One of my favorite things about covering the WCHA is the outstanding beat writers from around the league. We were once again treated to another one this week when we spoke to St. Cloud State beat writer Mick Hatten (@MickHatten), who covers the Huskies for the St. Cloud Times.
Mick was gracious enough to give me a couple minutes of his time this week to break down the Huskies who have started the first month of the season 3-4-1. Most recently, the Huskies are coming of a split last weekend at North Dakota.
We talked with Mick about the injury to star goaltender Mike Lee, the Huskies improved defensive corps, and who has stepped up to replace the void of the departed Garrett Roe. Let's take a look at this series from the St. Cloud side of things.
B5Q: From an outside perspective, it looks like the start of the season for St. Cloud has been kind of up and down. How would you assess the early season play of the Huskies?
Hatten: That’s pretty fair. Probably pretty similar to what people are saying about Wisconsin. There are several new faces for the Huskies – 10 freshmen on the roster. So there are always ups and downs with having a lot of young players. On top of the freshmen, there are six sophomores in the lineup. I did not see the first two road trips, but it sounded like they played decent in the tournament at Alaska and, despite the losses, not bad at Northern Michigan. The thing the coaches say about that Alaska tournament is that the Alaska schools have an advantage with being able to start practices sooner. The Huskies got a split up there. They lost twice at Northern Michigan, but the Wildcats end up getting three points the next weekend against Michigan, so maybe they are a bit better than people thought initially. St. Cloud State’s offense has not been as good as they thought it was going to be in the early going. The top line of Cam Reid, Drew LeBlanc and Jared Festler has 11 of the team’s 26 goals.
B5Q: Goaltender Mike Lee suffered an injury recently and didn’t make the trip to North Dakota last weekend. However Ryan Faragher played great in his absence. Is there any chance Lee plays this weekend, and if not, can Faragher continue his brilliance this weekend against the Badgers?
Hatten: There’s NO chance that Lee plays this weekend. It sounds like it will be, at the minimum, several weeks before Mike gets back on the ice. There’s always a chance that a goalie can have back-to-back good weekends. Last weekend was the first time I have gotten to see Faragher play in a game and, obviously, he had a very good weekend. I didn’t think it looked like a fluke. Some goalies always seem to be looking for the puck and the puck seems to hit them by accident. I was really impressed with how well Faragher played his angles, challenged shooters when the situation called for it and seemed to be in control the whole weekend in a tough place to play.
B5Q: Oliver Lauridsen, Brett Barta, and Chris Hepp are gone from a defense core that frankly wasn’t that good last year. How have the Huskies looked on the blue-line with freshman additions Jarrod Rabey and Andrew Proncho?
Hatten: Prochno and Rabey are much different style defensemen than Lauridsen and Hepp, who were stay-at-home, physical, not great puck handlers. Prochno and Rabey are both good skaters, have been surprisingly solid with their defensive positioning and can shoot and pass the puck well. Neither player is going to send a forward through the boards, though Rabey, who is 6-1, 238, looks like he should be able to. Their games are much more about getting the puck away from the opposition, turning it up ice and jumping up into the play when the opportunity is there. Rabey went undrafted last summer, which was a bit of a surprise. Prochno has been a pleasant surprise. Both players played one season in the USHL. St. Cloud State wants to play a transition game – I think similar to Wisconsin – move the puck quickly and use their speed. I think with Prochno, Rabey, Nick Jensen and Kevin Gravel, they are doing that more this season.
B5Q: Wisconsin fans know about Hanowski, Festler, and LeBlanc. Who is another forward from SCSU that possibly has been flying under the radar that could have a big series this weekend?
Hatten: I’ll cop out and give you two guys: Cam Reid and Nic Dowd, both sophomores. Reid is tied for second on the team in scoring (8 points) and rivals Festler for the quickest shot on the team among the forwards. He’s stronger and bigger than he was last season when he 29 points and was a +7. Dowd has moved from wing to center in the past couple of weeks. He’s a good stickhandler for a guy who’s 6-2, plays with some grit and does a lot of little things well.
B5Q: Time to put you on the spot Mick. What is your prediction for the Bucky/Husky series?
Hatten: I feel like this is another cop-out, but I think it’s going to be a series split. St. Cloud State’s three wins are all on Fridays and I think that trend continues with the Badgers able to pick up a win on Saturday. Both teams have been up and down on special teams, so that will be an interesting element in this series. St. Cloud State took some bad penalties last Friday and the Saturday before that. They want to stay out of the box and not let guys like Zengerle and Schultz have more open ice. If the Huskies do that, they will be in a lot of trouble this weekend.
Once again, we can't thank Mick enough for taking the time to help us out. Make sure you check him out on twitter this weekend.
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