The St. Cloud State men's hockey team is going to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history.
Freshman Joey Benik and junior Cory Thorson each scored twice and sophomore goaltender Ryan Faragher made 20 saves as the Huskies cruised to a 4-1 win Sunday against Miami (Ohio) in the NCAA Midwest Regional championship game in Toledo, Ohio.
St. Cloud State (25-15-1) will play Quinnipiac on April 11 in Pittsburgh. Massachusetts Lowell and Yale will meet in the other game.
"Saint Cloud State has been close," said coach Bob Motzko, a 1987 graduate. "This is a very special time for our program."
Benik, who had a pair of goals in Saturday's 5-1 win against Notre Dame, sent a slap shot past Miami goalie Ryan McKay five minutes in to give Saint Cloud State a lead it never relinquished. He added another when he flicked in a rebound of Brooks Bertsch's shot early in the second.
Second-seeded Miami (25-12-5) cut the lead in half on Blake Coleman's power-play goal, but the Huskies answered when Thorson scored. He added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
McKay finished with 18 saves for Miami.
Bertsch, the right wing on Thorson and Benik's line, had two assists.
Miami outshot the Huskies 9-6 in the opening period, but came up empty. Faragher received some help from the right post and crossbar after RedHawks shots struck both. Once the period ended, Saint Cloud State played most of the final two periods in Miami's end.
"I thought we had some good chances in the first and then they took over in the second," said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, whose team was seeking its third Frozen Four berth. "We didn't have an answer for it. When we got to the goaltender, he made a great save."
Benik broke his leg early in the season and didn't play his first game until after Christmas. He had just three goals during the season and needed just two tournament games to top that. He ended the regional with nine points and was named its most valuable player.
"Both games were great for us," Benik said. "We just tried to get a lot of shots on the net and we did."
Thorson, Faragher and defenseman Andrew Prochno joined Benik on the all-tournament team.
Saint Cloud State, the WCHA regular-season champion, began the weekend 1-9 in NCAA play and didn't notch a tournament victory until 2010. Motzko struggled to find words as he pondered just how far the Huskies have come.
"This program," he said, "needed to get over that hurdle."
Quinnipiac 5, Union 1
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Matthew Peca recorded the fastest hat trick in NCAA tournament history, scoring three goals in a 3:12 span of the first period, leading top-seeded Quinnipiac past Union in Providence, R.I.
The Bobcats, who notched their first-ever tournament win by rallying past Canisius on Saturday, will face Saint Cloud State April 11 in one of the two national semifinal games in Pittsburgh.
Quinnipiac (29-7-5), an upstart that rose to the No. 1 ranking this season for the first time, trailed Canisius, the No. 16 seed, 3-1, on Saturday before turning on the jets en route to a historic weekend in Rhode Island. Peca ignited a three-goal rally in the 4-3 win against the Golden Griffins, then had three more by the 12:58 mark Sunday. The Bobcats scored six goals in a span of 24:56 across two games.
"It's a big reason I came to this school," Peca told the Connecticut Post. "It was a program on the rise."
Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell lost a shutout bid when Daniel Ciampini scored 3:15 into the third for Union (22-13-5).
Warren Miller of Minnesota had the previous fastest hat trick, doing it in 4:20 March 17, 1975 against Harvard. The hat trick was the first in a tournament game since March 28, 2010, when Boston College’s Ken Atkinson and Yale’s Mark Arcobello did it in the same game. Peca, recording the first multiple-game of his college career, beat Troy Grosenick with a backhander off a rebound scramble 9:46 in.
Peca, who now has 15 goals this season, then stole an errant pass at center ice, moved down the right side and beat Grosenick with a snap shot at 10:59. The Lightning’s seventh-round pick from 2011 (No. 201) then walked out all alone in front and scored on another backhander at 12:58.
The rout was on as Quinnipiac easily beat its ECAC rival for the third time this season. After Union’s Matt Wilkins was hit with a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind at 6:27 of the second, Jordan Samuel-Thomas, who scored the tying goal Saturday, scored at 7:22 and Peca assisted on a Kellen Jones goal at 11:42. Grosenick, a Hobey Baker Award finalist last year, allowed six goals on the first 12 shots.
Union was attempting to reach its second Frozen Four. Along the way, it saw its seven-game winning streak end. Hartzell — a finalist for this year’s Baker Award and the player and goalie of the year in the ECAC — made a big stop on Max Novak early but really had most of the rest of the night off. He has all 29 Quinnipiac wins on the season.
"That's something we pride ourselves on, building the program, not just for us but for the future," Union junior Kevin Sullivan said.
Material from wire services was used in this report.