Frozen Four Capsule: St. Cloud State
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
Resume: WCHA Regular-Season Co-Champion, 25-15-1, Midwest Regional Champion
In its final season in the WCHA, St. Cloud State pieced together one of its best-ever regular seasons. Aside from essentially assuring itself an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the Huskies clinched a share of a MacNaughton Cup — the first in program history.
Despite a setback in the WCHA tournament — a 4-1 loss to Wisconsin — SCSU recovered in time to win the Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio. Freshman Joey Benik scored four goals in wins over Notre Dame and Miami. Meanwhile, the SCSU defense, paired with dominating possession from its forwards, held its talented opponents to just 37 total shots in the two wins.
Drew LeBlanc, Senior, Forward
LeBlanc returned from a broken leg last season to have the best year of his collegiate career. He tied a career-high in goals with 13 and added a national-high 37 assists. The crafty playmaker leads a high-powered St. Cloud State offense, which is currently second in the nation with 3.41 goals per game. LeBlanc's season, along with his work as a student-teacher, earned him a spot in this year's Hobey Hat Trick along with Hartzell and Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau.
Without a point in his last three games, LeBlanc's work as center helped St. Cloud control Notre Dame and Miami's offense in its victory last weekend in Toledo. Some points from LeBlanc will go a long way for St. Cloud in Pittsburgh, but the fifth-year senior has shown his role for the club extends beyond goals and assists.
Nick Jensen, Junior, Defenseman
A true shutdown defenseman in every sense, Jensen leads a tough group of defensemen often overshadowed by the club's dynamic offense. Jensen regularly sees major ice time for St. Cloud and faced and shut down some of the toughest competition in the country. His plus-22 rating was tied with usual defensive partner Andrew Pronchno for the national lead among defensemen.
Offensively, Jensen is a gifted distributor from the back. His 27 assists are second on the team, behind only LeBlanc. As important as players like LeBlanc are to the Huskies, truly dominant defensemen are a major commodity in the postseason, and Jensen is one of the nation's best.
Ben Hanowski, Senior, Forward
Two weeks ago, most of the hockey world heard the name Ben Hanowski for the first time. St. Cloud State's captain was part of the trade that sent Jarome Iginla from Calgary to Pittsburgh. In his four years in St. Cloud, Hanowski has made certain that the college hockey world knew — and remembered — his name. He followed a breakout 43-point junior year with a solid 17-goal, 31-point season as a senior.
His goal in the first period against Notre Dame kicked off the Huskies' five-goal onslaught against No. 1 seed Notre Dame. He has three goals in his last four games after scoring just two in his previous 10.
Winning Share of First MacNaughton Cup
In the end, a 5-1 loss to Michigan Tech in the regular-season finale cost St. Cloud State the MacNaughton Cup outright. But clinching a share of the trophy as the WCHA's regular-season champion was more than enough for the program's loyal fans. Just three seasons ago, St. Cloud earned its first NCAA tournament win. The MacNaughton Cup was another important step ahead of moving to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference next season.
Advancing to the Frozen Four was always an expectation for the talented SCSU roster this season. Last weekend's heroics in Toledo made that a reality, but the Huskies' impressive regular season, capped with the MacNaughton Cup, made it all possible.
Drew LeBlanc Returning After Broken Leg
Two seasons ago, LeBlanc opted to return for a fourth year despite numerous overtures from National Hockey League teams. LeBlanc suffered a broken leg just 11 games into the season. The run of misfortune didn't prevent him from returning this year and becoming one of the nation's best and most prolific players after the NCAA granted him a medical redshirt year. His effort and the example he provides to his teammates has St. Cloud State in its first-ever Frozen Four.
In so many ways, LeBlanc's decision and determination defines St. Cloud State as a program and season. Despite setbacks and obstacles along the way, he knew he and his club could reach college hockey's pinnacle. The Huskies are two wins from a national championship because of this attitude.
Three-goal Second Period in NCAA Opener
After Hanowski made it 1-0 in the first period against Notre Dame in Toledo, the Huskies erupted for three goals in the second period. Any lead is a good lead in the NCAA tournament, but protecting leads — and adding to them — is never an easy feat. St. Cloud held their lead and added to it.
The following day was more of the same for the Huskies. Benik's goal gave SCSU a 1-0 lead after the first, and he added another goal at 5:36 of the second period. Despite Miami's response, the Huskies again built and protected their lead to win the regional.
Players to Watch
Drew LeBlanc, Senior, Forward (13-37—50); Nic Dowd, Junior, Forward (14-25—39); Jonny Brodzinski, Freshman, Forward (22-11—33); Kalle Kossila, Freshman, Forward (15-18—33); Ben Hanowski, Senior, Forward (17-14—31); Nick Jensen, Junior, Defenseman (4-27—31); Andrew Pronchno, Sophomore, Defenseman (5-23—28); Ryan Faragher, Sophomore, Goaltender (24-13-1, 2.22, .916)