Takeaways: St. Cloud boys hockey opens season with a loss to Bemidji

·4 min read

ST. CLOUD — The St. Cloud boys hockey team opened up the 2021-22 regular season on Saturday at the MAC against section opponent Bemidji.

The game stayed relatively close in the first period, but the Lumberjacks took a commanding lead in the second period to win 4-1 and put the Crush at 0-1.

Here are a couple takeaways from the first game of the season for the Crush.

Mix of veteran, new players

Coming into Saturday's game, there were 25 players that played a game for St. Cloud last season and returned this year. Of them, 10 scored a point for the Crush in the 2020-21 season.

There was a mix of players who had more time on the ice than others, but all of them were integral in the first game this year. Ripley Garden scored the only goal for the Crush, and it was assisted by Andrew Cumming and Isaac Baker.

All three of these players were looked at to lead this team along with players like goalie Ben Condon, Nick Matanich, Theo Rieland and Blake O'Hara.

St. Cloud's Theo Rieland tries to put his body in front of the puck against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
St. Cloud's Theo Rieland tries to put his body in front of the puck against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

The biggest missing piece for St. Cloud on Saturday was Condon as he sat on the bench and wasn't dressed for the game. Head coach Pete Matanich said Condon was injured and he's day to day. Hank Bulson took over as starting goalie against Bemidji and seemed to be comfortable in the first period.

Bulson faced nine shots on goal from the Lumberjacks and saved eight of them. The second period had 11 shots on goal from Bemidji and Bulson saved nine of them. Finally, in the last period, he saved seven of eight shots.

The senior goalie saved 24 shots on 28 attempts. St. Cloud had six goalies try out for the team, so there's plenty of depth at that position, but the hope for the Crush is to have Condon back soon with the amount of experience he had from last season.

St. Cloud's goalie Hank Bulson stretches out to record a save against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
St. Cloud's goalie Hank Bulson stretches out to record a save against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Before the season, Matanich said he's looking forward to seeing who steps up in the early games and there will be some movement to see which players work together and form strong lines.

Physical play

During the preseason, a few St. Cloud veteran players said they expect to see a physical team on the ice each game. That expectation was met on Saturday as the Crush reflected its new team nickname literally.

St. Cloud started off aggressive in the first period and that carried into the second and third periods. There's a difference between physical play and physical play that hurts the team.

St. Cloud's Ripley Garden takes a slap shot at the blue line against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
St. Cloud's Ripley Garden takes a slap shot at the blue line against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

The Crush opened up the game with some hard hits on the boards to Lumberjack players and took control of the game. Then, that physicality hurt the team a bit as Sheldon Shyiak and Baker went to the box for roughing.

Fortunately, Bemidji didn't score off the power plays and never scored off any advantage time. St. Cloud showed off its power play defense with veteran players.

The physicality grew between both teams in the third period. Bemidji took a 4-0 lead with about 10 minutes left in the game and St. Cloud wanted to try and respond.

St. Cloud's Jaden Mendel collides with a Bemidji player on the boards against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
St. Cloud's Jaden Mendel collides with a Bemidji player on the boards against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Bemidji's Wylee Gladen put a big hit on St. Cloud's Cumming in the middle of the ice that caused some shoving and shouting with about 7:30 left in the game. Gladen was put in the box after a head contact penalty, but Cumming also went into the box for two minutes with unsportsmanlike conduct.

Then, Baker was sent to the box for boarding, but Bemidji sent a player to the box shortly after for tripping. It seemed like there would be no more penalties called as time expired on the clock, but two more were announced while fans were leaving the arena.

Gladen was released from the box at the end of the game and went after Cumming. He ended up getting called for butt ending, which is when the player uses the shaft of the hockey stick to check an opponent.

St. Cloud's Andrew Cumming gets ready for the face off against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
St. Cloud's Andrew Cumming gets ready for the face off against Bemidji at the MAC on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Gladen had a game disqualification for those actions, and Cumming also received a game misconduct for head contact at the end of the game. Gladen will miss one game due to his disqualification, while Cumming will not have to miss time because it was a misconduct and not a disqualification.

Since these two teams are in the same section, it'll be interesting to see what happens when they meet on Jan. 18, 2022, in Bemidji for another regular season matchup

St. Cloud travels to Burnsville at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Brian Mozey is the high school sports reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach him at 320-255-8772 or bmozey@stcloudtimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianMozey.

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This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Takeaways: St. Cloud boys hockey starts season with a loss to Bemidji

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