St. Cloud State advances to its first national hockey title game

A hockey player moves the puck during a game.
Zach Okabe (14) of the St. Cloud State Huskies moves the puck during the first period against the Minnesota State Mavericks during the Frozen Four semifinals at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Gregory Shamus | Getty Images

Nolan Walker scored on a redirection with 53.2 seconds left and St. Cloud State held off Minnesota State 5-4 on Thursday night to advance to the program's first national championship game.

St. Cloud State (20-10-0) led 3-1 early in the second period and trailed 4-3 with 15 minutes remaining before winning its 10th one-goal game of the season.

"I was just really glad our guys didn't get down, they stuck with it, they found a way to get a puck to the net," St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said. "Joe Molenaar coming up with a huge goal, just being inserted into the lineup, and obviously getting into the tough areas and tipping one in late."

Minnesota State took its first lead, 4-3, at the Frozen Four 4:18 into the third period on Dallas Gerads' tap-in shot of Walker Duehr's centering pass.

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But Molenaar, a freshman, tied it at 4 with his first career goal midway through the third, and Walker got a stick on defenseman Seamus Donohue's shot to win it.

David Hrenak made 25 saves for the Huskies, who were without their leading scorer Easton Brodzinski due to a season-ending injury in the East Regional.

St. Cloud State opened the scoring 3:18 into the game with a power-play goal by captain Spencer Meier. Ten seconds after Nathan Smith tied it at 1 on another power play, Kyler Kupka finished Walker's individual effort by sending a shot into a gaping net to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

Will Hammer, a fourth-line center, made it 3-1 early in the second period by capitalizing on a turnover for an unassisted goal.

Duehr pulled Minnesota State within 3-2 midway through the second by sending in a rebound for his 10th goal of the season. Less than a minute later, Minnesota State had another power play and Smith tied it when he roofed a wrist shot for his fourth goal in three games.

Minnesota State (22-5-1) goaltender Dryden McKay, who remains two shutouts shy of tying the NCAA record at 26, made 17 saves.