The St. Cloud Norsemen set a new franchise single-season wins record with its 41st victory of the season, a 7-0 shutout of the North Iowa Bulls to close the regular season on Saturday at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex.
The 41 wins are tied for the most in the North American Hockey League, along with the East Division champion New Jersey Titans. Both the Norsemen and Titans finished with 85 points, but the South Division champion Lone Star Brahmas claimed the league regular season title with 86 points (38-12-5-5). The Norsemen have lost just two games in regulation since January 15. St. Cloud is tied for the most home wins in the NAHL this season with 22.
The NAHL Central Division regular season title and franchise wins record comes in just the second season for head coach Corey Millen in St. Cloud. This is the eighteenth year the franchise has been in the NAHL and third in St. Cloud.
The Norsemen have home ice advantage for the playoffs after winning the NAHL Central Division, and open the playoffs with division semifinals on Friday & Saturday, April 22-23 at 7:00 p.m. at the St. Cloud MAC. Playoff tickets will be just $5 and can be purchased online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com
Norsemen forward and University of St. Thomas commit Ryan O’Neill claimed the NAHL scoring title in dramatic fashion, grabbing three assists in the game to reach 80 points.
O’Neill was tied with two other players in the league coming into the night, who were also in action on Saturday night. Those players each scored two points. O’Neill had a single assist coming into the third as the Norsemen held a 4-0 lead. Up 5-0 with under two minutes to play, O’Neill fired off assists on goals scored by Hunter Hanson and Jackson Hughes that came at 18:58 and 19:34 of the third.
Following the game, O’Neill called the NAHL scoring crown a team title, adding “you don’t score 80 points by yourself.”
This season, O’Neill surpassed the franchise all-time career regular season points record of 139 points and currently sits with 146 points, as the highest-scoring player in team history. The record for most career points in the franchise including playoffs is 155 points.
Miami commit, Norsemen forward and captain Blake Mesenburg finished 12th in the NAHL in scoring with 62 points. Mesenburg’s career numbers are 10th in goals (37) and 12th in points (82) in franchise history. Forward and Northern Michigan commit Blake Perbix (St. Cloud Cathedral) is 28th in the league in scoring with 54 points, and heating up heading into the playoffs, scoring 6 points on 3 goals and 3 assists in his last three games.
St. Cloud scored the second-most goals in the league with 230, second to Midwest Division champion Fairbanks (238). The Norsemen hold the league’s best goal differential at +77.
St. Cloud’s defense has been solid throughout the season and has the fourth-lowest goals against in the NAHL. The Norsemen have allowed the second-fewest shots in the NAHL this season, second only to Lone Star. The defense is led by veteran captain Nick Young, along with Minnesota State commit Evan Murr.
In goal, Slovakian netminder Tomas Bolo has led the way, with the second-most wins in a single-season in franchise history. Bolo is 29-7-1 overall with a 2.25 goals against average and .912 save percentage. Bolo has posted five shutouts this season and allowed just 78 goals in 37 total appearances. Bolo’s 29 wins are second-most in the NAHL this season, and his goals against average is fourth in the league.
The Norsemen have eight NCAA Division I commits on the active roster and have seen ninth called up by his NCAA team at the semester break. NCAA Division I commitments are: Nik Hong (Dartmouth), Brandon Lajoie (Alaska-Anchorage), Blake Mesenburg (Miami), Evan Murr (Minnesota State – Mankato), Ryan O’Neill (St. Thomas), John Opilka (St. Cloud State), Blake Perbix (Northern Michigan) and Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Max Strand (Vermont).
St. Cloud heads into the postseason winning 9 of the last 10 games, and will play host to either Minot or Bismarck in the first round best-of-five series that begins this week. Minot and Bismarck play in a winner-take-all final regular season game Monday (April 18) at 6:05 p.m.
Opening round playoff games for the best-of-five series will take place this Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex. Playoff tickets are just $5, online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com
The St. Cloud Norsemen 2021-22 season is presented by Premier Real Estate and Noel Johnson.