The St. Cloud State University men’s hockey team did not receive any Top 20 votes before the 2020-21 season began. But from the time they took the ice Dec. 1 in Omaha against Western Michigan, the Huskies continuously exceeded expectations.
Picked for fourth in the mighty NCHC, St. Cloud State finished second in both the regular season and conference tournament. Seeded second in Albany Regional a fortnight ago, the Huskies proceeded to beat Boston University and No. 1 seed Boston College by a combined 10-3. Following a heart-stopping 5-4 victory over Minnesota State at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh Thursday, SCSU will play for their first Division I national championship in any sport Saturday night. It also marks the first national title game in the hockey program‘s 90-year history. Competing in their second-ever Frozen Four and without their top scorer and senior leader, Nolan Walker’s redirection of Seamus Donohue’s long shot with 53 seconds remaining in regulation broke a tie and proved to be the game winner. The Alaskan’s goal capped a dramatic, back-and-forth hockey game. St. Cloud State posted five goals against Minnesota State goalie Dryden McKay, the only Hobey Baker Award finalist to reach the Frozen Four. The national semifinal was the first time this season McKay allowed five tallies in a game.
St. Cloud trailed in all three NCAA tournament games before rallying to victory. Thursday’s comeback came after relinquishing a 3-1 second period lead and trailing with fewer than 10 minutes to play. It was also the last game in the 70-year history of the WCHA, with the Mavericks and other programs moving to the new CCHA next season. The success in recent weeks by the Huskies takes away the bitterness from first round upsets in 2016, 2018 and 2019 when SCSU fell as the top seed each tournament.
St. Cloud State now plays Massachusetts for the national title. The short-handed Minutemen were outplayed by two-time defending champion Minnesota-Duluth much of the night, but tied the score late, before dominating overtime and winning, 3-2.