PITTSBURGH – In a season filled with months of pleasant memories, St. Cloud State had a dozen minutes on the game’s largest stage that the Huskies will want to forget.
Top-ranked Quinnipiac blitzed the Huskies, scoring early and often in the second NCAA Frozen Four semifinal to win 4-1 Thursday night. Joey Benik got the lone goal for St. Cloud State, which trailed 3-0 with the first period barely half over.
On the other end, Bobcats goalie Eric Hartzell, one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, frustrated the Huskies much of the night. The senior from White Bear Lake had 32 saves as Quinnipiac advanced to Saturday night’s championship game against Yale.
“He was outstanding, and showed why he’s up for the Hobey,” Huskies forward Ben Hanowski said. “We had over 30 shots and he gives up one. He played great and we didn’t do a good job of capitalizing on our chances. Then he got in a good groove and he was in it all night.”
The battle for the national title will be for neighborhood bragging rights, too. The Quinnipiac and Yale campuses are under 10 miles apart in Connecticut. The teams have already played three times this season, with the Bobcats winning every game.
Ryan Faragher had 24 saves for the Huskies (25-16-1), who won a share of the WCHA title for the first time and went to their first Frozen Four.
St. Cloud State got into trouble early. Benik was whistled for hooking on the second shift of the game, and Quinnipiac scored on its first shot on the power play. Jordan Samuels-Thomas, camped behind the Huskies net, banked a shot off Faragher’s stick less than two minutes into the game.
Quinnipiac went up 2-0 shortly afterward when Faragher stopped a shot by Samuels-Thomas but not Ben Arnt’s rebound. It was the eighth goal of the season for Arnt, of Oakdale. Then, seconds after a St. Cloud State man-advantage ended, Jeremy Langlois scored to give the Bobcats a daunting 3-0 lead at 11:19.
“I think we’d do anything to re-play the first 10 minutes of the hockey game,” Huskies coach Bob Motzko said. “We dug ourselves a hole, and give Quinnipiac credit. Samuels-Thomas made two great plays to get them the lead. They scored on three of their first four shots, then we hunkered back down, but we just couldn’t overcome it.”
The Huskies’ only offense came from Benik, who scored in the seventh minute of the second period. Co-captain Drew LeBlanc, another Hobey finalist, was held to one shot on goal.
“I don’t know if they came out buzzing and we came out flat-footed or what,” LeBlanc said. “Like coach said, I think we just want those 10 minutes back. If we come out different, it’s a different game.”
After Benik’s goal, Quinnipiac quickly dashed the hopes of the few hundred Huskies fans who made the trip to Pittsburgh. Kellen Jones scored later in the second period, re-establishing a three-goal advantage.
“We’re excited,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “We battled and found a way to score some goals, and we got that nice lead early. We had some struggles defensively but Eric Hartzell was great again.”