If it feels to you like St. Cloud is constantly playing Minot or Austin or Bismarck then Norsemen fans are in luck as the Aberdeen Wings are in town this weekend. Due to an NAHL scheduling quirk, the Norsemen haven’t seen the Wings since New Years Eve and haven’t had Aberdeen in St. Cloud since October 1st ,yet the two teams square off for the last four games of the regular season with the series kicking off this Friday at the MAC.
Neither team has clinched a playoff spot but things are looking much better for St. Cloud in the standings as they sit all alone in second place, three points clear of North Iowa and with a six point lead over Aberdeen who now finds themselves tied with Minot. A win in any of their four remaining games guarantees they finish ahead of the Wings in the standings and will clinch a playoff berth for the Norsemen. Aberdeen looked like a lock to make the postseason in late February as they sat in second place but in the last twelve games they’ve won just three times going 3-7-1-1 in that stretch.
Since the Norsemen haven’t seen the Wings in the last three months, and the time before that was six months ago, St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen admits that it’s hard to gain too much from those previous meetings. “Lot of differences from that time; they’ve got quite a few different bodies so it’s going to be hard to take away too much. One thing we can do is go to school on some of the tendencies that coach (Scott) Langer has,” Millen points out. “He obviously has done it a long time in this league and he’s had a lot of success. It’s gonna come down to us playing our game and doing it well.”
There are tons of different clinching scenarios but the easiest route for the Norsemen to punch their playoff ticket would requite St. Cloud to do something they haven’t done yet this season, and that’s beat Aberdeen. St. Cloud lost at home 5-1 and 6-3 at the end of September/beginning of October and were in much more competitive games in Aberdeen but fell 3-2 in a shootout and 2-1 in regulation the last two days of December. In both of those games they held a lead in the second half of the third period but the Wings tied the game with seven and a half minutes left on Friday before scoring the lone goal of the shootout while Saturday Aberdeen tied it up with less than five minutes in regulation and scored the game-winner in the final 30 seconds.
Coach MIllen thinks back on their previous matchups with Aberdeen and admits that the Norsemen should have come away with better results than they did. “We played them early in the year and they came off getting swept. We were a little banged up when they were here but they played extremely well,” compliments Millen. “Then we went there and I thought we played two pretty good games and had opportunities to win both and found ways to give points away. Both of those were quite a while ago, so there’s gonna be a lot of things that are going to be different about this weekend.”
Not only are the Norsemen gunning to gain a postseason berth this weekend but they could wrap up a better spot than just the bare minimum. Four teams in each division make the playoffs and St. Cloud can guarantee themselves third or better with a win in either game this weekend AND Minot losing either game to Austin in any fashion. The Norsemen can wrap up the #2 seed and home ice in the first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs with a win in either game, a Minot loss, and picking up two more points on the weekend then North Iowa. So if North Iowa picks up 0 points a Norsemen win would do it, if the Bulls gain a point St. Cloud would need three and if North Iowa picks up two on the weekend a Norsemen sweep would get the job done. (If St. Cloud picks up 3 or 4 points this weekend then Minot’s results would no longer factor in to the Norsemen locking up the #2 seed.)
St. Cloud is hoping for a big and rowdy crowd this weekend to help give them some home-ice advantage as they look to guarantee themselves a spot in the 2023 Robertson Cup Playoffs. Get your tickets online at https://tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com/.