2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: St. Cloud State Huskies

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: Eric Rud (2nd Season)
2015-16 Captains: Vanessa Spataro (C), Lauren Hespenheide (A), Molly Illikainen (A)

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 8-28-1 (5-22-1-1 WCHA/7th place)
WCHA Postseason: Conference quarterfinals; swept by Wisconsin in first round of WCHA playoffs

It was a tough season for St. Cloud State, who finished second-to-last in their league, but it was also the first year under head coach Eric Rud for the program so it was a bit of a transition season well. The Huskies dropped their first two games, hosted by the University of Minnesota, to Boston University and Penn State, but earned a split against another nonconference foe in Lindenwood the following weekend. They then enjoyed an undefeated weekend against Minnesota State, beating the Mavericks and then tying them to pick up a few WCHA points.

They followed that up with an upset win over Ohio State in the next week’s series, earning a split with the Buckeyes, and then swept Rensselaer in nonconference play. It was a tough go for St. Cloud State for the rest of the 2014 calendar year, however; their next 11 games were against Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Bemidji State, and they lost 10 in a row there before knocking off the Beavers, 3-0, on Dec. 13.

2015 wasn’t much better for the Huskies, who were then swept by Ohio State, UMD, Minnesota, Bemidji State, and UND before finally picking up another win against the Mavericks on Feb. 16. Later that week, they secured their biggest win of the year, knocking off Wisconsin, 2-1, on the road. The Badgers salvaged a 5-0 win the next day, however, and then swept St. Cloud State in the WCHA quarterfinals with a 5-1 win and a 4-1 win.

Meet the Newcomers

G Taylor Crosby, Northeastern University, Shattuck-St. Mary’s

During her senior season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.), Crosby posted a .913 save percentage and 1.73 goals-against average. She helped SSM reach USA Hockey National Championships four times, including in 2013-14, when the team finished as national runner-ups. She was a member of Nova Scotia’s Under-17 Team and also took part in Hockey Canada’s Under-18 Camp in 2013.

Coach Rud on Crosby (via SCSUHuskies.com):

“We are very excited to have an athlete with this much experience and character coming into our program.  Taylor (Crosby) will be an excellent addition to our program in every way,” Rud said.

G Madeleine Dahl, Union College, Edina H.S.

Another transfer, Dahl comes to the Huskies after playing two seasons for the Dutchwomen and redshirting the 2014-15 season. As a freshman at Union, she recorded a .925 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average in five games. In seven games in 2013-14, she posted a .929 save percentage and 2.91 goals-against average. In high school, she was a finalist for Minnesota’s Senior Goalie of the Year award at Edina (Minn.), and earned all-conference, all-metro, and all-state honors as a senior as well.

Coach Rud on Dahl (via SCSUHuskies.com):

“Maddie (Dahl) is a very mature young women who has overcome injuries and is really looking forward to getting back on the ice while also pursuing her passion academically in the sciences field,” Rud said.

F Suvi Ollikainen, Finnish Under-18 Team, KJT

With the Finnish U18 squad, Ollikainen played in three different IIHF Under-18 World Championships, and also played for the Finnish senior team at the 2014 Four Nations Cup.

Coach Rud on Ollikainen (via SCSUHuskies.com):

“Suvi (Ollikainen) is a smart 2 way player who can help us in a lot of different situations.  She has played against the best in the world in international play and will be ready for the WCHA,” Rud said.

F Julia Tylke, Chicago Young Americans

With her Young Americans Club, Tylke 22 goals, 25 assists, and 47 points over the past three seasons. She also helped the team advance to the USA Hockey National Championships in 2012 and 2015.

Coach Rud on Tylke (via SCSUHuskies.com):

“We are always trying to find players who are creative offensively and with Julia (Tylke) we feel we are bringing in a player with elite puck skill and has tremendous offensive upside,” Rud said.

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: G Julie Friend, D Audrey Hanmer, F Abby Ness, F Amanda Arbogast
Key Returners: F Molly Illikainen, F Lauren Hespenheide, F Payge Pena, D Lexi Slattery, D Christa Moody
Key Additions: F Suvi Ollikainen, F Julia Tylke, G Madeleine Dahl

The 2014-15 season was a tough one for the Huskies, who were outscored by a margin of 2.22 goals per game. Their five wins in conference play were enough to keep them out of last place, as they finished ahead of Minnesota State in seventh. It’s hard to imagine that St. Cloud State will be able to move up this season, with a changing of the guard in goal and the loss of several other key seniors. But there are a few talented pieces on this roster, and the team will rely on them to test the teams ahead of them game-by-game.

In net, the Huskies will have to replace Julie Friend. She didn’t have the best numbers to show for it (a career .905 save percentage and 3.41 goals-against average), but she frequently stood on her head in an effort to keep games within as close of a reach as possible for SCSU. Last season, she made 40 saves or more on seven different occasions, including a season-high 52 saves in an upset win over Wisconsin. It shouldn’t be too much of a transition, however, as senior Katie Fitzgerald has been primed for the starting role over the last three seasons. She split a fair amount of time with Friend, but I don’t think either Madeleine Dahl or Taylor Crosby can efficiently handle as much of a workload in the same position as Fitzgerald previously.

St. Cloud State is also losing a big part of its defensive corps in Audrey Hanmer, who finished second on the club in scoring last season with five goals and 14 points. She was a big impact player throughout her career on the Huskies’ blue line, and they’ll look for senior Lexi Slattery to step into that bigger leadership role this year. Out of their group of defenders, Slattery possesses the most skill, but they’ll also be looking for junior Christa Moody to contribute in a top-four role. Juniors Caroline Markstrom and Jenna Redford are two more experienced defenders who will play significant roles.

Molly Illikainen is the team’s go-to player up front, and was last season’s leading scorer with 10 goals and 19 points. She’s usually their most constant threat, and as she showed this past weekend with a hat trick in SCSU’s 4-4 tie with North Dakota, she can carry the offense to a certain extent. Linemates Lauren Hespenheide and Payge Pena are the team’s other top forwards, and those three are relied upon for the bulk of it when it comes to creating chances. The Huskies don’t have much to show for depth after that, but freshmen Julia Tylke and Suvi Ollikainen could chip in a bit and make for good additions right away.

Outside of Illikainen and, to a point, Slattery, St. Cloud State doesn’t really have much game-changing talent throughout its lineup. Just as Friend was last year, Fitzgerald will see a lot of shots most nights, and she’ll be relied on heavily to keep games from getting out of hand. Their top line and their top-four defensemen are also really going to need to step up and contribute, but it’ll be tough to do against stronger teams who can match them with their own top talent. A few weeks into this season, the Huskies haven’t shown that they can muster up much of an offensive effort, and I would expect them to finish seventh or eighth again in the WCHA.

Schedule Highlights

Oct. 2-3 at Merrimack (W 6-4, W 6-2)
Oct. 9-10 at Minnesota (L 7-0, L 11-0)
Oct. 16-17 vs. Wisconsin (L 5-0, L 2-0)
Oct. 23-24 vs. North Dakota (L 3-0, T 4-4)
Oct. 30-31 at Bemidji State
Nov. 13-14 vs. Minnesota State
Nov. 28-29 at Lindenwood
Dec. 11 vs. Minnesota (Hall of Fame Game – Roseville, Minn.)
Jan. 8-9 vs. Minnesota
Jan. 30-31 at Wisconsin
Feb. 5-6 vs. Bemidji State
Feb. 12-13 at North Dakota

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