The St. Cloud Norsemen played a rare pair of games with a non-divisional opponent when they traveled to Cloquet, MN before hosting the Minnesota Wilderness to wrap up a home-and-home over the weekend. The Norsemen were also thrilled to see three previously injured players return back to their lineup in their captain Nik Hong, returning defenseman Broten Sabo and fellow blueliner Adam Nedelka.
The Norsemen got off to a good start by scoring the lone goal of the first period Friday. After the Wilderness’ Joe Cesario was whistled for a hooking minor Broten Sabo took the puck from center ice and hit Tyler Dysart with a pass along the left boards at the blue line. Dysart paid the price along the boards but muscled the puck behind Minnesota’s cage where Kade Peterson found it and backhanded a pass to the left corner. Blake Perbix took the pass on his backhand, turned, and slid it forehand over to Andrew Clarke at the right point. Clarke took his time and fired a precision shot that was just inside and about halfway up the far left side goal post, just out of the reach of goalie Isak Posch’s blocker, to give the visitors the lead 1-0 6:16 into the game.
Minnesota would tie it up in the second at 7:35 when defenseman Brian Lonergan’s seeing-eye shot off of a Wilderness won faceoff in the offensive zone was seen too late by Tomáš Boľo and it slipped in the near post around his glove to make it a 1-1 affair. The tie wouldn’t last into intermission though as it took St. Cloud just 13 seconds to convert on a power play late in the second. Off the offensive zone faceoff Sabo kept an attempted clearance in the zone by one-timing it to Perbix, who got it back to Sabo inside the blue line along the right wing boards. Sabo got it ahead to Clarke along the boards and Clarke had his hands tied up but eventually kicked it free to himself and after getting separation and control of his stick back he headed for the goal line and slid a pass across the goal mouth to Perbix who had crept down low. From one knee Perbix buried a backdoor pass with 59.2 seconds left in the frame.
Not quite halfway through the third the Norsemen would find the back of the net again when Evan Pahos tracked down a loose puck from a Boľo blocker save at the side of the cage, took it below the goal line, and made a nifty behind-the-back backhanded pass to Sabo before streaking up the right side of the ice. Sabo crept up to his own left circle and patiently waited for a lane back to Pahos to open up and found Pahos on the far side at the St. Cloud blue line. Pahos drove the net with a nice toe drag but the puck wouldn’t settle for a shot so he circled counter-clockwise and found Dylan Jensen all alone in the slot. Jensen ripped a rising shot glove-side that Posch had no chance at to make it a 3-1 game 8:23 into the third. Jensen got a little revenge as it was his first goal of the season and it came in his first game against his former team; he played the first seven games of the season for Minnesota. To cap the scoring, Duke Kiffin found a bouncing puck at his own blue line and threw a pass off the right side boards to find Clarke with plenty of time and space. Clarke threw the puck hard off the half wall and the Wilderness failed to gain possession at neutral ice when Hunter Hanson skated onto it. Hanson and Tyler Dysart formed a 2-on-1 break and just before reaching the right circle Hanson peeled it over to Dysart on the left who sniped it top far right corner over Posch’s glove with 2:21 remaining to make it a 4-1 final.
Hong, Sabo and Nedelka had missed a combined 13 straight games before Friday night’s contest and they were thrilled to not only be back out there but contributing to the cause. “It felt good to have a part in helping the team win,” admits Sabo. “The power play was really clicking on Friday so it was nice to have that going and get the win.”
A road win was a nice treat for the Norsemen Friday, but the Wilderness came back with a great response Saturday in St. Cloud, scoring three goals and chasing Boľo just 18:33 into the game. The Wilderness were equally unrelenting on Ethan Dahlmeir in relief, who was victimized for three goals in the second period. Two empty netters with the goalie pulled, one in the second and one in the third, made it an 8-0 game and the third power play goal of the game for the Wilderness in the final five minutes made it a 9-0 final.
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz feels that the game started to slide Minnesota’s way pretty early in the contest Saturday. “Part of it was at the drop of the puck, we weren’te ready to go and we kind of got punched in the mouth right away,” admits Kautz. “We took a bad penalty and once you play on the kill and give up a goal a lot of things might change. You end up chasing the game and we just do a better job of putting ourselves in a position not to take penalties. That’s probably where it all started.”
The Norsemen get back at it this weekend with a couple home games against an opponent they’ll see in their first four games in November, the Bismarck Bobcats. St. Cloud hosts them this Friday and Saturday at 7 PM and tickets are available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.