Huskies defeat Mankato, advance to National Championship game

The Huskies celebrate after advancing to their first national championship game in school history after defeating Mankato 5-4. Photo courtesy of Keith Srakocic.

The St. Cloud State University men’s ice hockey team defeated the Minnesota State Mavericks 5-4 to advance to their first national championship game in school history. 

St. Cloud opened the scoring early in this one with a goal from captain Spencer Meier, to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. Meier’s goal was his fourth of the year and was assisted by Zach Okabe and Kevin Fitzgerald. 

The two teams traded goal ten seconds apart, at 16:09 Mankato scored to tie the game at 1. Kyler Kupka then scored his third goal of the season at 16:19 of the first and gave St. Cloud a 2-1 lead. Kupka’s goal was assisted by Nolan Walker and Sam Hentges. 

Early in the second period the Huskies extended the lead to 3-1 with a goal from Will Hammer at 2:40 of the second, the goal was unassisted. 

Mankato would then come alive midway through the second with two goals in two minutes to tie the game at three. The game would remain tied for the remainder of the second and would head to the third period tied at three. 

The third period opened with the third consecutive goal from Minnesota State to give the Mavericks their first lead of the game at 4-3. 

The Huskies received a timely goal from Joe Molenaar, his first of the season at 10:14 of the third period to tie the game at four. Molenaar’s goal was assisted by Will Hammer and Spencer Meier. 

The most important goal in St. Cloud State hockey history was scored by Nolan Walker off an amazing tip in with 53 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Huskies a 5-4 lead and would prove to be the game-winning goal.  

Walker’s goal was his tenth of the year and was assisted by Seamus Donohue and Kyler Kupka. The goal sent the Huskies to their first national championship game in school history. 

The Huskies were outshot 29-22 by the Mavericks; however David Hrenak stopped 25 of 29 Maverick shots en route his seventeenth win of the season and will need one more to win the first national championship in school history. 

The Huskies will face off against the UMass Minutemen, who are fresh off a 3-2 overtime win over the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs to advance to their first championship game. 

The Huskies and Minutemen will each be vying for their first title in school history. Puck Drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 10 at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Penn. 

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