ST. CLOUD – St. Cloud State men's hockey coach Brett Larson is headed to Pittsburgh with a mission: to win the NCAA championship.

"This team really worked hard to get to where it is. At the beginning of the year, we didn't get one vote to be in the top 20 in this country and this team believed in each other and I know you believed in us, as well," he said Monday morning at a send-off event before the team departed for the tournament.

The Huskies are in the Frozen Four for the second time in program history and are one of three Minnesota schools competing in the semifinals on Thursday: St. Cloud State will take on Minnesota State Mankato at 4 p.m. and University of Minnesota Duluth will take on Massachusetts at 8 p.m., with the respective winners playing in the championship at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The team is proud to make the Frozen Four, Larson said. But it is not enough.

"Not one guy on this team is satisfied with where we're at," he said. "We're going out there on a mission to get it done for you guys."

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis and St. Cloud State athletic director Heather Weems also spoke to the crowd of fans Monday outside Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Kleis said he is proclaiming Thursday "Husky Hockey Day" in St. Cloud. Weems asked fans to wear red and black Thursday and send the university photos.

"We want to see where you're at. We want to see that excitement. We want everybody to know that the Huskies are here," Weems said.

St. Cloud State last competed in the Frozen Four in 2013, when Quinnipiac defeated the Huskies 4-1 in the semifinals; Quinnipiac then lost to Yale in the championship game.

St. Cloud State President Robbyn Wacker told the team Monday the university and community are proud of what the athletes have accomplished this season, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It has been a full year of COVID ups and downs," she said. "You are the epitome of the word 'resilient.' "

All five of Minnesota's Division I men's hockey teams earned spots in this year's NCAA tournament. Bemidji State lost to Massachusetts and the Gophers lost to Minnesota State Mankato in the second round.

St. Cloud State defeated Boston University 6-2 in the first round and Boston College 4-1 in the second round to earn a spot in the semifinals.

Students can watch Thursday's game at the Atwood Ballroom on campus. Thursday's games will be aired on ESPN2 and Saturday's championship will be aired on ESPN.

Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299

Twitter: @bergjenny