St. Cloud State University season preview

By DJ Powers

The St. Cloud State Huskies will open their 2005-06 regular season on Oct. 14 when they travel to the Berry Center to face off against host Northern Michigan.

This season will be a new beginning with a familiar face making a return to SCSU.

After 18 years behind the Huskies bench, Craig Dahl has stepped down. The new man running the show is former SCSU player and assistant coach Bob Motzko, who recently served as an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota prior to his return.

With Motzko in charge, the Huskies will be looking to better their ninth place finish of last season.

SCSU lost four players to graduation in defenseman Matt Gens (VAN), and forwards Dave Ianazzo, Mike Doyle and Peter Szabo. With the few losses, expectations will be high for many of the returning players to have a better season this year.

One area that SCSU will need to address this season is increased goal scoring. The Huskies averaged 2.73 goals per game last season, which ranked them 36th in the nation. Only Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech averaged fewer goals per game in the WCHA. The Huskies had only two players – Ianazzo and current senior Joe Jensen (PIT) who posted ten or more goals last season. Jensen finished second on the team last season with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists). He was one of only three players to play in all 40 games last season.

Aside from Jensen, SCSU will be looking to other returning forwards such as seniors Billy Hengen and Brock Hooton (OTT) and sophomore Andrew Gordon (WSH) for increased offensive production.

Hengen finished his junior season with 22 points (seven goal, 15 assists), despite having to battle through injuries. He was limited to just 26 games.

Hooton, who will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains, finished his junior season with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 38 appearances. While Hooton will provide some leadership to the Huskies, they will also look for more consistent offensive production out of him. Five of his 12 points last season came in a span of three games in back in mid-January. He failed to tally a point in SCSU’s final ten games of the season.

Gordon was off to a torrid start to his rookie campaign last season, notching nine points (six goals, three assists) in the month of October before cooling off considerably in mid-season. He finished the year with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) playing in 38 games. The Huskies are hoping that he’ll duplicate last season’s start as well as keep a steady pace offensively throughout this season.

Three newcomers will join the forward ranks of the Huskies this season. Junior Dan Kronick makes his SCSU debut this season after transferring from Minnesota-Duluth.

John Swanson and Michael Olson are the two incoming freshmen. Swanson comes to SCSU from the USHL. The speedy winger had 31 combined points (13 goals, 18 assists) splitting between Lincoln and Chicago last season.

Olson comes to SCSU from Nanaimo (BCHL), where he enjoyed a stellar season, racking up 70 points (32 goals, 38 assists) in 60 games. He led the Clippers with 14 power play goals and three short-handed goals. The hard-working centerman was the recipient of the RBC Canadian Junior “A” Player of the Year award.

Another area that SCSU will look to improve is their goaltending. Junior Tim Boron and senior Jason Montgomery both struggled with consistency last season. Boron, who saw most of the games, finished with a 10-18-3 record that included one shutout. Montgomery posted a 4-5-0 record in 12 appearances.

The two returning goaltenders will get some competition for the starting from junior Bobby Goepfert (PIT). The Providence College transfer will make his long-awaited debut this fall.

A solid performance by their defensive corps is also vital to the success of the Huskies this season. Two defensemen – juniors Casey Borer (CAR) and Justin Fletcher enjoyed superb sophomore campaigns last season. Both will be relied upon to lead the Huskies defense this season.

Borer continues to get better with age and has arguably become SCSU’s best and most reliable defenseman. He finished the season with 11 points (all assists). Due to his appearance with Team USA at the WJC back in January as well as a concussion problem, the Brooklyn Park, MN native was limited to 35 games. Borer will have a bigger role to fulfill this season, as he will serve as team captain. He will also be looking to score his first collegiate goal as well.

Fletcher became SCSU’s top offensive defenseman last season, leading the blue line in scoring with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists), despite missing time due to a shoulder injury. Fletcher was particularly invaluable to the Huskies on the power play, where he scored six of his eight goals. He also led SCSU in that category.

With just the loss of Gens to replace, SCSU brings in one incoming freshman on the blue line in David Carlisle. He comes to SCSU from Lincoln (USHL), where he had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 58 games. He led the Stars in plus/minus (+15) last season. Carlisle is a small (5’9/180 lbs.) defenseman noted for having good puck skills and superb passing ability.

The Motzko era begins in earnest at SCSU. How the team fares will depend upon how well the players respond to the new coach’s system as well as improving their weaknesses from a year ago. If it all comes together and does so consistently, the Huskies could be a team on the move upwards in the fiercely competitive and very tough WCHA.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 5)

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