle Schmidt.

The Minnesota Duluth hockey forward was down on one knee while killing a penalty a week ago at the DECC as North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway launched a shot on goal.

Schmidt knew his job was to get in the way, and the puck crushed the upper right corner of his face mask, bending the bars in at least an inch. His forehead was cut and there was enough blood to cloud his vision as he looked for UMD’s bench.

“It came right for my eye and it came so fast that I had no way to get out of the way,” Schmidt said this week. “And the way the game is played, you’re supposed to stay there and take it. Our mentality is that we play a punishing sport and you learn to play through those things. It’s part of the game.

“That was a pretty powerful shot, and a painful, shocking moment. I was loopy for a few seconds and was hoping someone would come and help me.”

The sophomore from Hermantown left Friday’s game, in the second period of a 2-2 tie, received seven stitches and was back for Saturday’s 3-1 victory.

A handful of other individual efforts in the series, noted by UMD’s coaching staff, gave the Bulldogs a lift in earning three points in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Bulldogs (5-4-4) hope to continue those efforts in today’s 7:37 p.m. game against No. 18 St. Cloud State (8-5) at the DECC.

“There are times when you have to sacrifice your body. Some might be little plays, but they can make the difference in a game and can become contagious,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said.

Also from last weekend — UMD’s Nick Kemp blocked a shot headed for an open UMD net; Chad Huttel passed a puck out of the defensive zone knowing he’d take a heavy hit; and Mike Connolly got run over on a penalized check and stood up to the offender.

Sandelin says he’s been disappointed in UMD’s effort only once in 13 games, a 4-1 home loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 15. The Bulldogs followed that with the North Dakota series, aided by four power-play goals, putting the Bulldogs first among WCHA teams at 20.2 percent.

Saturday’s win broke a five-game winless streak.

“We knew we had to come out firing on all cylinders. We needed that for our confidence,” said Schmidt. “We can’t afford to be lackadaisical.

“Our specials teams showed they can do the job when we need them. That’s what had been letting us down.”

Huskies on streak

Since losing to UMD a month ago, St. Cloud State has gone 5-1 by outscoring opponents 23-7. The only loss was 1-0 at home to Wisconsin last Saturday. Junior goalie Jase Weslosky (.933 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average) has been getting help from a developing defensive corps.

“We’ve now got some size and strength [in defensemen] that’s an improvement from the last few years,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “We’ve been up and down this season, but the last three weeks have been much better.”

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Pre Game Notes

St. Cloud State (8-5) at Minnesota Duluth (5-4-4)

What: WCHA men’s game

When: 7:37 p.m. today

Where: DECC (5,294)

Ranking: St. Cloud State is No. 18 in USCHO poll

Radio/TV: KHQG 102.5 FM/Charter 15

Series: St. Cloud State leads 50-36-5



r Bob Motzko is 71-48-16 in four years at St. Cloud State

r Scott Sandelin is 127-164-41 in nine years at UMD



St. Cloud State has two new defensemen in the lineup since playing UMD on Nov. 1 – freshmen Oliver Lauridsen (6-foot-6) from Denmark and Nick Rioux (6-1) from Quebec. The Huskies, 5-1 the past six games, have lost only one game by more than two goals this season, to UMD 5-1. St. Cloud State hasn’t left Minnesota for a game yet this season. Sophomore C Garrett Roe of Vienna, Va., leads in scoring at 7-13-20 and has 65 career points in 52 games


  BULLDOGS update

Minnesota Duluth, which has beaten St. Cloud State three straight times, is No. 8 in Division I power-play efficiency at 20.2 percent. The Bulldogs are finishing a five-game home stand, the longest of the season. Junior G Alex Stalock makes his 50th straight start Saturday and has played more minutes this season (777) than all but two Division I goalies. Senior D Josh Meyers has at least one point in four straight games. UMD is 3-1-2 at home this season


Probable UMD Lines

Jordan Fulton-Jack Connolly-Justin Fontaine, Mike Connolly-MacGregor Sharp-Nick Kemp, Andrew Carroll-Drew Akins-Michael Gergen, Matt Greer-Rob Bordson-Kyle Schmidt

Defensive Pairs

Josh Meyers-Mike Montgomery, Trent Palm-Evan Oberg, Jay Cascalenda-Chad Huttel


Alex Stalock, Brady Hjelle, Kenny Reiter

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Status Quo

      Don’t expect many changes in Minnesota Duluth’s lineup for Saturday’s 7:37 p.m. home game with No. 18 St. Cloud State. Coach Scott Sandelin said earlier this week that he expected to keep his roster pretty much as is following last Saturday’s 3-1 home win over North Dakota, which includes junior defenseman Trent Palm remaining in place after missing four games because of a hip injury. Sandelin, and his staff, thought Palm’s play in the North Dakota series was his best of the season.

       The only revision appears to have junior defenseman Jay Cascalenda back in the lineup. He was ill last Saturday and sat out.

       St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko says his team has had just one off night this season, a 5-1 loss to UMD on Nov. 1 in St. Paul.

    Here are a few Division I statistical rankings: St. Cloud State is No. 4 in offense at 3.69 goals a game. UMD is No. 22 in defense, allowing 2.46 a game. UMD is No. 8 in power-play efficiency at 20.2 percent. UMD is No. 5 in penalties with 21.6 minutes per game (Wisconsin leads Division I at 24.8).

       Saturday’s game is the only WCHA game of the weekend, while other league teams are in non-conference meetings.

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Stejskal Sparks Dartmouth

      Dartmouth College sophomore defenseman Joe Stejskal of Grand Rapids helped his team to a five-game win streak recently, a 5-3 record and No. 20 ranking. He has six goals in eight games, five on power plays. Here’s part of a Joe Gladziszewski story on the Big Green of Hanover, N.H., which appeared at Inside College Hockey.

Joe Stejskals five power-play goals rank tied for third nationally.

Joe Stejskal’s five power-play goals are tied for third nationally.

Other sophomores, like defenseman Evan Stephens and forward Adam Estoclet, have also sparked Dartmouth.

An overtime win against St. Lawrence on home ice Nov. 14 came with Stejskal and Stephens scoring power-play goals early on, and Estoclet adding the OT-winner.

That Dartmouth trio is part of a nine-member sophomore class that seems like wise old owls to the nine-member freshman class that followed it to Hanover. The second-year group brought back a little bit of experience, and a little bit of passion.

“Last year we were young, and we’re young again this year, but there’s more experience and we weren’t satisfied with what happened last season,” Stejskal said, who leads Division I defensemen in goals. “We came back hungrier this year.”

Estoclet leads the Big Green with 12 points, but Stejskal and Stephens are a dynamic duo on the blue line. Stejskal has scored six goals already, five on the power play, and has eight points. This comes after a freshman year in which he had a goal and four assists. Stephens has five points through eight games and was an ECAC Hockey Third Team and Rookie Team selection last year.

Stejskal attributes his power-play proficiency to the bounce of the puck and to the team’s work ethic. Battling on the power play and competing for loose pucks, time, and space gives everyone more chances. Lazy, tentative power play units are easy for penalty killers to defend.

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