by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The St. Cloud State hockey team, led defensively by Nick Jensen of Rogers, is the lone WCHA team headed for the Frozen Four.
The Huskies cruised past Notre Dame 5-1 on Friday and Miami of Ohio 4-1 on Sunday to capture the Midwest Regional crown after being seeded No. 4.
They advanced to a Frozen Four with a whole new look as the Huskies, Massachusetts-Lowell and Quinnipiac are all first-timers and the other, Yale, last made it in 1952.
Jensen, a junior, was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. He has logged four goals and 27 assists, and has a plus-22 rating. A three-time all-conference player for Rogers, he is a draftee of the Detroit Red Wings.
Other Huskie standouts include senior forward Drew LaBlanc of Hermantown, the WCHA Player of the Year, and freshman forward Joey Benik, a 2010 St. Francis graduate who scored four goals in the two NCAA victories.
The Huskies (25-15-1) face Quinnipiac (29-7-5), of Connecticutt, in the semifinals, while Yale (20-12-3) takes on Mass-Lowell (28-10-2), on April 11 in Pittsburgh. The finals will be held April 13.
St. Cloud was regular-season WCHA co-champion with the Minnesota Gophers this year, earning their first-ever McNaughton Cup.The Huskies were beaten by Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five semifinals, but bounced back to capture two NCAA wins. It’s a historic year for a program that was previously 1-10 in NCAA games.
“It’s a great moment for our program,” head coach Bob Motzko said, in an ncaa.com Frozen Four preview. “St. Cloud State has been awful close. It has taken nine times to get [to the Frozen Four]. It’s a very special time for our program right now.”
While the Huskies advanced, four other WCHA teams fell. The Gophers were upset by Yale 3-2 in the region semifinals. Yale then ousted another longtime power from the WCHA, North Dakota, 4-1, in the region finals. Wisconsin lost to UMass-Lowell 6-1, and Minnesota State (Mankato) lost to Miami of Ohio 4-0, both in region semifinals.