Final 5 berth for men's hockey
Sunday, March 17, 2013
It is a Saturday night script to remember at St. Cloud State.
Men's Husky Hockey defeats University of Alaska Anchorage 5-1 March 16 at the National Hockey and Event Center (NHEC) to advance to the WCHA Final Five tournament and a top-seed chance at winning the Broadmoor Trophy in St. Paul.
Senior men's hockey captain Ben Hanowski, Little Falls, scores a 100-foot, no-look, empty-net goal to record the final tally in the final home game of his storied hockey career.
Senior captain Drew LeBlanc, Hermantown, scores the first goal of the game and notches two assists, adding more luster to a season that includes a WCHA Player of the Year nod, a WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete award, a Hobey Baker candidacy that is drawing national attention, and a possible NCAA D-I plaque for most assists during the 2012-13 season.
Surrounded by his team, Robert Giles Motzko '89, protege of former Huskies' coach and late Olympic legend Herb Brooks and former Huskies' coach Craig Dahl, hoists the MacNaughton Cup at center ice before a roaring NHEC crowd.
The cup, a 100-year-old silver symbol of collegiate hockey excellence, is displayed at the NHEC, amid construction efforts that will transform Central Minnesota's college hockey cathedral. Throughout most of Saturday's game a long line of people snakes from the upper atrium down the second-floor mezzanine. Moms, dads, children, students, former players -- steadfast fans of all stripes, but just two colors -- patiently wait to touch and be photographed with the symbol of a WCHA championship.
At center ice, President Earl H. Potter III stands by the painted words "McDonald Rink," words that memorialize a predecessor, the late President Brendan J. McDonald. For long-time fans the leadership narrative comes together like a Frank Capra film: A torch is passed from the man who fought to bring NCAA Division I hockey to St. Cloud, and build a St. Cloud State hockey arena, to the man leading a $30 million donor-funded renovation of that 24-year-old facility.
As the crowd begins filtering out of the NHEC, Potter speaks with Husky Productions student reporter Julia Allen, Big Lake: "It has been a great season, a courageous win," says Potter. "It signifies what this University is all about."
Heather Weems, director of Husky Athletics, grabs her smart phone and tweets: "Thank you Husky Nation - tonight was fun! This one's for current and former players & coaches, and all the fans! Cheers!!!"
In northern California, one of the most decorated former players, Olympian and Stanley Cup winner Bret Hedican, tweets: "Couldn't be prouder of @stcloudstate #huskies clinching #wcha Way to go boys! Feels good to be a small part of our great school & tradition!"
It's almost midnight and the arena is nearly empty. First-year forward Jonny Brodzinski takes center ice with the MacNaughton Cup, his mother, Kathy, and his father, Mike. A photo commemorates the evening and captures connections between past and present. Mike, a two-time All-American who skated for Herb Brooks from 1984-87, helped St. Cloud State claim third place at the 1987 NCAA Division III championships.
Players from the 1986-87 team, the undefeated 1961-62 team, the record-setting 2000-01 Broadmoor Trophy team -- and other celebrated Husky squads -- are watching, waiting, cheering. Will these young men have the stuff to make more St. Cloud State history?
Men's Husky Hockey plays University of Wisconsin 2:07 p.m. March 22 at the Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul. With the No. 1 seed, earned via a league-leading 18 wins, the Huskies (23-14-1) enjoy a theoretical path of least resistance to the Final Five title and its symbol, the Broadmoor Trophy. View the WCHA Final Five news release (PDF).
A win in St. Paul would enhance prospects for a bid to the 16-team NCAA national tournament, which culminates with the Frozen Four April 11 and 13 in Pittsburgh. Two wins would earn St. Cloud State its second Broadmoor Trophy and an automatic bid to the national tournament.
Purchase Final Five tickets through the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster or call 800-745-3000.