Article Written by Samantha Roering.
For the sixth time in program history, the St. Cloud State Huskies had made it to the NCAA Regional Finals. After beating Minnesota State University in the Regional semi-finals on Thursday, they faced off against the #1-seeded University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Grant Cruikshank won the opening faceoff for St. Cloud State, but the University of Minnesota controlled the puck at the beginning of the first period. The Gophers registered seven shots on goal in the opening four minutes of play, forcing Jaxon Castor to make big saves early on.
The threat would only increase after Grant Cruikshank got called to the penalty box for tripping. Luckily, they’d look great on the penalty kill, not allowing the Gophers a single shot on goal during the two-minute minor. They’d instead make Justen Close make his first save of the game on a shot by Micah Miller.
Shortly after the penalty expired, a 2-on-2 rush allowed Bryce Brodzinski to give the Gophers an early lead. Assisted by Jaxon Nelson and Mason Nevers, Brodzinski’s goal meant the Huskies would have to fight from behind a 1 goal deficit.
SCSU would get a couple of opportunities to even the score, including two power plays, but nothing would come of it. The Gophers would protect their lead and keep it 1-0 to end the first period.
The Huskies would get another power play to start the second after an interference call to Matthew Knies. This time SCSU made it count, and Adam Ingram beat Justen Close on a wrist shot. The game was tied at 1, with the assists going to Cooper Wylie and Grant Cruikshank.
Moments later, Minnesota’s Logan Cooley would take a slashing penalty, giving SCSU’s power play another chance. They created a few scoring chances but failed to capitalize on them. Fresh out of the box, Cooley would score on a breakaway with the eventual game-winning goal. The Gophers would gain a 2-1 lead, but the Huskies weren’t ready to quit.
The rest of the second period would be back and forth between the two teams. Both would get some good looks on the offensive side, with the goaltenders keeping it close. A hooking penalty to Micah Miller would put SCSU on the penalty kill, but they’d successfully limit Minnesota’s scoring chances.
With the game still close, SCSU would start the third period trying to make a comeback. They’d have the opportunity to do so on the power play after a penalty to the Gophers. The Huskies had some good looks on the power play but just couldn’t find the net. That’d be true on 5-on-5 play as well. SCSU continued to put up a fight, but Minnesota would come up with another goal after a one-timer by Jackson LaCombe off of a faceoff.
The game started to feel out of reach when the Gophers drew a penalty with less than four minutes left. SCSU would successfully kill the penalty, but not much time would be left to make up two goals.
The Huskies pulled Jaxon Castor from the net to try to score with an extra attacker. They’d take a timeout, and with a minute left, they’d hope for a miracle. The Huskies tried their best, but the nail in the coffin would be Jaxon Nelson’s empty net goal. That’d put Minnesota up 4-1 to end the game.
The loss concludes an exciting season for SCSU, in which they finished 25-13-3, winning the NCHC championships in the process. Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota will head to Tampa for the NCAA Frozen Four.