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The Last Firsts

04/12/2013 - 7:00 AM

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The Last Firsts

It was a season of firsts. The 2012-2013 St. Cloud State University men’s hockey season has come to a close but not without a few more additions to the first time category. From first year standouts to first time as conference champions, first Frozen Four appearance, and finally the first time any SCSU player has earned the Hobey Baker Award. The loss to Quinnipiac at the NCAA Frozen Four on April 11 ended the Huskies historic run, just shy of a National Championship. The memorable season has lifted the program to new levels and set it up for a bright future.

The Huskies battled with the Bobcats of Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday night at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA. The Massachusetts-Lowell and Yale game prior to the SCSU and Quinnipiac showdown went into overtime, causing the second semifinal of the day to be bumped back. The puck dropped about 45 minutes after the scheduled time and the Bobcats used the extra prep time much to their advantage, wasting no time to show up prepared for the battle.

It was the first 11 minutes of the game that set the table for the remaining 49 minutes. Not even two minutes into the game Jordan Samuels-Thomas netted a wrap around shot that went five-hole on Ryan Faragher to give the Bobcats an early 1-0 lead. It was only about three minutes later that Oakdale, MN native, Ben Arnt scored what would eventually become the game winning goal. Before the first frame came to a close Jeremy Langlois scored to give the Bobcats a 3-0 lead heading into intermission.

The Huskies began to battle back in the second period, working tirelessly to solve goaltender and Hobey Hat Trick finalist, Eric Hartzell. Hartzell entered the game with a goals against of 1.55 and proved his position as once of the best goaltenders in the nation during the game turning away nearly all of SCSU’s chances. At the 6:25 mark it was freshman Joey Benik that was finally able to get one past Hartzell. Kevin Gravel and Cory Thorson were credited assists on the play that made the score 3-1 with just over half the game remaining. The Bobcats took a three-goal lead again just eight minutes after the Benik goal. It was Kellen Jones that scored to make it a 4-1 game at the end of two.

The Huskies showed brief signs of life in the third period and pulled Ryan Faragher with about three minutes remaining to try and even the score and continue the season. However, the Huskies were unable to get any more pucks past Hartzell despite putting 33 shots on net. SCSU fell by a final score of 4-1 to end the season. Quinnipac advanced to the championship game to play on Saturday night, April 13, while the Huskies retreated to the locker room for the final time.

It was the last night that seniors Ben Hanowski and Drew LeBlanc dawned the cardinal red, black and white jerseys. In the post-game press conference emotions were clearly spent and the captains along with coach Bob Motzko were at a loss for words. Motzko stated “(the first) eleven minutes weren't very good for us. They battled back like champions, and give Quinnipiac credit.” Hanowski and LeBlanc were also present after the game, both speaking very few words in what was a brief and emotional wrap-up of what just occurred.

The Huskies ended the season with a final record of 25-16-1 and were the last WCHA team to stand in the NCAA tournament. The post-season run was the best in school history and laid a framework for years to come. The Huskies said goodbye to three seniors that helped build the program over the past few years; Taylor Johnson, Ben Hanowski and Drew LeBlanc were all members of the team during the only NCAA tournament wins in school history. It was St. Cloud State’s first appearance in the Frozen Four as well as the only WCHA Championship, the MacNaughton Cup, for the regular season conference champions. Next season the Huskies will join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to start another chapter in the history books and continue building on what has begun this season.