Men's Hockey in Elite 8
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Joey Benik, first-year forward from Andover, scored twice and recorded an assist in the opening round of the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament.
It was a rebirth writ large for two young men, tied together by fame and misfortune, at the March 30 men's Husky Hockey victory over University of Notre Dame.
The NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament continues in Toledo, Ohio, with St. Cloud State (24-15-1) playing Miami University (25-11-5) 3 p.m. March 31 in the Midwest Regional final. The game is telecast on ESPNU. Radio play-by-play and Internet streams are on KNSI AM 1450/FM 103.3 and KVSC 88.1 FM.
A win today secures a berth in the Frozen Four April 11 and April 13 in Pittsburgh.
Among the keys to the 5-1 win over Notre Dame were first-year forward Joey Benik, Andover, and senior forward and captain Ben Hanowski, Little Falls.
Both overcame devastating injuries to contribute to a season of unprecedented success for St. Cloud State men's hockey. Each carries the burden of being a Minnesota high school hockey scoring legend.
In October, Benik breaks his leg in the first hour of his first college practice. Nearly six months later he records two goals and an assist to help his team reach college hockey's Elite 8.
Later that same month, Hanowski is sidelined for parts of five games with an undisclosed head injury, incurred during a win over Minnesota State University, Mankato. When he returns to action he looks uncomfortable on the ice and does not score a goal in seven of the next nine games.
Hanowski's first-period goal Saturday, the first of the game, gave the Huskies a lead they never relinquished. His stick work set up Benik's first goal, part of a three-goal barrage in the second period that put Notre Dame on its heels.
"I'm just kind of realizing this is it for me," Hanowski said at the post-game press conference. "Trying to play every game like it could my last one, which it could be."
Hanowski and Benik grew up in small towns, about 90 minutes apart. But their names are intertwined. Hanowski was the 2009 Associated Press Player of the Year, the most prolific scorer in Minnesota High School history with 405 career points. Benik scored 65 goals his senior year at St. Francis High School, a season record that still stands.
Both came to St. Cloud State shouldering heavy fan expectations. Success Saturday, both personal and team, eases those burdens. But athletes are wired to seek validation, to pursue perfection and to compete to defeat others.
And so, Benik and Hanowski strap on their helmets today knowing their personal stories are carrying forward a St. Cloud State narrative that could culminate in a trip to the college hockey mountain top -- the Frozen Four.
St. Cloud State University