Tommies men’s hockey loses 2-0 to St. Cloud State in front of 4,261 at the X

St. Thomas men’s hockey coach Rico Blasi pulled his goaltender for the second straight game on Sunday night.

The circumstances could not have been any different.

After losing 12-2 to St. Cloud State on Saturday in St. Cloud, the Tommies battled the Huskies to the wire at the Xcel Energy Center, falling to 2-0 before a crowd of 4,261.

While the extra attacker didn’t pay any dividends, Blasi believes the strong bounce back against an elite team surely will.

“I think St. Cloud is the No. 1 team in the country,” Blasi said. “And we went toe-to-toe with them. Should we have won tonight? Probably not, but I think we did what we needed to do to get better.”

The Tommies were outshot 36-12, but they did a good job of keeping the Huskies out of the prime scoring areas, something they did not do on Saturday.

Tommies goaltender Peter Thome stopped 34 shots and was strong from beginning to end after giving up six goals in the first half of the game on Saturday.

“Last night, when we took him out of the game,” Blasi said, “I went over to talk with him. He said, ‘Coach, you don’t have to say anything. I have to be better.’

“And that was it. And he was ready to go.”

Thome gave credit to his teammates for playing a more disciplined game, and also praised the coaching staff.

“I think they did an excellent job of not overreacting to the way the first game turned out,” Thome said. “They talked about how we had a lot of guys playing at this level for the first time, and playing against the ‘Big Boys’ in their building.”

St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson was impressed with the way the Tommies responded.

“We did not get as many Grade-A chances tonight,” he said. “They took away our speed in the neutral zone and limited our second and third opportunities.”

Tommies center Sam Renlund took the game’s first penalty at 11:39 of the first period when he was called for hooking behind the St. Cloud net. Zach Okabe’s power-play goal at 13:26 gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

The pivotal point in the game came midway through the second period. The Tommies were outplaying the Huskies in the period, and they went on a power play at 11:36 with a chance to tie the game.

The Tommies came up empty despite putting good pressure on goaltender David Hrenak. Two minutes after the penalty ended, St. Cloud won a faceoff in the St. Thomas zone and Micah Miller beat Thome on a wrist shot from high in the slot.

“There were times in the second period when we had them on their heels,” Blasi said. “I knew they were going to pressure us a lot on our power play because we haven’t had a lot of time to practice it.

“But we’ll get better at that as well. We have guys who can make plays.”

St. Thomas vice president, director of athletics Phil Esten said afterward that he was pleased with the turnout. While it’s unlikely the Tommies will play another game at the X this season, he’s confident the Tommies will host more games there in the future.

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