I had already had this game circled on my calendar since the beginning of the season, but it just so happens that this has turned into a pretty big series between two pretty good teams that are both ranked in the top 20 in just about every national poll.
For St. Cloud, freshmen Jase Weslosky will get his second career start. Weslosky played well in his first collegiate start last month in Mankato and came up big when he needed to, but the Mavericks didn't have the firepower to really test Weslosky. Tonight should be a very good test for Weslosky because the Golden Knights have a lot of offensive talent, and should prove to be a stiff challenge for the young goalie. St. Cloud should have a little better idea of what they have in goal after tonight.
Another lineup change for St. Cloud should give the Huskies a little more local flair. Forward Michael Olson was injured in last Saturday's game against Minnesota, meaning freshman Ryan Peckskamp, from nearby Sauk Rapids, will get a shot on the fourth line. Peckskamp will be the fourth local forward skating for the Huskies tonight, joining John Swanson(St. Cloud), Matt Hartman(St. Cloud), and Nate Raduns(Sauk Rapids).
This is a very important series for Clarkson, as well. They got off to a good start this season, and a victory or two against a pretty good WCHA team on the road would give this team a ton of confidence, and also greatly enhance their resume when it comes to NCAA tournament selection time.
So who are these Clarkson guys. Well, to quote the great Bennett Brauer, they don't "fit the mold" of your typical ECAC team. Normally when you think of the ECAC, you think of a low-scoring team with an good goalie that plays tight defense. That's not the case with Clarkson. The Golden Knights have a lot of talent, including 9 NHL draft picks, and love to play an uptempo offensive style.
Nick Dodge, who many expected to be Clarkson's top scorer this year, has scored a respectable 8 points through his first ten games, but that is only good for 7th on the team in scoring. The leading scorer so far this season has been junior Steve Zalewski, followed by 20-year-old freshman Matt Beca, who are tied for 14th and 21st in scoring in the country, respectively.
I'm expecting an exciting, and possibly very high-scoring game tonight, especially if both teams get a lot of powerplay opportunities. While it's a non-conference game, and it's still a critical game for both teams, and could be of tremendous importance at the end of the season when these two teams are fighting for PWR position.