This season has not gone quite the way Joey Benik imagined it would.
Benik, a freshman forward at St. Cloud State, broke one of his legs 20 minutes into his first Huskies' practice.
SCSU coach Bob Motzko recently talked about Benik, who was the Huskies' MVP at the Midwest Reginal with two goals in each game.
Motzko said Benik broke his fibula in a weird accident in that first practice. It happened when he was pushed over.
"It wasn't healing quite right and we walked about red-shirting him," Motzko said on his weekly radio show, "because he would only get a half season."
On the other hand, Motzko wanted Benik in his lineup.
He told Benik, "We need you. We can do some special things and you can help us."
Turns out, in the end, Motzko was right.
The Huskies won their second and third NCAA games in nine postseason appearances last weekend -- they went in 1-9 in NCAA tournament games -- and are going to their first Frozen Four next week in Pittsburgh.
Thanks, in large part, to Benik.
Benik had an assist in his first game for St. Cloud State, versus RPI on Dec. 27. But it was more than a month before he got another point. That was his first goal. It came against the Gophers on Feb. 8.
He got another goal Feb. 23 against Colorado College. So his regular-season numbers were two goals, one assist for three points. Pretty modest.
Motzko said he originally put Benik on one of the Huskies' top line, which was probably the wrong thing to do. "It took him 1-1/2 months to get back in shape," Motzko said.
But Benik has started to heat up in the playoffs.
In the Huskes' first playoff game they faced Alaska Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. And Benik had a goal and two assists, doubling his points total to that point.
It was a hint of things to come. Motzko said he could tell Benik's skills were coming around.
What he has done in the playoffs is not a big surprise, Motzko said, adding, "He has scored goals his entire life. That's what he does."
And his timing could not have been better.
Drew LeBlanc, the WCHA player of the year, went scoreless for the Huskies in the regional. So did junior forward Nic Dowd. Those are SCSU's top two scorers.
And Ben Hanowski, the team's other co-captain along with LeBlanc, had only two points.
Given that, Motzko said, he would have assumed goalie Ryan Faragher would have to shut out the Huskies' regional opponents for SCSU to win. Faragher didn't have to.
Benik and linemate Cory Thorson came through.
Here is what Benik did in the West Reginal:
SCSU 5, Notre Dame 1
Benik scored two power-play goals and had an assist. His first goal, at 9:28 of the second period, gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead and was the game-winner. Had four shots on goal, was a plus-1 and was named the first star of the game. His goals were his fourth and fifth of the season.
SCSU 4, Miami 1
Benik scored twice again. His first goal at 5:08 of the opening period put the Huskies ahead 1-0. His second goal at 5:36 of the second period was the game-winner. It made the score 2-0. The goals were his sixth and seventh of the season. He had five shots on goal, was a plus-3 and was named the first star of the game.
Thorson, Benik's center, had two goals, one an empty-netter, had five shots on goal and was a plus-4. He was named the second star of the game. And the right wing on that line, Brooks Bertsch, had two assists, was a plus-3 and was named the third star.
The knock on Benik coming out of high school, he was a 2010 graduate of St. Francis, was that he was too small. He spent the previous two seasons before SCSU playing for Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League. He is 5-10, 170 now.
But as Motzko says, Benik could always score.
As a high school junior, he had 65 goals and 102 points, as a senior he had 34 goals and 90 points.
Last season he led the Vees in scoring with 38 goals and 76 assists. Penticton won the Junior A national championship in Canada and Benik played well in the playoffs.
Just like this season.