Oct. 25, 2008
St. Cloud, Minn. - Coming into the 2008-09 season, head coach Digit Murphy knew that to succeed this year she would need superlative play from senior captain Nicole Stock (Buffalo Grove, IL) in goal, and a strong contribution from the multitude of young players on the squad. She got exactly that on Saturday night, as the Bears (0-1-1) eked out a shootout win against national power St. Cloud State (4-2-2). Though the game will go down as a 2-2 tie because it was a nonconference match, it marked a terrific turnaround from the night before, when the Huskies won 3-0, and gave Bruno an impressive building block for the rest of their season.
The night after recording 49 saves in the loss, Stock notched 38 more on Saturday, including a number of highlight reel worthy stops, keeping the Bears in the game from start to finish. Several of the talented young players on the squad stepped up on the big stage as well, as sophomore Samantha Stortini (Sudbury, Ont.) and freshman Skyelar Siwak (Olds, Alb.) tallied a goal and an assist each.
The first period got the Bears off to a terrific start, as they came out of the locker room looking much improved from the 3-0 loss Friday night. The benefit of having seen live game action was immediately apparent, as the team's passes looked sharper and they were able to take the action to the Huskies right away, instead of battling to stay in the game.
Although St. Cloud State had the opportunity to take the early momentum when they got a power play only three and a half minutes into play, Stock seized control and made three saves on the penalty kill, keeping the game scoreless. With just over 13 minutes remaining in the period, junior assistant captain Andrea Hunter (Fulton, N.Y.) narrowly missed an open look on goal, and it appeared that the offense would struggle again after being shut out last night. However, a cross checking call on the Huskies opened the door for Bruno, and the team set up the power play perfectly. The puck circulated around the perimeter until Stortini saw an open look at net, and fired a shot through the crowd that found the goal for a 1-0 lead, and the Bears' first goal of the season. Assists were awarded to freshmen Paige Pyett (Regina, Sask.) and Siwak.
Opportunity arose once again when St. Cloud was called for dual penalties, and Brown was given a 5 on 3 power play. Buoyed with confidence from the earlier goal, the Bears came out aggressively, unleashing a barrage of shots. Stortini again took the initial shot, which was saved by Husky goalkeeper Tayler VanDenakker. Newcomer Vika Mykolenko (Kharkiv, Ukraine) took another shot off the deflection, and was again rejected, but Siwak was in the right place to pick up the loose puck, and fired it past VanDenakker into the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage.
As fast-paced and chaotic as the first period was, the second began equally uneventfully, as neither team was able to get a good look early on. Stock was once again superb, making several terrific saves on a St. Cloud State power play, including a kick save that had the crowd buzzing. Trouble started with just over four minutes remaining, however, as the Huskies passed the puck around on Brown's end of the ice, finally centering it to sophomore Diana Karouzos, who knocked it past Stock to pull St. Cloud to within 2-1.
Only 33 seconds later the Huskies struck again, as Karouzos found net for the second time in under a minute. Stock initially appeared to have made another exceptional save, but the puck trickled through to even the game at two apiece. Though the rest of the period passed without incident, St. Cloud State looked to have grabbed the momentum with its two quick goals.
The defenses again upped the intensity to begin the final period, with hard hits the rule, and good looks on goal the exception. As she had done all weekend, Stock made a point blank save on a breakaway opportunity for the Huskies only two minutes into the period to maintain the tie, but neither team was able to execute offensively when not on the fast break. As the tension continued to mount, each team dug in on defense, refusing to concede the game, and the period remained scoreless, forcing a dramatic overtime period.
Although the Bears entered overtime a man down, a result of a body checking call with 14 seconds remaining in the third, they were able to successfully kill the penalty once again, and the game continued deadlocked at two. The Huskies had one final opportunity, when junior Erin Connors (Newburyport, MA) was called for hooking with 34 seconds left in the game, but were unable to take the lead despite a desperate barrage of shots, and the buzzer sounded with the score still stuck at two. Though the game would officially be recorded as a tie, the teams went to a shootout regardless, with each squad set to take three penalty shots.
Though the shootout began inauspiciously for Brown, with sophomore Erica Kromm's (Naramata, B.C.) shot rejected by VanDenakker, it quickly became spectacular. Stock made an impressive save on the first shot by the Huskies, deflecting the puck wide of the goal, and Hunter followed that with an outstanding shot into the upper right corner of the net, giving Bruno a 1-0 advantage. On the second St. Cloud shot, Stock appeared to be beaten easily, but she made an unbelievable save that drew the loudest roar from the crowd all night, stretching all the way back across the goal and just tipping away the puck to keep the Huskies off the board. When sophomore Maggie Suprey (South Boston, MA) fired her shot into goal seconds later the shootout was over, and Brown had a 2-0 advantage.
The game marked a tremendous step forward for Brown from the previous game, when they struggled at times with execution. The Bears connected on two of their six power plays, and narrowly missed several other chances, proving that they could potentially have potent special teams as the year goes on. Even more impressively, Brown killed off all nine power plays for the Huskies, executing their defense almost flawlessly. After proving that they can hang with a powerhouse such as St. Cloud State, which has been receiving votes in the national power polls, the Bears look poised to return to their usual high status in the ECAC this season, and could challenge earlier than anyone predicted.
The Bears will be in action again on Friday, when they will travel to take on Rensselaer at 7 p.m.