St. Cloud St. is headed to the Frozen 4

Published 8:22 am Monday, April 1, 2013

TOLEDO, Ohio — St. Cloud State doesn’t have to dream about the season’s final weekend anymore.

Linemates Joey Benik and Cory Thorson each scored twice and the Huskies earned their first-ever Frozen Four berth with a 4-1 win over Miami (Ohio) in the Midwest Regional title game Sunday.

St. Cloud State (25-15-1), the No. 4 seed in the region, will be in Pittsburgh April 11 to face Quinnipiac, the No. 1 overall seed, in a national semifinal. UMass Lowell and Yale will meet in the other game. The final is April 13.

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“St. Cloud State has been close,” said coach Bob Motzko, a 1987 graduate. “This is a very special time for our program.”

Benik, who had a pair of goals in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Notre Dame, sent a slap shot past Miami goalie Ryan McKay five minutes in to give St. Cloud State a lead it never lost. He added another when he flicked in a rebound of Brooks Bertsch’s shot early in the second.

Second-seeded Miami (25-12-5) cut the lead in half on Blake Coleman’s power-play goal but the Huskies answered when Thorson scored. He added an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Ryan Faragher had 20 saves for St. Cloud State. McKay finished with 18. Bertsch, the right wing on Thorson and Benik’s line, had two assists.

Miami outshot the Huskies 9-6 in the opening period but came up empty. Faragher received some help from the right post and crossbar after RedHawks shots struck both. Once the period ended, St. Cloud State played most of the final two periods in Miami’s end.

“I thought we had some good chances in the first and then they took over in the second,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, whose team was seeking its third Frozen Four berth. “We didn’t have an answer for it. When we got to the goaltender, he made a great save.”

St. Cloud State outshot Miami 22-21 and played keep-away from the RedHawks in the final two periods.

Benik broke his leg early in the season and didn’t play his first game until after Christmas. He had just three goals during the season and needed just two tournament games to top that. He ended the regional with nine points and was named its most valuable player.

“Both games were great for us,” Benik said. “We just tried to get a lot of shots on the net and we did.”

Thorson, Faragher and defenseman Andrew Prochno joined Benik on the all-tournament team.

St. Cloud State, the WCHA regular-season champion, began the weekend 1-9 in NCAA play and didn’t notch a tournament victory until 2010. Motzko struggled to find words as he pondered just how far the Huskies have come.

“This program,” he said, “needed to get over that hurdle.”