Each day leading up to the start of the tournament, Tim Fontenault and I will be previewing one of the four remaining teams in the Frozen Four. We will give a little background on the strengths of each and what they’ll need to do to advance to the championship game. Today we start with regular season WCHA champion St. Cloud State Huskies.
Team: St. Cloud State, 25-15-1
Location: St. Cloud, Minnesota
How they got here: In the first game of the Midwest regional, 4-seeded St. Cloud upset the top seed and CCHA Tournament champion Notre Dame. St. Cloud capitalized on rebounds and took advantage of poor defending by the Irish and beat them 5-1. In the next round, the Huskies faced heavily favored Miami (OH). Many experts pegged Miami as the team to beat from this region, but apparently St. Cloud did not get that memo. Once again, they capitalized on opportunities given to them and put the puck home and beat the Redhawks 4-1 in Toledo.
Player to Watch: Ben Hanowski. The senior forward was in the news for being a part of a trade between the Flames and the Penguins which sent NHL All-Star Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh. Obviously the shake up did not affect his play, as he has been all over the ice for the Huskies. The captain registered two points against Notre Dame and picked up an assist in the Frozen Four clinching game against Miami. Hanowski is the heart and soul of this team and it shows on the ice. Some would argue that Drew LeBlanc is the centerpiece of this team, but he has been absent on the score sheet so far in this tournament. Hanowski has been the one who has been setting the tone for his team so far in the tournament, and he will need to continue to do so if the Huskies want to advance.
Keys to beating Qunnipiac: They need to keep playing with a chip on their shoulder. Qunnipiac is the top seed in this entire tournament and the Huskies it won’t be easy. Quinnipiac has excellent skaters and can score at will when they’re hot. St. Cloud needs to follow the basics of hockey: put pucks on net and put bodies on bodies – get LeBlanc going early and play strong defense in front of goaltender Ryan Faragher. The Huskies will need to capitalize on every opportunity they get because the Bobcats do not give up many scoring chances. Lastly, we saw earlier in the tournament that the Bobcats can flip a switch when needed. Against Canisius, Qunnipiac was down 3-1 in the third and stormed back to win 4-3. If you let up a goal, stop the bleeding. St. Cloud has the depth to skate with the Bobcats and will need a full effort from everyone if they hope to advance to the national title game.