While the St. Cloud Norsemen were disappointed to taste defeat for the first time in the 2023 Robertson Cup Playoffs on Saturday, they also knew it wasn’t very realistic to think St. Cloud would go 9-0 in the playoffs and not face any adversity.
The Norsemen won a wild game in overtime 4-3 on Friday night but the Austin Bruins bounced back with a 6-1 victory Saturday. St. Cloud Assistant Coach Brock Kautz knows that a close loss and a blowout go down the same in the end. “The series is 1-1. It really doesn’t matter if you lose by one or you lose by five, at the end of the day it’s a loss. We win Game 1 and then a quick turnaround and I don’t think we played very well in Game 2,” admits Kautz. “They came out and we expected them to push back at home, after losing their first game in the playoffs. Gotta give them a lot of credit, they played hard and they eliminated a lot of chances for us. That was the big difference in my opinion from night one to night two, we didn’t generate any chances and it’s tough to score when you don’t have many scoring chances.”
Through two games the Bruins are being led by Walter Zacher with three goals and an assist, Josh Giulani with a goal and two helpers, and James Goffredo with a pair of goals from the blueline. On the weekend in Austin the Norsemen had four players with multiple points; defenseman Broten Sabo has three assists while Anthony Ruklic has a pair of goals including the overtime winner Friday, Daniels Murnieks has a goal and an assist, and Hunter Hanson and Blake Perbix have each registered two helpers with both of Perbix’s coming on the man advantage.
That power play has turned around for the Norsemen early in the second round; after going 0-for-7 in three games against Aberdeen the Norsemen have seen an uptick in chances and conversions. St. Cloud is 3-for-9 against Austin but the Norsemen scored six seconds after one power play chance had expired, making them closer to 4-for-9 in actuality.
Kautz talks about the improvement of the power play unit against Austin versus Aberdeen. “Friday in Game 1 we obviously scored a couple of really important goals with a couple of different looks from Round 1 to then. That maybe changed things up a little bit from what we were doing, a couple good bounces went our way,” Kautz explains. “Murnieks put a good shot on net, Clarks shooting a one-timer; couple different ways to score a goal, so (we’re) obviously pleased with them scoring versus the first round. It’s something that we’re still working on to get a little bit better at.”
St. Cloud is back at it this week, practicing at the MAC all week long ahead of Games 3 and 4 this Friday and Saturday with the puck dropping at 7:00 both nights. Tickets are available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com. And the first 100 fans Friday night will get a set of 2022-23 St. Cloud Norsemen trading cards, courtesy of Rengel Printing.
If the two teams split this weekend in St. Cloud, Game 5 will be in Austin on Sunday with a 5:05 start time. You can watch that game online at hockeytv.com.