St. Cloud State hopes to take turn using championship loss as fuel for Frozen Four return

St. Cloud State’s Nolan Walker takes the ice before the NCAA championship game Saturday (photo: Jim Rosvold).

PITTSBURGH — There was an example to follow on the other bench for St. Cloud State on Saturday.

The Huskies were shut out by UMass in their first appearance in the national championship game, just like the Minutemen were blanked by Minnesota Duluth in 2019, their first time in the final game of the season.

St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson made the connection in a somber locker room after the game.

“UMass was standing on our blue line two years ago with a similar loss and used it as fuel,” he said. “I think the taste for our guys of getting this far — this is the farthest the Husky hockey team has been. They did something special in 33 years of the program, just getting to this game.”

St. Cloud State fell into a 2-0 hole after the first period but didn’t feel like it was out of things. A short-handed goal by Philip Lagunov put UMass ahead by three en route to a 5-0 victory at PPG Paints Arena.

“I think we were just gripping it a little tight and weren’t able to quite execute plays when we got the puck early,” Larson said. “We had the jump. We had the work. But we were just gripping a little tight and forcing things.”

After the final horn, the Huskies gathered around their net as UMass celebrated. Senior center and alternate captain Kevin Fitzgerald said he was proud of the group.

“We’re like one family and we just care together,” forward Veeti Miettinen said. “That was kind of season-ending for us.”